Here is the balance that Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut brings to the Democratic ticket.
Vice President Al Gore served in Vietnam. Lieberman has no military service, but he takes his public service so seriously that he has a 99 percent floor vote attendance rate.
Lieberman comes across as genuine and likable. Gore seems to try to be whatever he thinks people want him to be -- and he still isn't likable. Gore contends the White House coffees held in 1996 were not fund-raising events. In April, he told the FBI, "Well, let me define the term 'raising,' if I could, because if you mean by it, would they be events at which money was raised, the answer is no."
Lieberman sees this as a distinction without a difference. He wrote in a statement on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee investigation into fund-raising abuses that in 1996, "the White House was used more systematically and broadly than ever before to raise millions of dollars in large soft money contributions, with seemingly little consideration given to the troubling signal this would send to the broader public or the consequences it could have for our government.
"This is particularly true of the White House coffees." Then, citing statistics compiled by FBI agent Jerry Campane that showed that 40 percent of 532 coffee attendees donated to the Democratic National Committee within a month of their coffees, and 90 percent donated to the DNC that year, Lieberman wrote, "These statistics well support Campane's conclusion that, although money may not have been raised at these coffees, it was certainly raised from them." Lieberman has a reputation for probity. Gore used to.
Gore roasted his primary opponent Bill Bradley because Bradley voted for legislation to spend federal funds on school voucher programs. Gore calls such programs "risky voucher schemes that would drain precious dollars from our public schools." Lieberman, for his part, has sponsored pro-voucher legislation. Unlike Gore, he doesn't denounce vouchers for poor kids after sending his own children to private schools.
Lieberman supports parental notification of a parent before his or her child has an abortion. Gore has voted against such legislation. Oddly, Lieberman nonetheless gets an all-thumbs-up review in the abortion-rights NARAL candidate position statements -- even as the group has denounced Republicans for holding the same position. Lieberman denounced President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky and the lies Clinton told the American public as "disgraceful," "immoral" and likely to compromise Clinton's "moral authority." Gore proclaimed that Clinton "will be regarded in the history books as one of our greatest presidents."
Lieberman let it be known that he was furious at Clinton for cheating on his wife and lying. Gore let it be known that he was mad at Clinton when the president called a New York Times reporter to discuss problems in the Gore campaign last year. Says something about where these men draw the line, doesn't it? TV talking heads have been gushing about Gore's pick. They call it a "bold stroke" for Gore to have chosen a Jewish running mate. True, and Gore deserves credit for the move.
But the truly bold element to Gore's choice is that he chose a man who has the qualities that you want to see in a president -- character, thoughtfulness, reverence -- yet rarely see in the vice president himself.