Pundit Central

Joe Lieberman, Meet the Press

Issue 1 is Al Gore’s selection of Joseph Lieberman as his running mate. Issue 2 is the Reform Party’s factional convention.

Lieberman appears on all five Sunday morning chat shows–NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s This Week, CBS’s Face the Nation, CNN’s Late Edition, and Fox News Sunday. Interviewers try to expose policy differences between him and Gore. They use three tacks: 1) Lieberman is supported by insurance and pharmaceutical companies, yet Gore has denounced both. Lieberman’s answer: Look at my voting record. I supported the Patient’s Bill of Rights–hated by insurance companies–and Medicare coverage of prescription drugs–hated by drug companies. 2) Lieberman has criticized Gore’s fund raising harshly. Lieberman’s answer: Gore has promised me that a campaign-finance bill will be the first thing our administration does, and I’m confident that the White House will not be sold when I’m working there. 3) Lieberman has attacked President Clinton for his moral lapses. Lieberman’s answer: Yes, but Clinton’s problems are not Gore’s, and Clinton’s record of achievement is a real one. (On MTP, Lieberman says that President Clinton called him a week after his denunciatory speech in the Senate and told him he agreed with him.) On LE, Lieberman reiterates his support for the Pentagon’s missile-shield program (which Gore is neutral on), and on MTP Lieberman says that raising the Social Security retirement age should be a policy option (something Gore vociferously opposes).

Most pundits praise the Lieberman selection as a smart one. Susan Page (LE) notes that Bush’s bland choice (Dick Cheney) befits his status as a front-runner, while Gore’s more provocative choice befits his status as underdog. (John McLaughlin [ The McLaughlin Group] quips, “Cheney provides gravitas, Lieberman provides pietas.”) Mara Liasson (Fox) argues that Lieberman’s religiosity–he is Orthodox Jew–is an effective counter to the Republicans’ promise to “restore honor and dignity to the White House.” (Conservative pundits Tony Blankley [TMG], Tony Snow [Fox], and Fred Barnes [Fox] complain that the press has given Lieberman a pass on religion–if a conservative were as overtly religious as Lieberman, they say, the press would accuse him of mixing church and state.) Reactions to Lieberman’s politics run the gamut: Juan Williams (Fox) accuses Lieberman of ignoring blacks and teachers’ unions, while Steve Roberts (LE) and Paul Gigot (PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer) praise him for being an unorthodox centrist. Both John McLaughlin (TMG) and Bob Novak (CNN’s Capital Gang) argue that Lieberman is a closet liberal.

Appearing on MTP, Pat Buchanan appears confident that his faction of the Reform Party–and not the dissident faction under John Hagelin–will receive the $12.5 million federal subsidy. Eleanor Clift (TMG) says that by the time Buchanan and Hagelin finish their expected court fight over the money, it will be too late to use it. Kate O’Beirne (CG) and Mara Liasson argue that Buchanan and the Reform Party are doomed with or without the money–their issues have been co-opted (deficit reduction by the Democrats, social conservatism by the Republicans, and anti-corporatism by Ralph Nader).

Russert Strikes Again

TIM RUSSERT (MTP): This is how Al Gore responded to the major Bush education plan. Gore said, “Bush’s plan would give meaning to the three R’s–reckless, retrograde, reactionary, radical–that’s four R’s.” Joe Lieberman [said], “We are encouraged by the fact that Gov. Bush of Texas has proposed a reform plan that is remarkably similar to our three R’s proposal.” So you wouldn’t call Governor–

JOE LIEBERMAN: You’ve got a great research program.

RUSSERT: I work hard at this.

LIEBERMAN: This is great.

Last Word

That [GOP] party [convention] in Philadelphia did not represent Pat Buchanan. I mean, they could have had Michael Jackson up there singing “We Are The World.” The Republican Party has been Clintonized in this sense: They revile Mr. Clinton personally and say so from their podium. But they embrace his politics of triangulation and they’ve embraced almost all of his policies. So I think whether or not you get Bush or Gore does not, to me, make a great deal of difference. Frankly, with a couple of changes in policy, say, on taxes, George Bush’s speech could have been given at a Democratic convention.
–Pat Buchanan (MTP)