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CAMPAIGN 2000

Lieberman Promises to Stand United With Gore

Campaign: As Democrats gather for their convention in L.A., running mate says differences give the ticket added strength. The vice president says the event will be his chance to 'introduce me for what I am.'

August 14, 2000|CATHLEEN DECKER | TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

Battling the crosscurrents of ideology on the eve of the Democratic convention, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman on Sunday defended his views on television violence, affirmative action and school vouchers that have unnerved party liberals.

Speaking on five television interview shows, the vice presidential nominee-in-waiting did not retreat an inch from his record. He acknowledged he had differences with the more standard Democratic positions advocated by putative presidential nominee Al Gore but suggested that added an element of strength to the ticket.

"This is, if I may say so, a different kind of expression of what Al Gore has been talking about, which is standing with the people against the powerful," Lieberman said of his unwavering feud with Hollywood over the risque content of television programs and movies.

The senator from Connecticut pledged his allegiance, if elected, to Gore's views.

"If I'm fortunate enough to be honored to be elected vice president, after the internal debates that Al and I have, his position will be my position," the senator added on NBC's "Meet the Press." "That's constitutionally necessary."

The continued attention to policy rifts concerned Democrats who are eager to broadcast red-white-and-blue unity at the four-day televised gathering. As further evidence of attempts to quiet roiled waters, Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile met Sunday afternoon with a group of teachers union delegates and reassured them that Gore supports public education and opposes school vouchers. Lieberman has supported an experimental use of vouchers, which labor opposes.

In preparation for tonight's opening gavel, delegates streamed into town by plane, bus and car, and event organizers put the last television-worthy touches on the elaborate convention stage erected at Staples Center. Several thousand protesters marched in the streets, but the day passed peacefully.

Gore, campaigning in Cleveland, said the convention would be his chance to "introduce me for what I am . . . not as a vice president who stands on stage without saying too much."

"I have had a career before the vice presidency," Gore told the NBC television affiliate in Cleveland, WKYC.

"I want people to know who I am, the 24-year career that I've had working for working families, fighting for the people, not the powerful," he added in a second interview, with WJW, the Fox News station there.

Gore and Lieberman enter the convention as decided underdogs in most national polls. Their partisans were cheered, however, by an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday that gave Republican nominee George W. Bush only a 3-percentage-point edge, within the survey's margin of error.

The vice president's task, in the four nights that will serve as Clinton's valedictory and a celebration of his successor, is difficult and perhaps contradictory. He must rally to his side the party's liberal base, which has been occasionally lukewarm about him, and establish his centrist credentials to appeal to moderate and independent voters.

His choice of Lieberman has heartened the latter but not all of the former. The potential schism was on full display on the Sunday morning talk shows, where Lieberman defended his backing of a California measure that banned affirmative action, his support for experimental use of school vouchers, his anger at Hollywood violence and his criticisms of some questionable Clinton-Gore fund-raising tactics.

Affirmative Action Stance Is Defended

The newest dust-up arose over affirmative action, which has the strong backing of influential segments of the party, including minorities and women. Lieberman acknowledged that in 1995 he had backed Proposition 209, the state anti-affirmative action measure, after a reporter read its text to him.

"I began in the mid-'90s, like a lot of people, to question whether quotas were an appropriate way to realize the goal of equal opportunity," Lieberman said. But, he added, he later supported Clinton's "mend it, don't end it" approach, which tinkered with the programs.

He also said a Supreme Court decision outlawing quotas in affirmative action programs made a national version of Proposition 209 unnecessary.

"I wanted to ban quotas, and I think that's basically happened," he told ABC's "This Week" program.

Proposition 209 passed in California with the support of almost one-third of Democrats--and, notably, 6 in 10 independents. Four of five Republicans also backed the measure.

Even as Clinton was dining with Hollywood--having lunch Sunday with Barbra Streisand--Lieberman defended his long-running battle with the fare produced by Hollywood's movie and television studios.

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