latimes.com: No. 2s on tickets take on distinct roles
SPRINGDALE, Arkansas (Los Angeles Times) -- Maximizing their second-banana roles, vice presidential nominees Dick Cheney and Joseph I. Lieberman tried to buttress their tickets Thursday in states where recent gains by the Democrats have thrown Republicans on the defensive and the November outcome into question.
Democrat Lieberman offered a series of issue-laden speeches in Florida, while Republican Cheney touted the GOP plan to partially privatize Social Security during stops in Arkansas and Missouri.
On a day when he also took after Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore's proposal to tap oil reserves to ease the energy crunch, Cheney insisted that remaking Social Security would allow all Americans to move up financially. Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush has proposed allowing individuals to divert 2% of their payroll taxes into privately managed stock market accounts.
"Under our plan you can build wealth, even if you don't have a dollar to spare," Cheney said, noting that the account would belong to the taxpayer and could in theory be passed down to future generations.
Cheney also criticized the current return on Social Security investments -- below 2%, he said, or a third of what a "relatively sound" investment would gain.
The former Defense secretary was later asked by reporters who would manage the private funds, which could total $1.2 trillion over the next decade. He said that he "hadn't gotten that far" but assumed the money would be managed by private firms.
"You would want government probably to certify the options and alternatives that are there for investment, but in the end you want those to be privately managed accounts," he said.
Vice President Gore's campaign immediately countered Cheney's comments.
"The fact is Gov. Bush's plan would leave the Social Security Commission only two choices: insolvency in 2023 or a 50% cut in guaranteed benefits," said Kym Spell, a Gore spokeswoman.
The two vice presidential nominees have aptly illustrated their dual roles lately: Each day this week Cheney has gone out of his way to make harsh statements about Gore, satisfying partisans who see the second-in-command as the principal voice of opposition. Adopting the other pose, that of breathless advocate for his own team, has been Lieberman. Notably, the two were operating Thursday in three states with a combined 42 electoral votes -- which are suddenly up for grabs.
On Thursday, however, the senator from Connecticut had another goal -- expanding his national image beyond that of a candidate with a religious bent and a corny sense of humor.
In a 45-minute address at an Orlando, Fla., semiconductor firm, Lieberman reiterated proposals that Gore and he have already made. He also projected sunny wonderment at what he said would be technology's transformation of American lives.
"Within a decade, we can expect workers to have higher incomes, a reduced workweek, expanded vacations and more time to spend with their families," he said. "That sounds pretty good, doesn't it?"
He pledged that, if elected, Gore would further high-tech growth.
"The Americans whose ideas have changed the world are the ones who have been able to see around the bend, to catch a glimpse of the invisible future that will shape our lives and our families," Lieberman said.
Aides said that Lieberman will deliver future addresses on matters such as Medicare and foreign policy.