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TalkBack Live

Will Joe Lieberman Make the Democrats the Ticket to Ride?

Aired August 7, 2000 - 3:00 p.m. ET



SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: The call hasn't come through yet, but, John, if the phone rings I hope you'll interrupt me.


BOBBIE BATTISTA, HOST: Will Senator Joseph Lieberman make the Democratic ticket the one to ride?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wasn't going to vote for Gore, but I am now, because that means he's very inclusive.



BATTISTA: He is middle of the road and an Orthodox Jew.


MAHDI ABDUL HADI, PALESTINIAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE: This is very dangerous for Palestinians as well as for the Muslim world.


BATTISTA: He refused to be compromised by the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal...


LIEBERMAN: Such an behavior is not just inappropriate, it is immoral and it is harmful.


BATTISTA: ... and he doesn't always follow the party line.


LIEBERMAN: I make my choice today to support the president of the United States, to give him not a compulsion to go to war but an authorization to commit our troops to battle.


BATTISTA: Is Lieberman the right Democrat at the right time?

Good afternoon, welcome to TALKBACK LIVE.

Well who is Senator Joseph Lieberman, and why is he the best vice presidential candidate the Democrats could pick? Early this morning, Lieberman called his selection a "miracle," and during a speech before the AFL-CIO, he praised Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.


LIEBERMAN: I am proud, I have been proud, to stand with Al Gore as a fellow senator for four years, to work with him in his extraordinary leadership as vice president over these eight years. And I will be proud to stand with him every day, just as I am proud to stand with you, the true American heroes.


BATTISTA: Joining us first today, CNN national correspondent Bob Franken, who is freshly back from the Republican Party.

Have you recovered from all of that, Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've recovered from struggling to find news, but we have some today, don't we.

BATTISTA: Yes, we do. We know he's a senator, we know he's from Connecticut. But other than that, tell us a little bit about Joe Lieberman. Why did he get the nod?

FRANKEN: Well, I think that most people have already talked about the fact that Al Gore needed to do something bold, and this is bold for a variety of reasons. The ones we've already covered, becomes the first Jew to be on a national ticket for vice president, he becomes the first person to be critical of the vice president's president to be on the ticket.

He is somebody who is extremely independent. Many people are going to wonder if a man who has been known to speak his mind against his party against his establishment is going to be able to be a vice president whose main job is to be loyal to the president and keep his mouth shut.

BATTISTA: Let's take some of those one by one. The fact that he's an Orthodox Jew, will that be an issue?

FRANKEN: Well, we're going to have to see. There's always been an undercurrent of anti-semitism, in the United States historically. I remember one time I was told by an operative from Senator Howard Metzenbaum that they always figured that they went in with a 5 percentage point disadvantage by virtue of the fact that Metzenbaum was a Jew. But that was then, and now there's a belief in the United States that anti-semitism is relatively a thing of the past. We'll have to see. Perhaps it will work in his favor, as a matter of fact, because he will be a first.

BATTISTA: The fact that he was notably critical of President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, how did that factor into the decision?

FRANKEN: Well, my belief is that that was a strong argument for the selection of Joe Lieberman. Vice President Gore was really under pressure to come up with somebody who would not be cookie cutter, would not be somebody who looked like just everybody else. And, of course, that would describe Joe Lieberman. Paradoxically then, his criticism of President Clinton might have very strongly worked in his favor.

BATTISTA: His politics, is he liberal or is he middle of the road?

FRANKEN: Yes. He is the personification of middle of the road. He is chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council. That is the organization that took the Democratic Party from its image of being far liberal -- many of the liberals believe saying Democratic mean Democratic Leadership Council is another way of saying closet Republican.

Joe Lieberman is somewhat hawkish on defense, he has expressed support for affirmative action on occasion, school vouchers, he voted for welfare reform. I think you get the picture here.

BATTISTA: Let me do a quick e-mail that came in from Sadie in Texas, who says:

"This will move the U.S.'s position farther to the left. The U.S.'s bias in the Middle East has already alienated the entire Islamic world. The government fears Arab terrorism. This will harden the Arab political position against the U.S."

What about the effects on the Middle East peace process?

Well he -- that's not the only person who's expressed that opinion from the Arab-American community. One of the organizations that is considered a voice for Arab-Americans has already said that the Lieberman selection is something that is, in fact, going to push the United States even closer to the Israelis.

Of course, the Israelis believe that over the past couple of presidencies, the United States has drifted away. But Lieberman is going to be constantly faced with that question of whether he is going to favor, because of his religion, Israel more than perhaps is good for the United States.

BATTISTA: Other than what we just talked about here, liabilities? Does this guy really have any? Because, I mean, I've never universally heard such reaction, positive reaction, from both sides of the aisle here, both Republican and Democratic.

FRANKEN: Well, I tell you where the liability might come, those who are part of the Democratic base, those who are among the liberals who, of course, can be counted on to vote Democrat are going to be somewhat uncomfortable with some of Joseph Lieberman's positions. He has taken positions which are not at all popular with the liberals, and those liberal, of course, have to be enthusiastic, have to come out and vote, or else the Democrats are going to have some problems. That would be considered a campaign liability.

BATTISTA: Bob, stay with us, if you will. I want to bring another voice into the conversation. Joe Lieberman is also running for his Senate seat in Connecticut at the same time that he'll be on the ticket.

On the phone with us is Diane Smith, a radio talk show host for WTIC, news talk 1080 in Hartford, Connecticut, and she's been covering Joe Lieberman now for some 17 years.

Diane, let me first get your reaction to this selection.

DIANE SMITH, WTIC RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, Bobbie, I have to say that we were surprised. The story had been kept alive throughout the weekend by the local media that he was indeed on the short list, but I don't think there was that many people who really, really felt in their hearts that Joe Lieberman was going to be the choice, although he's been extremely popular here in Connecticut.

Hearing what Bob said about whether both sides like him, I will tell you that in a state like Connecticut, which is probably more liberal than many of the other states in the union, Joe Lieberman had been so popular with people of both parties that he won his last election to the Senate by 350,000 votes, which might not sound like a lot in some states, but in the state of Connecticut that's 57 percent of the vote.

In 1988, it was a huge upset when he beat Lowell Weicker, who was a very liberal Republican , really known as a maverick. He beat him by 10,000 votes, and a lot of people didn't think he had a chance in that election.

In fact, this year, our governor, John Roland, who's a Republican, really almost didn't come out and endorse a Republican candidate, in fact tried to discourage the Republican who eventually did get into the race from running. It almost seemed as though Joe Lieberman was going to get an endorsement from both parties, which would have been unprecedented.

BATTISTA: Well let me ask you this, how is he going to run for the Senate and on the Democratic ticket as vice presidential candidate at the same time? And how will the voters of Connecticut feel like to some degree they might be getting gypped a little bit.

SMITH: Well, he hasn't made that decision yet. And we talked this morning on our talk show with the secretary of the state, Susan Bysiewicz, who by the way would be interested in his job if it became available. It turns out that according to Connecticut law he can vote for both, and I guess that's under a law that was really established by Lyndon Johnson back in '59 that allowed him to consider running for both, and I think Lloyd Bentsen did run for both vice president and Senate. He can do it

There's also a provision in Connecticut election law that would allow him, if he makes a decision within the next two weeks, to withdraw his name from the ballot, would still allow a Democrat to get into the race, although all the traditional filing deadlines are already passed. It wouldn't be too late for a Democrat to jump in there, and believe me, there are several prominent Democrats in Connecticut who are just Gnashing at the bit to get in there.

I think the problem for him may be, although he did say to us this morning that he's not ready to make that decision yet, I think it may cast a little bit of a pall over the vice presidential race, because doesn't it, in fact, look as though you're hedging your bets? If you're not willing to get all the way out there and drop your bid for Senate, doesn't it look as though you have some concern that you might not win the vice presidential race, so, therefore, you'll hang on to the job you know you can hang on to.

BATTISTA: Yes. Bob, what do you think?

FRANKEN: Well, first of all, the reason he would stay in the race is because if he doesn't a Republican governor would appoint a Republican to replace him, and that could sabotage the Democrats' strong interest in taking over the U.S. Senate right now.

SMITH: Well actually, Bob, that's possible, but if he withdraws his name from the ballot within the next two weeks, they can still run a Democrat. And there are some Democrats -- the Republican who's running right now has only at the most picked up about 14 percent of the vote. If they could put a strong Democrat in place in the next two weeks -- it has to happen before absentee ballots start to be mailed out, particularly to the military -- they still could get a Democrat in there. So it might happen, it's just a question of a couple week's timing.

FRANKEN: We're actually talking about two different things here. We're talking about finishing out this term, which is why, first of all, Lieberman will not resign, most people believe, from his seat. And then, of course, as Diane points out, is the question about whether he will run for both.

SMITH: That's right. And actually, this morning we had a Republican congresswoman on who represents Connecticut and is a powerful member of the Ways and Means Committee and has worked hand in hand with Joe Lieberman since they were both in the state Senate together, and she said, boy, if he's out on the campaign trail, we are really going to miss him -- and this is coming from a Republican -- we are really going to miss him in the Senate. And she is a representative, because she said, you know, we've worked hand in hand on a number of important bills that we need him to carry in the Senate. She also told a very interesting story about him this morning, when she first went to the state Senate, Joe Lieberman was a ranking member and, of course, a Democrat; she was a brand new Republican, brand newly minted state senator and didn't realize -- when she had an idea for a bill that she wanted to put forward she went over to Joe Lieberman and asked him to join her in the bill without realizing, of course, that a freshman Republican doesn't go to the other side of the aisle and ask the ranking -- in fact, the majority leader at the time to co-sponsor a bill with her.

He never raised an eyebrow, he never mentioned the fact that, that was outside of the etiquette of the state Senate and actually encouraged her on the bill and eventually did come onboard with her, and she said he has always been that kind of a person, which is why, Bobbie -- you said you can't find out a bad thing about him, most people have more good than bad to say about him.

BATTISTA: Boy, I had to bring that up, didn't I, about running for the Senate and vice president at the same time.

SMITH: Absolutely. You know, one of...

BATTISTA: We are all thoroughly confused on that, but we'll -- I think we will know more in the next couple of weeks, is what you are saying.

SMITH: Well, Bob is right, it is a question of filling out the rest of the term until November and whether someone can run for his office, or whether he'll continue to run for it in the upcoming election.


SMITH: The other thing that's interesting about his stepping out on the Bill Clinton issue, and of course, many people think that's one of the reason Al Gore chose him, is because he gives him a moral ground to stand on since Joe Lieberman did speak against the president, as you ran in the beginning of the show. What made that even more interesting is that they are old friends going all the way back to 1970. In Joe Lieberman's first campaign for the state Senate, one of his most valuable volunteers who really beat the streets for him was young Bill Clinton, who was at Yale Law School at the time.

BATTISTA: Let me -- you brought up Clinton real quickly and I want to ask Bob a question about that. But I've got to take a quick break. So, Diane Smith, thank you very much for joining us today. We will take that break, and then we'll also talk to Joe Lieberman's rabbi in just a few moments.

As we take our break, please take part in our TALKBACK LIVE online viewer vote at Today's question: Joe Lieberman as a vice presidential candidate will help Al Gore, harm Al Gore, or make no difference? We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BATTISTA: Quickly here, an e-mail from Eric in Ohio, who says: "Senator Lieberman is a wise choice for the vice president. Lieberman's ability to garner bipartisan support will strengthen Gore's ticket and influence independent and swing voters. It will, however, be a disgrace if Americans consider Lieberman's religion to be a factor in whether or not they vote for Al Gore."

Bob, Diane brought up the Clinton factor before we went to the break, and we know that on the Bush-Cheney ticket, that Cheney is kind of being put out there as the attack dog and has already visited that Clinton-Gore connection.

Who is going to play the attack dog role on this -- on the Gore- Lieberman ticket?

FRANKEN: Well, by experience thus far we don't get the impression that Al Gore needs an attack dog. He is perfectly capable of going out there and punching a little bit himself. What we have to wonder is if that kind of politics is really going to be the way it is practiced this year. I think what you are going to see is both sides are going to get out there and they're going to take their digs and that probably, unless it is very, very close you are not going to see the kind of hardball or bean ball politics that we've seen in elections past.

BATTISTA: Bob, hang in there if you will.

We want to revisit this religion issue just a bit. You already might be aware, of course, that Joseph Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew, he will be the first to ever run for vice president of the United States.

Here to help us explain now what that will or won't mean to the campaign and to the office of vice president is Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz, who is the senator's rabbi. And Rabbi Ehrenkranz, thank you very much for joining us.


BATTISTA: You must be very excited about this choice.

EHRENKRANZ: Oh, when I heard this morning I had great tears in my eyes, tears of joy and happiness. I think it is a great day for the United States to be able to ignore the fact that Joseph Lieberman is from a minority group and to significantly say that if we can select the best people to serve this country it will do well to ignore what their personal beliefs are.

BATTISTA: Are you close to the senator, what is your history with him?

EHRENKRANZ: Am I close to the senator?


EHRENKRANZ: Yes. We've maintained a very close relationship over the last 50 years.

BATTISTA: If you could help educate us to some degree, I'm not sure that, you know, most Americans are familiar with the workings of Orthodox Judaism. What is it that Orthodox Jews can and cannot do during the Sabbath period?

EHRENKRANZ: Well, it is our day of rest, and therefore, there's a question of going to work or what is -- what does constitute work. But Senator Lieberman has had 12 years of this -- serving this country on the Sabbath and he's done so in a way in which he feels he's both observed the Sabbath and served the country. So it's not new. It's not like we've picked on someone who has never had service before. He's able to do this well.

BATTISTA: And he says that he will vote for legislation on the Sabbath but, for example, he will not campaign. So I take it it's just something he's going to have to sort of work out along the way?

EHRENKRANZ: I'm -- it depends what it is that's required of him. I think as vice president of the United States, what it is that required of him. I think as vice president of the United States, whatever it is that is required of him to do, he will do.

Now, the question of campaigning -- depending what is felt is necessary -- I would assume he could always postpone campaigning on the Sabbath and doing it throughout six other days of the weeks.

BATTISTA: So you don't really anticipate that this would be a problem for him?

EHRENKRANZ: I don't think it will. He's handled -- it's not brand new. It's 12 years old now.

BATTISTA: What if he becomes vice president?

EHRENKRANZ: Is it any different than serving this country as a senator?

BATTISTA: I don't know. That's why I was asking whether, you know, there might be some problems to anticipate or not.

EHRENKRANZ: I know that he has attended Senate sessions on the Sabbath. I do know that. And as vice president, he certainly would be required to attend those sessions. And he does. So there's nothing new that will be required of him that he can't fulfill.

BATTISTA: Tell us something about him on a personal level that we might not know. For example, I've heard him in more casual situations, and he does have a very dry sense of humor, for example.

EHRENKRANZ: I find -- and I'm trying to think -- I got to know him when he was six years old and I handled him in classes -- I taught for three years when he was 12, 13 and 14 years old -- and he has a charisma about him. He draws the adulation of his classmates, his peers, and his teachers. He's a hard worker, but he's not all work and no play. BATTISTA: All right, Rabbi Ehrenkranz, we thank you so very much for joining us today. Appreciate your insight.

EHRENKRANZ: My pleasure, my pleasure to be with you.

BATTISTA: Bob, let me ask you, sometimes you can tell more or as much about a decision by those who were not chosen, as well as the ones who were. Why for example, John Kerry, John Edwards, Evan Bayh, why were they not chosen, do you think?

FRANKEN: Well, let's see. Let's go down the list. In the case of John Kerry, there are many people who felt that he has an abrupt manner that might not have served the campaign well. In the case of Evan Bayh: Evan Bayh, for one thing, went to the same private school as Al Gore. And that would have then just been fair game for the Republicans talking about two guys going to the same rich person's school this Washington, D.C. They were both the sons of senators, growing up.

And as I said, the Republicans probably would have had a field day with it. In the case of John Edwards, John Edwards has been a senator for a very, very brief period of time. And his lack of government experience would have been questioned. Also, he made his money, his fortune, as a trial lawyer. And trial lawyers are not the most popular group these days. So each of them had liabilities. And of course Joe Lieberman has, in the minds of some, the liability that he does not in fact always vote the way and support the issues that the liberal base of the party would support.

So, you are choosing not only from attributes, but also choosing which have the least disadvantageous disadvantages.

BATTISTA: And as we go to break, John Duly (ph) is with us. He is chairman of the Cobb County Democratic Committee.

JOHN DULY, CHAIRMAN, COBB COUNTY DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE: The one question I have, earlier, was there any serious consideration given to Rodney Slater, secretary of transportation?

FRANKEN: You know, that's an interesting choice, interesting question. Rodney Slater is transportation secretary for the Clinton administration. He's highly regarded in Washington. He's from, I would point out, from the state of Arkansas, somebody who gets along well with people. But to be very blunt about it, I never heard his name mentioned once.

BATTISTA: All right, we've got to go to break. Is Bob with us for another segment? No, you are not. I'm sorry, Bob.

Thanks very much for joining us today. I have to say goodbye.

And we will be back right after this break.

On his first Friday night in office in early 1989, Joseph Lieberman planned to sleep in the Senate gym in order to avoid driving on the Sabbath. Al Gore, then the senator from Tennessee, persuaded Lieberman to stay at his parents' nearby apartment. Gore was familiar enough with Orthodox Judaism to turn the apartment lights on and off for Lieberman. Lieberman has said -- quote -- "I may have had one of the most distinguished Shabbos goys in history."


BATTISTA: Let me go to the audience quickly here.

Dawana (ph) is from Michigan -- your thoughts.

DAWANA: Basically, I think that Lieberman will hurt the party, Al Gore's party, because he did speak against Clinton. And Clinton's supporters are very, very strongly supporting him.

BATTISTA: And Tanya.

TANYA: Well, I would like to make a comment to that. I don't think he was not supporting the president, he was just disagreeing with the act that he did. And I don't understand why the fact that he's Jewish should have anything to do with the reason why or why not we vote for this man. I think he's smart, intelligent, and his voting record speaks for himself. And I'm supporting the Gore presidential campaign 100 percent.

BATTISTA: All right. Let me bring in two other voices here. Joining us now, John Fund, a member of editorial board of the "Wall Street Journal," and syndicated columnist Julianne Malveaux. She's an economist and author of "Wall Street, Main Street."


BATTISTA: Wait I've got to get through this whole title: "A Mad Economist Takes a Stroll."

Hi, Julianne, how are you?


BATTISTA: Reaction from you first.

MALVEAUX: Well, I think the Lieberman pick is a good pick. I think the young lady who just spoke raised a question. I mean, Joe Lieberman was the first Democrat to take Bill Clinton on. And what the Bush-Cheney ticket has attempted to say is that there -- it is a moral issue. But when you pick someone who has taken Clinton on, Al Gore is distancing himself from Bill Clinton, while at the same time cleaving to the center of his party; whereas maybe Bush has gone backwards, as far as I'm concerned, in terms of his party. He's cleaving to the right.

So I think this is a wonderful pick. As a Democrat, I'm very excited about it. I think it's really -- it really just pushes the envelope in a number of ways. And I think makes a lot of sense.

BATTISTA: John, you think he's more liberal than being portrayed. JOHN FUND, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I think he's very moderate temperamentally, but if you look at his actual voting record: 25 votes for the American Conservative Union last year that they rated, he got a zero. So, he is very innovative in some areas. He's one of only three Democratic senators who supported school vouchers way back when. And so, he clearly shows some independence of thought.

What he really represents, though, is not so much a voting record as Al Gore's declaration of independence from Bill Clinton. You know, Bobbie, for the last two years we have had pundits on these shows say there is no Clinton fatigue, nothing is wrong, the Republicans are going to get punished for impeachment, not the president. Well, this finally is Al Gore looking at the polls and saying: "I'm in trouble. I'm down 10 or 12 points. And I have to declare my independence from Bill Clinton fast."

MALVEAUX: Oh, John -- John, get over it. John, please get over it. I mean, it's not about Clinton fatigue. It's about Al Gore looking -- I mean, if you look at some of the other people he was considering, including John Kerry, they were very similar to Joe Lieberman.

FUND: He didn't pick them -- he didn't pick them, Julianne.

MALVEAUX: No, he didn't.

FUND: He picked the one person who is known as a critic of Bill Clinton.

MALVEAUX: But don't go on the Clinton fatigue train unless it's what you want to ride. The fact of the matter is that when you look at Joe Lieberman, you're also looking at someone, DLC, centrist Democrat, someone who really is raising some of the issues that frankly I as a leftist Democrat are opposed to but see the logic in Gore's selection.

FUND: Julianne, he is...

BATTISTA: Let me -- let me...


You know what, let me go back -- let me go back, John. You brought up Lieberman's voting record a few moments ago. We do have a full screen here that shows the American Conservative Union ratings on that. 1999, 0 percent; 1998, 16 percent; and lifetime, 19 percent.

But clearly, there is confusion about exactly where, you know, which category he falls in. Like Jim in California e-mailed us: "Joe Lieberman is a Republican calling himself a Democrat. Based on his voting record, he'll be at odds with Al Gore on most of the core issues." Huh?

FUND: The most important thing your viewers have to know is that Joe Lieberman is a man of character, he's a man of integrity, and luckily, I think we're going to have something that's very exciting in American politics. This is the John F. Kennedy moment for the American Jewish community, because one of their own is going to be on a national ticket. That's progress.

But having said that, Joe Lieberman fits in very easily to the Democratic mainstream in Congress. He has -- for example, he voted in favor of partial birth abortion, or against a ban on that procedure. That's a pretty radical procedure, because even Dick Gephardt and David Bonior, the Democratic leaders of the House, voted against it.

BATTISTA: Julianne...

MALVEAUX: John Fund, you...

BATTISTA: I've got to take a quick break. So I'll start with you when we come back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. This is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from the University of Florida, and I feel Al Gore's choice of Joe Lieberman is essentially a good one. It not only shows his degree of commitment to some of the issues, but more importantly, it allows the vice president to distance himself from some of the more negative aspects of Clinton's presidency.



SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: When the working people of America look for a helping hand from the other party and the other ticket, they too often will receive the back of their hand.


BATTISTA: Welcome back. Let me go to the audience quickly and Todd.

TODD: Yes. Gore trying to get away from Clinton more and more, I don't think it's going to make any difference who he picked. Even if he picked Michael Jordan, I don't think he's going to win.

BATTISTA: Are you sure?

TODD: Yes.



Michael Jordan, I'm just, you know, I had to weigh in on that.

Julianne, you wanted to answer John before we went to the break.

MALVEAUX: Well, John was raising a bunch of questions about this pick and its wisdom, and I think that this is a good ticket. But I also think that it makes no sense to paint Joe Lieberman to the left when his votes really are to the center. I think that people who are left in the party, like myself, are really clear that this is a good pick, that while we don't like the pick in terms of its centrist nature, it's the best thing we can do.

And I think that it's really disingenuous for John Fund, who knows the numbers very well, to talk about Joe Lieberman as someone who is more left than he is.

Joe Lieberman has been fiscally conservative throughout. That's what his record shows. He has been a bit socially liberal, but not extremely. He's the head of the DLC, for gosh sakes, which is a conservative wing of the Democratic Party. So...

FUND: Julianne, so too -- so too was Bill Clinton, and we learned how conservative Bill Clinton ended up being.


FUND: Julianne, facts are -- Julianne, facts are stubborn things. The Americans for Democratic Action...

MALVEAUX: So deal with them, John.

FUND: That is a group...

MALVEAUX: Deal with them.

FUND: That is a group -- let me finish please. That is a group that really is clearly on the liberal side of the spectrum. Last year, they rated Joe Lieberman 80 percent voting with them: 80 percent.

Now Joe Lieberman has some clear issues on which he has broken with his party's ranks -- school vouchers and school choice being one of them. He's gone against the Hollywood consensus that there should be no cleaning of the entertainment that we see on the screens of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But he's joined forces with Bill Bennett and Ralph Reed and Dick Cheney to try to combat political correctness on campuses. Those are exceptions.

What I'm saying is if you look at his broad record and you look at the facts -- the American Conservative Union, a zero rating; the Americans for Democratic Action, 80 percents -- that is a liberal voting record.

MALVEAUX: Eighty percent is not 100 percent. John Fund, be real.

FUND: That's a B in school. I remember.

MALVEAUX: You want to put this -- you want to put this man on the left wing of the party, and you know that he isn't there. The Democratic Leadership Council is the center, if not the right, of the Democratic Party, and you know that as well as I do.

So if you want to try to rewrite...

FUND: Then let's go to the AFL-CIO, which...

MALVEAUX: So if you want to rewrite facts...


Let's go to the AFL-CIO, which is organized labor. They rate him 90 percent.

MALVEAUX: Go for it.

BATTISTA: Let me ask you one thing...

FUND: Ninety percent.

BATTISTA: ... about the convention next week. There is talk now that President Clinton should in his speech to the convention next week absolve Al Gore of any connections whatsoever to his personal failings while he was in office. That is supposedly under consideration by the White House.

Julianne, should President Clinton do that next week?

MALVEAUX: I don't think it matters. I mean, Al Gore has been the vice president for eight years, or seven years. I think that Bill Clinton can certainly absolve him. I think that the two of them are connected, but that's not the point. The point is that Al Gore has to declare his independence. He's done that now. Whatever Bill Clinton says is almost immaterial.

People in the United States have pretty much written much of the Clinton chicanery off. There are people like John Fund who are going to keep on raising it. But you know, people have written it off. And so the bottom line is Clinton should not do a mea culpa. He still is the president of the United States.


FUND: Look, Bill Clinton is going to do what he can to help Al Gore, but I think there is something in Bill Clinton's psyche that is going to prevent him from giving the kind of full-throated acknowledgment of what happened that he should, because, remember, he never did it during impeachment. He was told over and over again by fellow Democrats in Congress all you have to do is apologize and then we probably can make this go away.

He refused to do that. He kept saying it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is. Bill Clinton is a proud man.


FUND: He's not going to do that.

MALVEAUX: And nor necessarily should he. Here's the point: The man is the president of the United States. At the end of the day, Al Gore is forging his own path, and his own path is a powerful and productive path, and he doesn't need Bill Clinton to say up and say, mea culpa, mea culpa.

That's not necessary in this venue, and only folks like you, who are clinging to I don't know what, want that to happen.

FUND: No, no, Julianne...

BATTISTA: Well, it's actually leading Democrats that have been asking him to do that, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see here what unfolds next week.

I have to take another quick break. We'll be back in a minute.


PETER: His greatest asset is his independent mindedness and that his unwillingness to adhere too closely to party lines, which I think makes him distinct from Bush, Cheney, and even the vice president, and I think will ultimately distinguish him as one of the most impressive and effective vice presidents in our nation's history.

BATTISTA: All right, Peter from Connecticut, thanks very much.

Also, Randy is from Connecticut, and he says: "I think Gore has made a very good choice. I'm an independent and I could not choose who I was going to vote for, or even -- if I would even vote. Now I know I will vote for Gore and Lieberman. Finally a good team is running again for the White House."

David in Michigan says: "Gore's selection is an obvious ploy, along with Hillary Clinton's kissing up to the Jewish community to grab those votes. People are not ready for a Jewish vice president, at least I'll admit that. I wanted to see a woman as V.P. Gore just put a hole in his campaign vote."

Julianne and John, let me ask you about something, there was a quote recently, or this past weekend, that Ed Rendell, who is chairman of the Democratic National Committee, made when he suggested that the electoral vote count could get in the way of a Jew being chosen as a vice presidential candidate and he said, "If Joe Lieberman was Episcopalian, I think he'd almost be a slam dunk. I don't think anyone can calculate the effect of having a Jew on the ticket."

What did he mean by that?

FUND: You know, I -- Bobbie, I think that that's ridiculous, because, look, Joe Lieberman wouldn't be Joe Lieberman if he didn't have the devout Orthodox Jewish faith that he has. So I think it will gain him some votes in Florida, it will make Florida more competitive. There will be some people in the middle of the country who look at the fact that during October he's going to have to take about a third of the time off for the Jewish high holidays and won't be able to campaign, and they'll find that a little strange and perhaps that will be a little off putting. But I think there's very little overt anti-Semitism left in this country, and so I think Rendell was just riffing. I don't think they -- I don't think the Gore people would have put Lieberman on the ticket if they thought it would have been a drag.

BATTISTA: Julianne, do you agree?

MALVEAUX: You know, I disagree. I do think that there is overt anti-Semitism. I think that that's why this pick is so important. I think that the pick of Cheney allowed Al Gore to do almost anything in his choice of vice presidential running mate. He could have gone middle of the road. He could have gone Kerry. He could have gone Gephardt. He could have gone any number of ways. So to pick someone who is Jewish, although the religious issue should not be that important, I mean, I think apparently it still is.

I think there are any number of things that would have been backlashes. Had he chosen a woman, that would have been problematic, I think. I think people would have raised questions about that. And so, he's chosen another white male, albeit a Jewish male. And I think that there will be some people who will think twice before voting for Joe Lieberman.

But this does shore up this ticket, make no mistake about it. And although it shores up the ticket, it does raise questions about residual prejudice in our country, prejudice against women, prejudice against Jewish people, prejudice against African-Americans, Latinos and Asians.

BATTISTA: Let me go to Marianne (ph) in the audience. Comment, Marianne, question?

MARIANNE: Yes. I think it will be nice for the nation, be good for the nation to have a person in public office to dare to stand up for his faith. It probably would have a good influence on the rest of the nation. Other people of faith, a lot of times when they get in public office or any important position, have a tendency to lay that faith aside. And so, it will be good to have someone as a good role model to stand up for what they believe.


BATTISTA: Michael in New Jersey faxes us: "Do you think that the selection of a moderate Democrat like Senator Lieberman will help Mr. Gore take back the substantial portion of the liberal vote that Ralph Nader is currently receiving?"

FUND: Well that's interesting, because if Julianne is right that he really is a centrist and, for example, supports school vouchers and various other things, I can imagine that some of the Nader people are going to look at his record, which includes a lot of support for pro- business tax cuts. He's been one of the leading figures in the Senate for capital gains tax reductions, Julianne, and we all know how much you like those. So some of the Nader people say, you know, this fellow is a little bit too close to business for us, maybe Al Gore is trying to abandon us and telling us we should go a different way. MALVEAUX: John Fund, John Fund, I love it when you read my work. You're absolutely right that I'm not that fond of tax cuts for business, but I think that this is one of these issues where it cuts both ways. I think that many of the people who might support Nader are going to look at this as a progressive and iconoclastic pick and maybe go for it even as a voter knows about some of the centrist positions that Lieberman has.

FUND: Well, luckily, capital gains cuts also go to a lot of average people, too, people who own small businesses and people who don't have a lot of wealth, so they are popular for that reason as well.

MALVEAUX: And there are a lot of issues with that as well. I think that, you know, this whole notion of these tax cuts is something that we have to look at, and I think a lot of Americans while they will -- are willing to look at these, are not supportive of them.

BATTISTA: I have to go. I have to go. I have to go.

MALVEAUX: Bye, Bobbie.

BATTISTA: We'll be back in just a second.


BATTISTA: Julianne, John, thank you both very much for joining us.

We're out of time. Be sure to tune into tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern when a special addition of "NEWSSTAND" takes a closer look at the Democratic ticket.

And then, tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern, Senator Lieberman will be Larry King's special guest on "LARRY KING LIVE."

And don't forget, join us tomorrow at 3:00 for more TALKBACK LIVE. We'll see you then.



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