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Gore jets to Los Angeles to join rallying Democrats



Lieberman to accept vice presidential nomination

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Al Gore joined the thousands of Democratic faithful assembled in the Los Angeles area Wednesday afternoon, as Air Force Two touched down bearing the vice president, his wife Tipper, and his closely held nomination acceptance speech, which he will deliver to convention delegates Thursday night.

As Gore arrived in Southern California, he was joined at a Burbank Airport rally by his vice presidential running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Lieberman, who addresses the convention Wednesday night, arrived in Los Angeles at 3:17 p.m EDT (12:17 PDT) Tuesday. He took a break from his own speech preparation to talk to various Democratic Party constituencies -- groups of Hispanic delegates, Asian delegates and gay and lesbian delegates, before joining Gore in Burbank.

After the airport rally, the Gore-Lieberman team planned to attend a party with the Tennessee and Connecticut delegations at Warner Brothers Studios. (Warner Brothers and CNN are owned by parent company Time-Warner).

Gore's plane touched down in Burbank just after noon Pacific Time (3p.m. EDT), marking his first foray into the Los Angeles area since the 2000 Democratic National Convention kicked off earlier this week. His nomination for the presidency will be advanced through the convention hall -- the sprawling Staples Center sports complex in downtown L.A. -- on Wednesday night, with an extended roll call of the states and U.S. territories.

Gore's home state of Tennessee is expected to put him over the top in the vote count as the process reaches it crescendo.

Lieberman's big night

But Wednesday was to be Lieberman's night. Before the roll call commences, Connecticut's junior senator will take to the podium to deliver his own acceptance speech.

Lieberman called it "a miracle" last week when Gore asked him to serve as his running mate.

On Wednesday night, Lieberman will tell conventioneers why he thinks the Gore-Lieberman team should be elected.

After appearances onstage at the Staples Center by speakers including actor Jimmy Smits and Gore's eldest daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, Lieberman will deliver his speech -- and while he will seek votes for the Democratic ticket in November, he may have to engage in a bit of fence mending within his own party.

A minor controversy has erupted over some of his past comments on affirmative action, and Lieberman has labored in the last day to keep the smoke from turning to fire.

Lieberman in 1995 called preferences based on race or gender "patently unfair," and after making clear his firm opposition to racial quotas, said most affirmative action programs had run their course.

He sought to calm the fears of Democratic National Committee Black Caucus members Tuesday with a speech in which he declared, "I have supported affirmative action, I do support affirmative action and I will support affirmative action."

Lieberman blamed himself for a what he called a mixup over his position on Proposition 209 -- a 1996 California ballot initiative that banned state-funded affirmative action programs.

He said he had not read the language of the ballot initiative when he was first asked about it by a reporter. So the reporter read it to him, and Lieberman said "that sounds like a basic statement of human rights policy." He said he later rejected entreaties to publicly endorse the ballot initiative and to campaign for its passage.

Those remarks quieted concerns raised by California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She said she was now prepared to support the Gore-Lieberman ticket and that Lieberman "did a good job" clearing up his views.

But Lieberman's comments back in 1995 were far more extensive than those he recalled Tuesday in his meeting with the black Democratic activists.

Back then, when asked about Prop 209, he did not say he supported it. But he did say, "I can't see how I would be opposed to it because it is basically a statement of American values."

On the broader, overall issue of affirmative action, the Connecticut Democrat said, "this business of deciding by group ... that's an un-American argument. And it's an un-American argument because it is based on averages, not on individuals. And that's the same when we come to group preferences and quotas. America's about individuals, not about averages or groups."

Lieberman said group preferences were "patently unfair" and as chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council he signed on last month to a declaration that said the organization should "resist 'identity politics' that confers rights and entitlements on groups."

One of the black Democrats said Lieberman's Tuesday explanation to the black caucus was "Clintonesque," but noted there was unlikely to be widespread opposition in the African-American community because presidential nominee-to-be Gore had good relations with black leaders and, the Democrat added, "consider the opposition."

Fond remembrance

On Tuesday night, Lieberman joined hundreds of convention delegates in cheering the return of the Kennedy clan to the party's center stage. Forty years ago, John F. Kennedy laid the foundation for the family political dynasty by accepting his party's nomination in Los Angeles and winning election to the White House.

The prime-time appearances of Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Caroline Kennedy, the eldest child of the slain president and the last surviving member of their immediate family, symbolized the party's willingness to reach beyond the immediate memories of the eight-year Clinton administration, back to perhaps the most glowing era in its modern history.

Kennedy's "New Frontier" challenge to the nation, outlined in his nomination acceptance speech 40 years ago, was recalled by both Ms. Kennedy and her uncle as they urged those in attendance to support the Gore-Lieberman ticket for much the same reasons voters backed the 1960 Democratic ticket.

"This truly is a homecoming for me," Sen. Kennedy said in a well-received speech. "It was here, in this City of Angels, on a warm summer night 40 years ago, that America first looked across the New Frontier."

That frontier, as Caroline Kennedy described it, "was not a set of promises, but a set of challenges -- challenges of the mind and heart and spirit."

Sen. Kennedy and his niece worked as an effective tag team, with the senator taking the stage as Ms. Kennedy completed her speech.

Picking up on her lead, the senator said his brother's New Frontier remained vital in 2000 -- when, he said, the choices were clear between the Gore-Lieberman ticket and that of their GOP rivals, Texas Gov. George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

"We must heed my brother's words here in Los Angeles, which echo now across the years," the senator said. "Will we comfort the comfortable, or will we strengthen the fabric of this country for all Americans?"

"There have been only three times in my life that I have supported candidates for president as early and as enthusiastically as I have supported Al Gore," Kennedy added, in a commanding voice. "Two of them were my brothers," he said, invoking for the first time in the evening session the memory of Robert F. Kennedy, the New York senator who was assassinated in Los Angeles in the midst of the 1968 presidential contest.


Wednesday, August 16, 2000

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