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Cheney and Lieberman Zero In on Government

Politics: Both campaign in critical state of Florida. Republican links foes to big government. Democrat says government can only set the stage for growth.


KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Stumping for votes separately in this state considered up for grabs, the Republican and Democratic nominees for vice president agreed Tuesday on one thing: Government doesn't create jobs, people do.

For Dick Cheney, the Republican, the sentiment has been part of his regular chorus on the stump. The engine that drives the American economy, he told supporters here Tuesday as he does each day on the trail, resides in the hard-working Americans who go to work everyday. "Not inside the Beltway" as he charges his opponents, Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, believe.

Just a few miles down the road in Orlando, Cheney's rival for the vice presidency, Lieberman, outlined a different version of his vision for government at a conference of high-tech workers. Praising the achievements of the high-tech economy, Lieberman said the driving force behind the economy is the private sector. "Government, at its best, can create the environment in which growth will occur," he said.

Remarks Aimed at Countering Foes

Lieberman's remarks appeared designed to blunt the pointed criticism from Cheney and Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush that the Democrats are once again promoting "big government."

"We should not be about expanding government; we should be about expanding opportunity," Lieberman said, countering charges that the Democratic ticket's agenda would bloat the federal bureaucracy.

Florida, with 25 electoral votes, is one of the largest states that remains undecided, with polls showing Bush and Gore neck and neck. Republicans consider the state--whose governor, Jeb Bush, is their candidate's younger brother--to be a must-win.

Cheney, who was on the second day of a bus tour of central Florida, picked up Jeb Bush along the way--with the two politicians walking together down a short parade route in a picture-perfect community called the Villages, about half an hour from Ocala.

At Central Florida Community College in Ocala, Cheney was welcomed to the stage by hundreds of supporters shouting "Help is on the way!"--the phrase that has become an unofficial slogan for his campaign because of his steady criticism of the state of the American military.

When asked by an audience member about who deserves credit for the booming economy, Cheney gave only minimal nod to President Clinton. Good economic times, he said, have roots 20 years old with Reagan's tax cuts. He also credited the end of the Cold War, the election of a Republican Congress in 1994 and solid leadership at the Federal Reserve.

"I will give Bill Clinton credit in some areas, such as, for example, solid monetary policy," he said. "But the notion that somehow the economy was in terrible shape the day Bill Clinton walked into the White House and turned everything around--I just don't buy that. I don't think it's true and I think anyone who looks at it objectively would agree with me."

Unmentioned by Cheney was the recession that contributed to Clinton's defeat of President Bush in 1992. In that election year Democrats successfully turned against the senior Bush the question made famous by Reagan: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Cheney ended the day in Tallahassee, where he watched the debate at a Republican woman's club and spent the night at the governor's mansion. Today he is scheduled to campaign in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Lieberman, also on his second day on the trail in Florida, acknowledged that government can help promote the development and use of new technology. He advocated the creation of a chief information officer to coordinate efforts to put federal government services online.

But he also said that, although the government can help wire schools, it will be market forces that ultimately even out access to the Internet in society. "Consistent with the more limited view of government that Al Gore and I have . . . government can empower people, can help to create more opportunity, more choices, but can never be seen as the institution in our society that solves all the problems," the candidate said.

Both Tickets Tout High-Tech Backing

On a three-state campaign day, Lieberman and Gore also picked up the endorsement of about 440 high-tech business leaders who praised the Democrats as the best leaders for the Information Age.

The Bush/Cheney campaign countered that it too had received the endorsement of 440 members of a high-tech coalition, presumably 440 different individuals from the Democratic supporters.

While Gore has been mocked for his claim that he helped create the Internet, several executives Tuesday praised his support for early development of the technology.

"From a historical standpoint, the Internet today in a large part exists because of Al Gore, and Mr. Gore's support for the technology industry, support for the new economy, is something that extends back in time," Netscape founder Mark Andreessen said in a conference call with reporters.

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