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©Los Angeles Times, published August 8, 2000
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Breaking one of the long-standing barriers in presidential politics, Al Gore on Monday selected U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut to be his running mate. Lieberman became the first Jew in U.S. history picked for a major party ticket.
"We said a short prayer together," Lieberman said, adding, "Miracles happen."
In picking the two-term senator, Gore chose a running mate from the political center, a devoutly religious man who was the first Democrat to condemn President Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Lieberman has also established his credentials as one of Washington's leading moralists by crusading against Hollywood sex and violence.
A onetime state senator and Connecticut attorney general, Lieberman, 58, has also been chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, a Washington think tank that helped incubate many of the party's more centrist positions on welfare reform, deficit reduction and world trade.
Eager to dispel Gore's plodding image, aides made comparisons to John F. Kennedy, the first Roman Catholic to be elected president, who was nominated 40 years ago at the last national party convention in Los Angeles.
Gore and Lieberman plan their first joint appearance today at a noontime rally at the War Memorial in Nashville. Their ticket will be sealed at next week's Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
By passing over other candidates with explicit appeal to the party's left wing, Gore showed confidence in his ability to consolidate Democratic support -- which remains soft -- and reach out to the independent and swing voters he will need to win in November. Lieberman has taken a number of positions on issues, from school vouchers to defense spending, that are more conservative than many Democrats.
Still, the reaction Monday was almost uniformly supportive across the party spectrum.
Among Jewish groups, the reaction was euphoric. "Al Gore has made history today and we are thrilled about his bold and courageous choice," said William Dockser, head of the National Jewish Democratic Council.
From Austin, the campaign of Texas Gov. George W. Bush offered a statement praising Lieberman as "a good man." At the same time, aides pointed out some of the differences on issues between the vice president and his new running mate on issues like Social Security reform, missile defense and affirmative action.
But a Gore spokesman dismissed any conflict. "Al Gore is at the top of the ticket," said press secretary Chris Lehane. "The ticket is going to reflect his agenda."
Lieberman is a relatively fresh face on the national political scene -- although he may be a bit too fresh. "In the South he's largely unknown," said Merle Black, who teaches political science at Atlanta's Emory University. "In the short run I don't think he helps much because people don't even know who he is."
In the longer run, however, Democrats hope Lieberman can help Gore present a more moderate image by amplifying his pitch for middle-class tax cuts, a limited missile defense system and elimination of the national debt.
Gore's four finalists were Lieberman and Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Evan Bayh of Indiana and John Edwards of North Carolina.
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