Lieberman pick highlights Bush-Cheney conservatism, Democrats say
AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- Vice President Al Gore's choice of Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate brings a candidate to the ticket who sometimes deviates from the regular Democratic line -- but remains miles apart from the Republicans' No. 2 hopeful, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.
"Right now, we occupy the vital center. They want to get there," said Al From, director of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council, which helped launch the so-called "New Democrat" movement. "If they want to imitate us, we appreciate the flattery."
Dick Cheney and Joseph Lieberman
"But I think what the Gore-Lieberman ticket will do is make it very clear by the end of the election who the real progressive centrists are and who the imitators are," From said.
Lieberman served as leader of the DLC, and has called for new thinking to solve old, persistent social problems. Democrats say Lieberman's record highlights his differences with the GOP ticket while distancing Gore from Clinton's personal scandals -- particularly the Monica Lewinsky affair and the subsequent impeachment vote in the House and trial in the Senate. Lieberman was the first Democrat to condemn Clinton's conduct in the Senate.
The two-term senator and former Connecticut attorney general supports abortion rights, gun control and greater federal spending on federal education programs such as Head Start. Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman, opposes abortion rights, voted against a ban on plastic guns and so-called "cop-killer" bullets, and opposed Head Start.
Cheney agrees with the GOP nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who has called for a $1.3 trillion tax cut over 10 years. Lieberman supports tax cuts targeted to bring specific results. Cheney voted against the Clean Air Act, while Lieberman wrote the 1990 version of the law.
Lieberman also says prescription drug coverage should be part of Medicare, while Republicans say private insurance companies should provide the benefit. And Lieberman supports increasing the minimum wage, while Bush and Cheney say increases should be left up to the states.
But on several points, Lieberman is more conservative than most Democrats. He supports development of a national missile defense system, and like Al Gore -- but unlike most of his Democratic colleagues -- he supported the Persian Gulf war led in part by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.
Most controversially, Lieberman, like Bush, has supported experiments with private school vouchers -- offering parents money to offset private school tuition as a temporary solution to bad public schools. He also has backed a partial privatization of Social Security, which Bush has made a centerpiece of his campaign.
While Gore's campaign has said there are differences wider than they may first appear, Bush aides moved quickly to exploit those similarities Tuesday.
"Al Gore has said Gov. Bush's Social Security plan is a risky scheme. He has called it stock market roulette," Bush campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "Yet Joe Lieberman has advocated the same Social Security position as Gov. Bush, which allows people to take their Social Security money and invest it in the markets."