The Lieberman Effect - August 10, 2000
Dreading having to hear another news segment on the choice of Joe Lieberman as Al Gore's first runner up for the Democrat ticket? The accolades that the media are showering upon him make us wonder whether this choice of V.P. was made on Mount Sinai. He has been called the conscience of the Senate, Mr. Morality, a pillar of the community, and the savior of Hillary's flagging New York Senate race.
The decision to pick Senator Lieberman has been given high praise by the usual hodgepodge of political strategists. The principal rationale cited for the Lieberman selection involves the strategy of using the Holy Joe mystique. This is a hearty attempt to offset the squalid muck of the Clinton administration, which has doused an already tainted Al Gore with a rank odor.
But some Democrats are beginning to react to this less than dynamic duo with a different emotion - fear. One of the reasons for this creeping response to Team Gore is the manner in which the Senator is consistently introduced. The string of words attached to his name has become a media mantra. Mere mention of the V.P. hopeful elicits the phrase "first Democrat to chastise President Clinton" as an antecedent to Senator Joseph Lieberman. Essentially, this has become his new first name.
The compulsory designation refers to the speech on the floor of the Senate where Lieberman described President Clinton's infamous actions in the Oval Office as "immoral" and "disgraceful." In the end, Senator Lieberman made this final determination: The President of the United States is unfit for office. Leave him there.
The last thing the Democrats wanted to do was to bring up a topic that never once surfaced in the Republican Convention - the sorry saga of the Monica Lewinski scandal and the humiliating impeachment. But what the Republicans intentionally sought to avoid, Al Gore has now accomplished on his own with his choice of Senator Lieberman.
News outlets are reminding the public of the Lewinski scandal by referring to and replaying the salient portions of Senator Lieberman's speech. Oddly enough, each and every time Mr. Lieberman's selection is discussed on cable and network programs, the anointed ones debate the residual effect of placing someone with a positive moral stature alongside a man with a shortage of controlling legal authority.
Candid remarks made by the Senator prior to his Veep acceptance continue to emerge. Case in point. Senator Lieberman agreed with Charles LaBella and called for a special counsel to be appointed to investigate Al Gore's fundraising activities. Add to this the increasing realization that anti-semitism dwells within certain core constituents of the Democrat party. The effect is two forces traveling in opposite directions.
There are a number of ways to describe this condition - double-edged sword, two-sided coin, boomerang syndrome, to name a few. If someone were trying to manipulate public opinion with this choice of candidate, he or she would be well advised to prepare for potential backfire.
The Gore campaign hoped that the shining halo the media placed over the head of Joe Lieberman would extend its innocent glow to encompass the current Vice President. But a funny thing happened on the way to the photo shoot. Rather than disguise Mr. Gore's shortcomings, the choice of Joe Lieberman has accentuated the bare reality. The false radiance disappeared in truth's conquering light, demonstrating that credibility must be earned. It cannot be contrived.