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Gore, Lieberman Campaign in Atlanta

Politics: Stop in largely black city was planned before uproar over anti-Semitic remark by an NAACP leader. Vice president urges diverse crowd to 'break down barriers.'


ATLANTA — Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman brought their fledgling presidential campaign to Atlanta on Thursday, urging voters in this predominantly African American city to help make history by electing an Orthodox Jew as vice president.

The Democratic team's appearance in this booming Southern metropolis had been scheduled days ago, but it took on special significance when a prominent black leader in Dallas this week made anti-Semitic remarks about Lieberman after Gore chose him as his Democratic running mate.

The flap did not deter either Gore or Lieberman from highlighting Lieberman's faith, however. In fact, they exulted over it.

At a midday rally in Olympic Centennial Park attended by several thousand people, including many blacks, Gore urged the partisan crowd to "break down barriers and write history."

Lieberman hailed Gore's "courage and character" for having shattered another glass ceiling in American public life.

Appearing at the rally with Gore and Lieberman were four Southern Democratic governors, and one of them, host Roy Barnes of Georgia, introduced Lieberman as "just a Northern Sam Nunn," referring to the state's now-retired but popular senator.

In an interview after the rally, Georgia Atty. Gen. Thurbert E. Baker, who is black, dismissed the remarks of the leader of the Dallas chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. Baker called it "a singular incident" that belies the degree to which blacks and Jews are "pulling together, working hard to get this ticket elected."

From the podium, Gore and Lieberman both told the audience about how Lieberman as a young man had journeyed to Mississippi to help register blacks to vote--his first time in the Deep South.

By working with other civil rights activists, Lieberman said, he saw "a glimpse of how good our nation can be."

On Thursday, both Gore and Lieberman also cited a litany of pet Democratic causes, such as raising the minimum wage, enacting a targeted middle-class tax cut, improving schools, reforming Medicare and Social Security, providing prescription drug coverage to seniors and passing a patients' bill of rights.

A Rebuttal to 'Coasting' Criticism

They also criticized the proposals of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, particularly one to partially privatize Social Security.

At one point, Gore noted that Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, have criticized the Clinton-Gore administration as having "coasted" on the nation's current prosperity. Then Gore cited a string of positive economic indices and shouted:

"If that's coasting, let's coast for another four years!"

When his turn came, Lieberman added: "Our opponents like to say--if you can believe this--that the past eight years have been 'squandered.' The American people are not going to be fooled by that. . . . If you're one of the people working in one of the 22 million jobs that have been created in this country since 1993, these haven't been squandered years."

Meanwhile, his wife, Hadassah Lieberman, made a trip to her hometown of Gardner, Mass., on Thursday morning, paying an emotional tribute to the friends she said embraced her family when they moved to the small town 50 miles northwest of Boston when she was 3.

Jubilant Welcome in Hometown

Hundreds of jubilant Gardner residents turned out to cheer Lieberman and Tipper Gore, gathering in the hot sun outside Lieberman's old high school with signs and American flags.

Her parents, both Holocaust survivors, were embraced by the small community when they arrived, Lieberman said.

"You represent one of the small towns across America . . . that respected others who were not exactly like them," she said. "We need to welcome everyone who comes from all the different parts of the globe today."

The Gore-Lieberman campaign also said Thursday that the candidates and their families will take a four-day, 400-mile Mississippi River boat trip, the "setting the course for the future" tour.

The campaign hopes that the boat trip will prove as popular as the Clinton-Gore bus excursions throughout the heartland in 1992, starting right after their convention.

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