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CAMPAIGN 2000

Vice Presidential Rivals Invoke God, Cold War

October 19, 2000|MATEA GOLD and MEGAN GARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WAUSAU, Wis. — Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman invoked religion as the basis for his environmental beliefs Wednesday as his rival, Dick Cheney, accused Vice President Al Gore of making yet another false claim during Tuesday's third and final presidential debate.

Vice presidential candidate Lieberman, speaking before about 1,000 people at the edge of a glassy, dark lake, said the Democrats' environmentalism grows from core American values and Judeo-Christian beliefs that would lead them to fight for clean water, air and land.

"If you believe in God, I think it's hard not to be an environmentalist," Lieberman said against a backdrop of golden-hued trees surrounding Bluegill Bay Park in north central Wisconsin. "Because, you see, the environment is the work of God. . . . I promise you, Al Gore and I will make the protection of the environment one of our top priorities if you give us the chance."

In Latrobe, Pa., Cheney accused Gore, the Democratic nominee, of "in effect taking credit for the end of the Cold War" when he touted the reduction in the federal work force in Tuesday's debate.

"He took credit last night for his reinventing government initiative" Cheney said. "The whole notion that somehow this has been an efficient drive to make government smaller and more effective, I think, is not really true."

Cheney said that nearly three-fourths of the 351,000 federal jobs eliminated came out of the Defense Department and U.S. military. And he said about 10% of the non-defense jobs that were cut came with the end of the Resolution Trust Corp., the agency created to deal with the $100 billion in losses during the 1980s savings and loan crisis.

Kym Spell, a Gore campaign spokeswoman, dismissed the criticism.

"Clearly," she said, "the Bush-Cheney ticket is feeling a great deal of pressure after Bush's dismal performance last night."

Echoes of the debate could also be heard in Lieberman's campaign speeches Wednesday. Lieberman has been increasingly using values-laden language on the stump, hoping to shroud his ticket's proposals in a cloak of moralism.

He also is trying to counter Bush's argument that a Gore-Lieberman administration would be a return to unwieldy, bloated bureaucracy--a contention Bush made Tuesday night.

"Washington doesn't have all the answers; it never did," Lieberman said, promising to build partnerships with the private sector.

And he challenged Bush's environmental record in Texas, accusing Bush of loosening air emission standards that have contributed to the state's ranking as worst in the nation, and of policies that have left the state with the third worst water pollution ranking.

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Times staff writer Scott Martelle contributed to this story.

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