Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- Behind the public acclaim for Sen. Joseph Lieberman as the Democratic vice presidential nominee is deep discontent among prominent liberals over Vice President Al Gore's choice. While Dick Cheney on the national ticket pleased the Republican base, Lieberman did not enjoy similar support in his party. Liberal activists, including some of Lieberman's Senate colleagues, privately argue that Gore needed a running mate who would firm up the Democratic base and fend off Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Once Lieberman's selection was revealed, Nader went on a rampage against him. The consumer advocate indicts the Connecticut Senator for receiving heavy contributions from insurance companies in his home state as well as from pharmaceutical manufacturers and also hits Lieberman for supporting nuclear power. WHAT HAPPENED TO KERRY? The official leak from Gore headquarters had Sen. Joseph Lieberman winning out for vice president over Sens. John Edwards and John Kerry in a three-way contest. But well-placed Democratic sources say Vice President Al Gore decided against Kerry several days before picking Lieberman. Kerry was regarded as the potential running mate with the most charisma, the most debating skill and the most appeal to the party's liberal base. But he fell out of consideration during the Republican convention, according to a high-level source. There was no explanation, but another source pointed to unsubstantiated charges about Kerry appearing on a web site. A footnote: Gore's advisers preferred Edwards, a handsome millionaire trial lawyer with no public service prior to his election from North Carolina in 1998. Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle also boosted Edwards, who unlike Lieberman and Kerry, came from a state with a Democratic governor who would fill any Senate vacancy should Gore win the election. But the candidate had made up his mind for Lieberman. NON-COMMUNICATING REPUBLICANS Despite no Republican strategy for the windup of this Congress when it reconvenes Sept. 7, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott have not conferred and have not made plans to do so. According to congressional staffers, Hastert and Lott do not enjoy each other's company. Neither has taken the initiative toward scheduling a conference to decide what to do about session-ending tax legislation and appropriations. A footnote: As the Republican presidential nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush has no interest in guiding congressional strategy. But Capitol Hill has been advised that Austin wants no crisis between Congress and President Clinton with the president ending up on top. UPHILL IN GEORGIA Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican campaign chairman, lost his plan to regain the Georgia seat lost by the sudden death of Sen. Paul Coverdell partly because the state's prominent GOP politicians all were in Philadelphia for the national convention. Any Republican faces an uphill climb against Coverdell's appointed Democratic successor, the popular former Gov. Zell Miller, particularly with little time left for fund-raising. But McConnell thought he had a winner in former ValuJet airlines head Lewis Jordan, who promised a partially self-financed campaign. However, former Sen. Mack Mattingly, a Reaganite Republican with diplomatic experience, wanted to run again and worked the Georgia delegation in Philadelphia. With time running out before a deadline at week's end for entering the Senate race, Mattingly lined up so much backing that political neophyte Jordan dropped out. That prevented two Republicans from entering the all-party election Nov. 7 and guaranteeing Miller's election. PRESSURING THE UAW Officials elsewhere in the labor movement noted the coincidence of the long-delayed United Auto Workers (UAW) endorsement of Al Gore for president just as it was leaked that the union is under federal investigation. The FBI and Labor Department have been reported investigating special payments and other benefits for senior UAW officials as the alleged price for ending a 1997 strike against General Motors. A footnote: The UAW endorsement leaves the Teamsters as the last major union not backing Gore. Although Teamsters president James Hoffa was entertained royally at the Republican National Convention, he is likely to keep his union neutral this year.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
©Creators Syndicate