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CAMPAIGN 2000

Gore and Lieberman Share the Same Thoughts on Differences

Campaign: Vice president and running mate say they'll work as a team despite some policy disagreements. They visit their hometowns in pre-convention tour.

August 10, 2000|EDWIN CHEN and MATEA GOLD | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

CARTHAGE, Tenn. — Al Gore and Joseph I. Lieberman visited their hometowns Wednesday to highlight their very different biographies but spent part of the day insisting that, despite their differences, they plan to work as a team in the White House.

" . . . I think I understand this relationship," Lieberman said during a town hall meeting at Carthage Elementary School. "Believe me, when President Gore decides, Vice President Lieberman will support him wholeheartedly."

After Lieberman finished speaking, Gore wrapped his left arm around Lieberman and chimed in:

"I'm not afraid to have a vice president who disagrees with me on some issues. I think that's fine."

Gore added: "I think it's a strength and not a weakness, an asset, not a liability to be able to have a different point of view represented in the room at the time that decisions are being made."

Crowd Gives Gore a Hometown Welcome

Accompanied by their wives and many other family members, Gore and Lieberman made Carthage, site of the Gore family farm, the first stop in their "Going the Distance" pre-convention tour. Many of the 150 Smith County residents invited to a town hall meeting here delivered glowing testimonials of how their lives had been transformed by their former congressman and, later, senator--the man now seeking the highest office of the land.

The town hall meeting is Gore's favorite campaign setting because its informal, free-flowing format allows him to shed some of his stiff, patrician demeanor. That was clearly the case Wednesday as Gore often singled out friends and acquaintances in the audience.

Still, the session was largely scripted, with testimonials provided by local residents selected by the Gore campaign. One speaker was Bo Edwards, who received a kidney transplant 17 years ago. He credited then-Rep. Gore for having promoted the National Organ Transplant Act, which created a network to track donor organs.

Robert and Pat Sanders recalled their long-ago conversations with Gore about the dangers of toddlers and infants riding in cars without child-safety seats. Gore became an advocate of a national law requiring such seats.

Several times, however, an unscheduled speaker gained the microphone. One such person--a woman who only identified herself as a member of the National Education Assn.--raised the issue of school vouchers. Gore opposes them. Lieberman has supported experimental voucher programs in the past.

Lieberman, a senator from Connecticut, responded to the woman by noting that, contrary to assertions by Republicans, "the differences between Al and me are very, very few."

Gore, aboard Air Force Two between Nashville and New York City, echoed that view, insisting the two men's views "are not all that different."

The campaign of GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush, which offered wary compliments of Lieberman when his selection was first announced, criticized the senator Wednesday for backing away from his positions, such as his earlier support for privatizing Social Security. Gore opposes such a plan.

Lieberman dismissed that criticism, saying, "The Republicans have made much ado about what is little or in some cases nothing."

During an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live" Tuesday night, Lieberman said that if he had been vice president during the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal, he would not have spoken out as he did on the Senate floor, becoming the first prominent Democrat to lambaste President Clinton.

"Not only do you have a loyalty to the president, but you have a constitutional responsibility as the successor to the president not to separate from him publicly or create unprecedented problems in terms of the stability of the country," Lieberman said.

Later Wednesday, Gore and Lieberman also sought to downplay their differences on two key abortion issues--whether parents of a minor should be notified if their daughter seeks an abortion and whether a young woman needs her parents' consent to obtain an abortion.

Greg Simon, a top Gore domestic policy advisor, said that the vice president opposes requirements for both parental notification and parental consent, but he added that Gore is open to looking at proposals that would "balance a woman's right to choose with the notification issue."

To date, Simon said, Gore has not seen a proposal that achieves such a balance. The Gore campaign also noted that, despite his opposition to parental notification now, Gore voted for such a law in 1991 when he was a senator.

Lieberman Aide Points to Pro-Choice Record

Dan Gerstein, Lieberman's communications director, said the senator would only support parental notification or parental consent if the law provided exemptions, such as medical emergencies.

Gerstein added that Lieberman has a 99% approval rating from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. "Bottom line," Gerstein said, "he's pro-choice, pro-choice, pro-choice."

On Wednesday evening, the candidates were welcomed by a high-spirited crowd of hundreds in Lieberman's hometown of Stamford, Conn. Bystanders waving American flags and copies of the local paper, with the banner headline, "He's Coming Home," lined the suburban roads, cheering as the motorcade passed.

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