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Gore to Tap Sen. Lieberman of Connecticut to be his Running Mate

Aired August 7, 2000 - 8:00 a.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore has chosen Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut to be his running mate. Gore's choice for the second spot on the Democratic ticket was disclosed this morning.

CNN's John King had the story for us this morning. We got to him now, live in Nashville this morning -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Leon, we're told by Democratic source to look for the official phone call to take place about noon today. That will be Vice President Al Gore calling a former Senate colleague, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, to officially ask him to join the Democratic ticket for the November campaign against Governor George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

Senator Lieberman is known as a moderate Democrat, actually more conservative than the vice president on several issues, including Medicare reform and Social Security reform. Back in their Senate days together, Senator Lieberman, like Senator Gore, broke from the Democratic Party leadership, voted in favor of the resolution authorizing the Persian Gulf War. He is 58 years old, reelected to his second term with 67 percent of the vote.

Perhaps best known nationally for being among the first Democrats to speak out and criticize President Clinton's relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: His presidency would not be imperiled if it had not been for the behavior he himself described as wrong and inappropriate. Because the conduct the president admitted to that night was serious, and his assumption of responsibility inadequate.


KING: The vice president made this decision after returning to Nashville yesterday from a weekend of fund-raising. One set of meetings in the afternoon, then the decisive meeting, we're told, came late last night, after Tipper Gore arrived here in Nashville. Gore picking Senator Lieberman from a list of four Democratic senators who were the finalists. Words like morality and integrity, decency, being used to describe Senator Lieberman today.

In addition to working closely with centrist Democrats, he's a man known reaching across partisan lines and working with Republicans. For example, he's worked with the former education secretary, Bill Bennett, on a program criticizing Hollywood and the entertainment industry for violence and gratuitous sex in its programming.

Again, that phone call due to go out around noontime today. Senator Lieberman will be here in Nashville, at Vice President Gore's side, for the official announcement, noon local time, 1:00 Eastern tomorrow, again here in Nashville -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, John King, reporting live this morning from Nashville, thanks -- Carol.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, well, we want to learn more about this man. Joseph Lieberman is a two-term U.S. senator and a former Connecticut attorney general as John King was reporting.

CNN's Beth Fouhy has a profile of Senator Lieberman.


BETH FOUHY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In September, 1998, Joe Lieberman stepped to the Senate floor and delivered a memorable speech denouncing President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a speech that helped steer Al Gore to choose him as his vice presidential nominee.


LIEBERMAN: Such behavior is not just inappropriate, it is immoral and it is harmful, for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family, particularly to our children.


FOUHY: The speech gave Lieberman national stature, and reinforced his image as a principled champion of moral integrity.


LIEBERMAN: Let's get some of the drugs out of the area, then we can eliminate some of the crime problems.


FOUHY: A former state attorney general, Lieberman was elected to the Senate in 1988, squeaking by long-time Republican incumbent Lowell Weicker, by the narrowest of margins. He was easily reelected in 1994.

Like Al Gore and Bill Clinton, Lieberman is a so-called New Democrat, who has pushed his party closer to the center, on issues like welfare reform. He was a strong supporter of the 1991 Gulf War and helped lead the Senate to support a resolution favoring military intervention there.

But in other ways, Lieberman is a sharp step away from the northeastern New Democratic mold he helped to fashion. He's an Orthodox Jew, who will sometimes cast Senate votes on the Saturday Sabbath, but typically does not campaign that day. And he has teamed up with conservative leader William Bennett to denounce cultural degradation of the entertainment industry.


LIEBERMAN: Orgasmic moans, incestuous leering, urinating for revenge, nothing seems too degrading to be played for a cheap laugh.


FOUHY: Lieberman was on his way to easy reelection in November, and under Connecticut law, he can continue to run for his Senate seat and as Al Gore's running mate. Either way, he'll continue to play a key role in politics in the nation's capital.

Beth Fouhy, CNN, Washington.


HARRIS: We have this programming notice for you: Senator Lieberman will be a guest tomorrow on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE," that interview will be seen at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific, that will be the first exclusive interview with this vice presidential candidate.

LIN: It will be interesting to hear from the man after we've been talking about him all day long. But he is an interesting person and one that John King had been talking about, in terms of his moral rectitude and what he brings to the Gore ticket there, and how Al Gore is going to be taking advantage of that.

HARRIS: And it's one that raises lots of questions on both sides. And I should that as well that it -- you have to wonder how the Republicans are receiving this news after spending the whole week with them last week in Philadelphia.

Many eyebrows were raised when Lieberman's name came up in some of the coverage that we had, and some of the questions that we were posing to them. So there's a lot to be -- lots to still be discussed and questioned about this whole thing.

LIN: Although interesting that he has worked well with Republicans in the past on issues like violence in the media.

But why don't we find out a little bit more from one of our senior analysts, Bill Schneider, who's been taking a look at this this morning.

Good morning, Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning. LIN: A question for you, in taking a look at the Gallup polling, and you look at the disparity for Al Gore amongst independents, Bush outranks Al Gore two to one with independents. So how does having Joe Lieberman on the ticket help in that case? if at all?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Lieberman has been known to reach across party lines. I think he was reelected in 1994 with a very large percentage of the Republican vote in Connecticut. In fact, a lot of Republicans supported him when he first ran against Lowell Weicker because they thought, even though he was a Democrat, he was more conservative than the incumbent Republican senator.

He endorses a lot of issues in a bipartisan way. He is the head of the Democratic Leadership Council, which is the organization mandated to bring the Democratic Party to the center. Clinton was once the director of that group. This is a choice that does reach across party lines, and I think independents will find Joe Lieberman a very appealing candidate.

HARRIS: Bill, let me ask something, Bill, I mean, you just spent the last week in Philadelphia, as well, at the GOP convention and there was lots of talk behind the scenes about looking across the aisle to see what name on the Democratic short list, if you will, struck any fear into the hearts of the Republicans and Lieberman's name came up. But I didn't get the sense that it was coming up seriously? did you?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it was one of the names that was always discussed because, look, by putting Lieberman on the ticket, Gore is making the clearest possible statement that he wants to make a personal break, just personal, not policy break, but a personal break with Bill Clinton.

Because of the speech we just saw reported by Beth Fouhy, September 4, 1998, Joe Lieberman was the very first Democrat to stand up and condemn the president's behavior. What stronger statement could Gore possibly make that he wants to untie himself to Clinton's behavior, to the Clinton scandal, than to put one of Clinton's toughest critics on the ticket with him.

In the end, Lieberman voted to acquit the president. So Democrats don't have to be upset by this, but he was and is one of the president's severest critics for his, what Lieberman described as, immoral, personal behavior. That's the strongest statement that Gore is making.

HARRIS: Well, let me toss one more out to you on that one then, Bill. If Lieberman provides Gore a, sort of a bat shield, if you will, on that, Bill, on the moral issue, at what place then is he vulnerable?

SCHNEIDER: Well, there's a lot of discussion about the fact that this is the first Jewish candidate to run for a national office. And this has never happened before. We don't know how people are going to respond. We didn't know how they would respond when Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman candidate to run for national office. But it could very well be that his religious values, and his conservative views on a lot of moral issues, will appeal to a lot of religious Americans, whether they're Christian or Jewish or any other faith, because he shares a lot of values that go across the lines of faith and has worked with Bill Bennett, a conservative Republican, on social and moral issues. So that's a very big unknown with respect for Lieberman.

Second of all, another downside is that he has supported some positions that Bush has taken and Gore disagrees with. I believe in the past he has voted for proposals that would allow some Social Security funds to be privately invested. That is the position that Gore criticizes in George Bush, and Lieberman is on record as supporting those positions.

LIN: Well, Bill, having said all of that, let's say he does provide this bat shield to Al Gore. Then taking a look at this ticket, where is this ticket vulnerable as far as the Republicans are going to see it?

SCHNEIDER: Well, they may see that the South is not going to be enthusiastic about a New England Democrat, a Connecticut Democrat, not a Yankee, but moderately -- well, I wouldn't even say liberal, a moderate Connecticut Democrat.

But I think the calculation is, because of the kind of Democrat he is, because of his relatively centrist, sometimes even conservative, views, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Gulf War, which, of course, Gore supported, and most Democrats did not. I think their view is those values will help a ticket -- this ticket appeal to a lot of moderate southern Democrats, who may find themselves surprised to be voting for a Jewish candidate.

And one other thing, this could help Hillary Rodham Clinton a great deal in New York. I don't think that was the reason Gore put Lieberman on the ticket. But New York has a large Jewish vote, a lot of Jewish voters have their doubts about Hillary Rodham Clinton. But this will get a large Jewish vote out and can help the first lady win that Senate seat.

LIN: Interesting.

HARRIS: Yes, I think we're just beginning to see the first ripples coming out of this one. Thanks, Bill, appreciate it.

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely.

LIN: Thanks, Bill.



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