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Sen. Breaux: Lieberman 'a Terrific Choice' for Gore Running Mate

Aired August 7, 2000 - 7:32 a.m. ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: In case you are just joining us, we have learned that Vice President Al Gore has chosen his running mate and it is Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, 58 years old, a father and a grandfather, a member of the Government Services Committee -- as well as the Government Affairs Committee as well as the powerful Armed Services Committee. He has served in the Senate for quite some time and is known as a thoughtful and effective leader as well as a very moral one, and perhaps one who will be able to help Al Gore distinguish himself and separate himself from President Clinton.

Joining us now on the telephone is Sen. John Breaux. He is not only a colleague serving in the Senate with Senator Lieberman, but also a friend.

Good morning, Senator.

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: Good morning, Carol.

LIN: Have you talked with your friend this morning yet to get his reaction?

BREAUX: No, I haven't. I think his line's been busy all morning. But I think it's a terrific choice. I think that it's a choice that allows the ticket to reach out not only to Democrats, but also to Independents and maybe moderate Republicans, where I think the key to this election is going to lie.

LIN: What was his sense if you -- I imagine you've been speaking to him over the last several days knowing that he was one of the top four candidates. What was his reaction to this process and his thoughts about possibly being Al Gore's running mate?

BREAUX: Well, I think, number one, that Joe Lieberman was very cautious about all of this. I know he didn't campaign for it. I knew that he had a close relationship with Al Gore, and I think that's very important. And I think that he sort of said, well, if it happens, it happens. It's not something I'm seeking, but it's something I'm certainly willing to serve in. And I think that he's a moderate, he's a middle of the roader, he's a good solid Democrat, but he's got good idea's and new ideas about what should be done with government.

LIN: Is he in anyway at all apprehensive about perhaps his appeal, clearly, in some of the more urban areas of United States, but perhaps some potential controversy over being an Orthodox Jew in a wide national campaign?

BREAUX: Carol, I don't think that matters in the 21st century. You know, I think John Kennedy handled that back in 1960. I think people are not so much concerned with where you worship on Sunday as they are with -- that you have moral beliefs and strong principles. And certainly he has both of those.

LIN: And certainly an excellent reputation in the Senate.

BREAUX: He's well-liked by most members of the Senate right across the board. He can work with both sides, and I think that's what the American people are looking for.

LIN: What is it about the man that makes him so beloved by so many people on both sides of the aisle?

BREAUX: Well because, simply stated, he's real. I mean, he's not a fake politician. He's real, he's honest, he's open, he works well with both sides, and I think that's very unique today. I think that's what the American people would like their public officials to be. And I think when you are a genuine person, it comes out and people recognize it. And he's liked universally on both sides.

LIN: Universally, when the media has been covering the four candidates, and when it came to his name, people across the board were saying his greatest strength was that he was one of the first to come out and speak out against President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. If this is one of his greatest assets that he brings to Al Gore's campaign, how does he feel about that?

BREAUX: Well, he did this at a great deal of political sacrifice, both personally as well as politically. I mean, I think people respected him for having the political courage to stand up on the floor of the United States Senate and point out the problems that were there. A lot of people said, you know, I wish I could have done that, and -- but he did and he was -- is a close friend of the president, but was also -- had the political courage to point out what I think needed to be pointed out at that time. So people admire him. I think the American people will admire someone with the political spine to do what is right and not just to do what is easy.

LIN: At the same time, do you think that Senator Lieberman has had his own conversation with Al Gore about any controversy over any fund-raising activities that Gore has been investigated for?

BREAUX: Well, of course, that would be between Gore and Joe Lieberman. I'm not privileged to those conversations if they ever have. But I think that he knows Al Gore, they're close friends, they have a great working relationship. I think that's very important, and I think that Al Gore respects Joe Lieberman and vice versa. I think it's going to be a great team.

LIN: Well clearly. And I hope you get through to your friend very soon to offer your congratulations. Thank you very much, Senator Breaux, for joining us this morning -- Leon.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, let's go to ground zero in the news of the politics today.

Let's go now to Nashville, Tennessee and our John King, who's standing by there with the very latest on this breaking story -- John.


Democratic sources telling CNN the vice president settled on Senator Lieberman late last night. This after two sets of meetings throughout the day with former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who's headed the vice presidential search for Mr. Gore, former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, now the chairman of the Gore campaign.

There was one meeting in the afternoon that ran about two hours; then when Tipper Gore arrived here in Nashville late last night, another meeting that went about 90 minutes. It was at that time, we're told by Democratic sources, the vice president signaled his intent to pick Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut to join the Democratic ticket.

Senator Lieberman is 58 years old. He's in his second term, won reelection last time with 67 percent of the vote, obviously supported very deeply statewide in his home state of Connecticut.

Democrats this morning making a number of points about this pick. One, they say, Vice President Gore is showing boldness here picking an Orthodox Jew to join the ticket. Number two, they say Senator Lieberman should not be open to much criticism from Republicans. He has teamed up, you might remember, with former Education Secretary Bill Bennett. The two of them have launched a campaign criticizing violence and gratuitous sex in Hollywood programming and in the entertainment industry at large. Those two leading an effort, so the Democratic sources suggesting that it will be hard for the Republicans to criticize Senator Lieberman. Words like morality, integrity, decency being used by Democrats this morning.

One thing we're told by Democratic sources, this also shows, in their view, that the vice president is open to additional ideas beyond his own thinking, especially on entitlement issues, on both the issue of Medicare spending and Social Security reform. Senator Lieberman a bit to the right, a bit more conservative than Vice President Gore in advocating more difficult, more politically difficult changes to those programs. Democratic sources saying obviously the vice president's position will hold sway in this campaign, but that he wanted to choose somebody who would bring new ideas to the table. Both of these gentlemen members of the Democratic Leadership Council. That the more moderate centrist group formed by Democrats after Walter Mondale's 49- state defeat in the 1984 presidential election -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, John, that's what you're hearing from certain Democrats around there. Have you heard anything at all about what Al Gore himself said about what it was that put Lieberman over the top?

KING: We are told that in the discussions he wanted somebody new, somebody he believed represented the future of the Democratic Party. There was talk over the weekend perhaps he would go to the 47- year-old John Edwards of North Carolina, a man who was elected to the Senate just a year and a half ago in his first run for public office.

In the end, though, we're told the vice president wanted somebody committed to the future, and he believes Senator Lieberman is among the, quote-unquote "New Democrats" helping to reshape the party during the Clinton years. But he did not want to go to Edwards in the end, we're told, because he believed his pick should have somewhat more experience.

Senator Lieberman not only a second-term senator, he was the state attorney general in Connecticut, also was the Senate Democratic leader in the Connecticut legislature, a man, look for the Democrats to quickly say today, who has fought for the people as the attorney general. He was viewed as a consumer advocate then, often fighting polluters, fighting energy companies, we're told. The Democrats quickly compiling a dossier you will see later today as the vice president tries to take this new pick, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, and reinforce his message that his ticket is, to quote the vice president, for the people, not the powerful.

So look for that to be the line of attack now as the Gore- Lieberman ticket frames the race against the Bush-Cheney ticket -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, thank you. Our thanks to John King racing to bring us that breaking story this morning out of Nashville, Tennessee.



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