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Lieberman recounts 'only in America' story before Dem convention

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- In a testimonial that blended praise for Al Gore with attacks against Republican rivals George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Sen. Joe Lieberman accepted the Democratic vice presidential nomination Wednesday night.

Lieberman
Lieberman accepts the Democratic vice presidential nomination Wednesday night  

Lieberman, the first Jewish candidate ever to appear on a major party ticket, called it a "miracle" last week when Gore asked him to serve as the vice presidential running mate. He exuded a similar sense of awe as he stood before the convention Wednesday night.

"Is America a great country or what? Ten days ago, with courage and friendship, Al Gore asked me to be his running mate. This has been an extraordinary week for my family and me," he began.

During his debut in the national political spotlight, the junior senator from Connecticut was greeted by a raucous crowd of Democratic delegates waving a red "Lieberman" signs and chanting "Go Joe go."

"We're gonna go, right to the White House," he replied, telling convention-goers that "only in America" could someone of his background earn a spot on a presidential ticket.

Lieberman praises Gore's character

Lieberman, well-regarded by his peers for his moral stance against excessive sex and violence in the entertainment industry as well as President Clinton's behavior in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, portrayed Gore's character in the same light as his own.

"I know his record and I know his heart. I know him as a public servant and I know what it is like to sit with him around the dining room table," Lieberman said of Gore. "We have discussed, sometimes even debated policy issues. And we have shared private moments of prayer."

Republicans have tried to exploit differences of opinion between Lieberman and Gore on a number of issues, most notably the senator's support for experimental school voucher programs and initial interest in plans to partially privatize Social Security.

Lieberman blasted back Wednesday by characterizing Bush's "compassionate conservative" policies on a host of issues -- education, health care, Social Security, and tax cuts -- as totally inadequate to meet the future needs of the country.

"Two weeks ago, our Republican friends tried to walk and talk a lot like us, but not since Tom Hanks won on Oscar has there been that much acting in Philadelphia. I'm glad the GOP has changed their rhetoric, but I wish they would also change their policies," said Lieberman.

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Vice Presidential candidate Senator Joe Lieberman speaks to the Democratic National Convention

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Lieberman recounts family experiences

Lieberman recounted his experience as a "freedom rider" registering black voters in the South during the 1960s, and his presence during Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic 1963 march on Washington.

"The people I met never forgot that in America, every time a barrier is broken, the doors of opportunity open wider for everyone," he said.

"I believe that the time has come to tear down the remaining walls of discrimination in this nation based on race, gender, nationality or sexual orientation. And that's why I continue to say, when it comes to affirmative action, mend it, don't end it."

Lieberman, the only Orthodox Jew in the Senate, told the convention that growing up in Connnecticut he witnessed "the goodness of this country through many of sets of eyes." He told the story of his father, who grew up in an orphanage, drove a bakery truck, and eventually owned his own package store in the town of Stamford.

He also told the story of his wife Hadassah's parents, who survived the Holocaust and immigrated to United States.

"Her family was literally saved by American GI's who liberated the concentration camps. Then her parents escaped communism and were welcomed as immigrants to America ... the fact that a half century later, their daughter would be standing on this stage is a testament to the power of the American Dream."

Hadassah had the pleasure of introducing her husband to the convention. "For Joe, family, faith, neighborhood, congregation and community are the guideposts of his life," she told the convention during the brief introduction.

'Only in America'

In addition to his family members, Lieberman evoked the images of five U.S. Presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. But his reference to the sitting president was a brief one, declaring that Americans were much better off today than they were eight years ago when Clinton was first elected.

Lieberman came into national prominence in September 1998 when he was the first Democratic senator to denounce President Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky as morally wrong.

The 58-year-old lawmaker also earned renown for his role on a Senate committee that probed fund-raising excesses in the 1996 presidential election campaign. He took an independent line, refusing to join fellow Democrats who vigorously defended Clinton and Gore fund-raising practices, including Gore's controversial appearance at a Buddhist Temple in California.

Joe and Hadassah Lieberman
Lieberman and his wife Hadassah embrace before he addresses the cheering delegates  

On Wednesday, Lieberman stressed that during this election, Gore was on the right side of the campaign finance issue by calling for an overhaul of current laws regulating political donations.

"This party will reform campaign finance, because it is only Al Gore and not George W. Bush who will send the McCain-Feingold bill to Congress and sign it when it's passed," he said.

Lieberman wrapped up his speech by returning to the 'only in America' theme by recounting that Kennedy, the first Catholic to win the presidency, accepted the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles 40 years ago. He said that said Americans of all race, religion and economic status can aspire to the same heights today.

"Let them look back to this time, and this place, and this stage and say of us: they kept the faith. Let them say that we helped them realize their hopes and their dreams," he said. "And let them look around at this great and good nation that we are all so blessed to share, and say: Only in America."



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Wednesday, August 16, 2000


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