Al Gore’s recent
endorsement of Howard Dean for the 2004 Democratic nomination came as a shock
to a number of Democrats, especially Joe Lieberman, Gore’s running mate in
the 2000 presidential election.
Needless to say, the announcement raised the ire of the Lieberman campaign.
Speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, Lieberman said that he was “caught completely
off guard” by Gore’s surprise endorsement. A source close to Lieberman said
that Gore didn’t even bother to inform Lieberman of his decision beforehand.
Pointing out what many of us knew before -- that Gore is a political animal
-- Lieberman went on to claim that Al Gore was endorsing “someone who has
taken positions diametrically opposite of what Al Gore has supported in the
past. He’ll have to explain why he’s supporting someone, I think, [who] will
take this country backward, not forward.”
If Senator Lieberman is under the impression that his former running mate
is a moderate, he needs to wake up and smell the coffee: Al Gore is no moderate.
Like Dean, he is a mud-throwing leftist, enraged over the Bush administration’s
policies. Dean appeals to Gore, and liberals in general, because he feeds
their anger, resentment and hatred of everything President Bush has stood
for over the last three years. Be it the war on terror, national sovereignty,
or signing the ban on partial-birth abortion, the left is incensed. And they
want someone who will attack all -- not just a few -- of Bush’s policies.
By and large the Democrat base isn’t interested in Joe Lieberman’s moderate
opinions -- they want Howard Dean’s vitriolic criticisms. That’s why Dean
is leading the polls and Lieberman is trailing, and why Dean got Gore’s endorsement
and Lieberman didn’t.
So what did Lieberman do to deserve such treatment? Nothing but follow his
conscience. I may disagree with Lieberman’s platform, but at least he has
some sense of loyalty, unlike Gore. Back when the race for the ’04 nomination
was just heating up, Lieberman pledged not to run if Gore entered the race,
according to CNN. That show of loyalty caused him to suffer in early fundraising.
When in the race, it was no secret that Lieberman actively sought Gore’s
Before that, Lieberman even altered some of his positions in order to run
for the presidency with Gore in 2000. During the three years since, Lieberman
has consistently maintained his respect for Gore.
What did it all get him? A knife in the back.
The fact that Gore is elbowing aside his former running mate in favor of
a more popular candidate should surprise no one. Such tactics are nothing
new to Al Gore. We’re talking about someone who came out of the Clinton administration,
after all. What do you expect, actual character? Remember what they used
to say when Clinton was in office: character doesn’t count as long as the
economy is booming.
Gore probably sees in Howard Dean what was so lacking in his own campaign
for president, and what he partially blames Lieberman for. While the Gore/Lieberman
ticket couldn’t stir the Democrat base enough to get elected, Dean appears
to be a fan favorite. He appeals to the anger and resentment that Gore could
never kindle for his own campaign.
How will Gore’s endorsement affect Lieberman’s chances for the nomination?
All things considered, it will probably hurt more than help, although there
is the potential to elevate Lieberman to new levels. This already appears
to be happening. According to Lieberman campaign staff, their best fundraising
day in several months came after Gore’s endorsement.
If Gore’s former running mate can tap into the outrage his followers must
feel at the Gore betrayal, Lieberman could well be on his way to better poll
numbers. If he cannot, political history will likely remember the Gore endorsement
as the Lieberman campaign’s killing blow.
David N. Bass writes for World Newspaper Publishing and has a regular column at AmericanDaily.com, ARationalAdvocate.com, and RenewAmerica.us.