- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Al Gore's former running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, sharply disagreed yesterday with Mr. Gore's assertion that President Bush was pandering to conservative Republicans with his push for military action against Iraq.
"I have never said that, and I don't believe it," the Connecticut Democrat said in unusually blunt disagreement with Mr. Gore's comments. "I'm grateful President Bush wants to do this [in Iraq], and I don't question his motives."
The former vice president told an audience in San Francisco on Monday that the Bush administration had pressed the case against Iraq "in a manner calculated to please the portion of its base that occupies the far right, at the expense of the solidarity among all of us as Americans, and solidarity between our country and our allies."
Mr. Gore also said that by moving toward war with Iraq, the United States has "squandered" the international good will arising from the September 11 terrorist attacks.
His comments came as lawmakers were negotiating with the White House on a resolution to authorize military force against Iraq. Mr. Bush has requested the action before Congress adjourns in October to stop Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from developing weapons of mass destruction.
Many Democratic lawmakers distanced themselves from Mr. Gore's remarks, though Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, supported much of what Mr. Gore had said.
"A lot of people in this country have many of the same concerns that the vice president spoke about," Mr. Daschle said. "But I think at the end of the day, there's an interest on the part of most Democratic senators to express support for the effort [in Iraq] and to give the president the benefit of the doubt."
Asked about Mr. Gore's accusation of political pandering, Mr. Daschle asserted that Vice President Richard B. Cheney was guilty of such behavior Monday during a campaign stop in Kansas for Adam Taff, a Republican House candidate.
"I must say, I was very chagrined that the vice president would go to a congressional district yesterday and make the assertion that they ought to vote for this particular Republican candidate because he was a war supporter, that he was bringing more support to the president than his opponent," Mr. Daschle said.
"If that doesn't politicize this war, I don't know what does," Mr. Daschle said.
Mr. Gore's remarks also reflect a change in his own stance. In a February speech before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, he said that the war on terrorism would require a "final reckoning" with Saddam. He also said: "As far as I'm concerned, there really is something to be said for occasionally putting diplomacy aside and laying one's cards on the table. There is value in calling evil by its name."
Mr. Bush declined to criticize Mr. Gore directly.
"There's a lot of Democrats in Washington, D.C., who understand that Saddam Hussein is a true threat and that we must hold him to account," Mr. Bush told reporters. "And I believe you'll see, as we work to get a strong resolution out of the Congress, that a lot of Democrats are willing to take the lead when it comes to keeping the peace."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "The president's going to continue to work with the great many Democrats in the Congress who see it differently from the former vice president and who will work with this White House."
Mr. Gore's remarks prompted strong criticism from some Democrats running for re-election.
Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, who was trailing his Republican opponent badly in the polls, called Mr. Gore's speech "not relevant."
"I don't think it has any effect on Democrats' thinking at all," Mr. Torricelli said.
Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, asked about Mr. Gore's charge that Mr. Bush was pandering to conservatives, said, "I want to stay focused on the substance of it."
Republicans rose to the president's defense.
"The former vice president of the United States is entitled to his views. I just don't agree with it," said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. Asked whether Mr. Bush was pushing action against Iraq to appease his political base, Mr. McCain replied, "I don't agree with that at all."
But some Democrats believe that the White House is exploiting a vote on Iraq for political gain.
"We've got a president downtown who's hellbent to lead us into war, at least up until the election," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West ginia Democrat.
Bill Sammon contributed to this report.

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