The view from Japan

ÁÎ×Ó¹â Henry C.K.Liu ¹ù¤l¥ú hliu at
Tue Aug 8 20:45:00 MDT 2000

The Japan Times           EDITORIAL
                        Wednesday, August 9, 2000

                        Gore's surprising choice

                        Vice President Al Gore has made his first
                        bold move in the race for the U.S.
                        presidency. The selection of Sen. Joseph
                        Lieberman of Connecticut as his running mate
                        has won applause from both sides of the
                        aisle. The senator is a thoughtful and
                        serious politician, who is guided by a strong
                        moral code. He will help shore up the
                        front-runner's flanks, but the real battle
                        for the presidency will be fought by Mr. Gore

                        Mr. Lieberman brings strengths to the
                        Democratic ticket. He is an experienced
                        politician, who has served in the U.S. Senate
                        since 1988. Before that, he was a state
                        senator and attorney general. During his
                        tenure in the Senate, he has staked out a
                        reputation as a conciliator, which will blunt
                        GOP criticism that the Democrats aim to run a
                        negative campaign.

                        For the past five years, Mr. Lieberman has
                        been chairman of the Democratic Leadership
                        Council, a centrist group that has been
                        instrumental in recasting the image of the
                        Democratic Party. Mr. Gore was one of the
                        group's founders, and Gov. Bill Clinton
                        served as chairman before he became
                        president. Mr. Lieberman was one of the 10
                        Senate Democrats who supported then President
                        George Bush in the Persian Gulf War -- as was
                        Mr. Gore -- and his presence on the ticket
                        helps cut off charges that the Democrats are
                        soft on defense. With Mr. Lieberman holding
                        the center, Mr. Gore can reach out to
                        Democratic constituencies some distance from
                        the middle ground.

                        Mr. Lieberman's most important attribute is
                        the moral force he brings to the campaign. He
                        was the first ranking Democrat to condemn Mr.
                        Clinton for his behavior in the Monica
                        Lewinsky affair. He delivered a blistering
                        attack on the president from the well of the
                        Senate. His comments earned him high praise:
                        According to Mr. David Broder, perhaps the
                        leading U.S. political analyst, "Mr.
                        Lieberman embodies and defines the standard
                        by which politicians should be judged."

                        Mr. Gore hopes that Mr. Lieberman's presence
                        on the ticket will insulate him from
                        Republican attempts to smear the vice
                        president with Mr. Clinton's sins. The
                        problem is that Mr. Gore has his own problems
                        -- most notably, questions swirling around
                        his attempts to fill party coffers. Mr.
                        Lieberman cannot protect Mr. Gore from his
                        own failings.

                        The selection of Mr. Lieberman is not
                        risk-free. Like Mr. Dick Cheney, the GOP
                        vice-presidential candidate, Mr. Lieberman
                        does not bring any additional electoral
                        votes. Connecticut was likely to vote
                        Democrat, just as Wyoming was solidly in the
                        Republican column. "Solid and thoughtful" is
                        another way of saying uncharismatic; the
                        Democrats are badly in need of charisma on
                        the campaign trail.

                        On the negative side, there are concerns that
                        some of Mr. Lieberman's positions could
                        antagonize traditional Democratic
                        constituencies. He has denounced "Hollywood's
                        excesses" and called on the entertainment
                        industry to change the "toxic culture of
                        violence and vulgarity surrounding our
                        children." He also supports private-school
                        vouchers, which could irritate teachers
                        unions, a vital Democratic support group.

                        The most publicized dimension of Mr.
                        Lieberman's nomination is the fact that he is
                        an Orthodox Jew, and the first Jew to be in
                        the race for the presidency of the United
                        States. In fact, his religion is irrelevant.
                        An opinion survey taken last year showed that
                        92 percent of voters surveyed said they would
                        vote for a Jew if the person was qualified;
                        50 years ago, only 42 percent agreed. What is
                        important is that his religion gives him a
                        moral compass.

                        On a tactical level, his nomination is a
                        challenge to the GOP. After a week of the
                        Republican Party telling the world how
                        "inclusive" it is, Mr. Gore is showing what a
                        really inclusive party looks like. It is a a
                        political parlor trick, but it was bound to

                        With the selection of Mr. Lieberman, both
                        tickets are now complete. The Democrats head
                        to their convention with a balanced team --
                        as do the Republicans. The language used to
                        describe Mr. Lieberman is identical to that
                        used for Mr. Cheney. One analyst says he is a
                        "well-regarded, serious, thoughtful veteran
                        of Washington whose character is
                        unimpeachable." Then again, after the last
                        eight years, he has to be.

                        In a deft move, Mr. Gore has robbed Mr. Bush
                        of some of his post-convention bounce. He
                        will get a rebound of his own after his four
                        days in the spotlight. Then the two men will
                        really square off. Mr. Cheney and Mr.
                        Lieberman will be in their corners, in
                        supporting roles, but it is up to the
                        headliners to win the confidence of voters.

                        The Japan Times: Aug. 9, 2000
                        (C) All rights reserved

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