- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who as Al Gore's running mate fell short of the vice presidency in 2000, said yesterday he is running for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

Before a hometown crowd at Stamford High School in Connecticut, which he attended four decades ago, the 60-year-old Democrat began what he said would be a campaign-long process of contrasting himself with President Bush.

"The American dream has been put in jeopardy over the last two years, and it's all about the ability of people to work their way up into America's middle class, which is the miracle of our country," Mr. Lieberman said.

"This president, I'm afraid, promised to come to Washington to change the tone, and the reality is that the place is more partisan and polarized than ever," he said. "Too many of the president's policies are either driven by extreme ideologues in the administration or major financial interests.

"And the country doesn't benefit from the poor economic record, from the failure to fund education reform, from the inability to do anything to improve our health care system and from the slowness with which the president has responded to the threat to Americans here at home from terrorism."

Mr. Lieberman, who is serving his third term, was one of the first senators to propose a Department of Homeland Security following the September 11 terrorist attacks, and spearheaded Democrats' efforts last autumn to craft a department more to their liking than the president's version.

He also has a reputation as a watchdog on values, and said that will be part of his campaign.

"I am also not hesitant to talk about values, because I think we've let the Republicans act as if they have a monopoly on values, when we as Democrats in our positions on education, environmental protection, civil rights, human rights, civil liberties, are embracing values, a sense of wrong," he said.

Republicans say Mr. Lieberman had to move leftward from his more moderate image las part of the 2000 campaign, and that will be used against him, both by Democrats in the primary and Republicans in the general election if he wins the nomination.

Mr. Lieberman's announcement means all of the high-profile candidates pundits and politicos have been watching for the last two years have now made their decisions.

Both Mr. Gore and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, have announced they are forgoing a run, while Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean have announced they are running. The Rev. Al Sharpton is also expected to announce his candidacy soon.

Several others, including Sen. Joseph R. Biden of Delaware, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, who have recently expressed interest in the race, are still pondering the decision.

While Mr. Gephardt brings strong union support, Mr. Edwards brings the support of trial lawyers and Mr. Kerry brings the aura of a decorated war veteran, Mr. Lieberman brings high name recognition and his faith as an orthodox Jew, which prompted numerous articles in the 2000 campaign.

"I am not running on my faith or faiths, but the fact is that my faith is at the center of who I am, and I am not going to conceal that," Mr. Lieberman said.

Republicans said his faith sets him apart from other candidates.

"Lieberman is what all of these people wish they were he actually appears to believe in God. He has a religion," said Michael McKenna, a strategist at Andres McKenna Polling and Research. "He has a conscience, proven by the fact that he's always wrestling with it in public. Unfortunately he apparently never wins, but he's always wrestling with it."

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