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Published: Tuesday, 8/8/2000

Ideological swings mark Lieberman

BY JACK TORRY
BLADE NATIONAL BUREAU

WASHINGTON - Breaking away from a friend's wedding reception Aug. 17, 1998, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D., Conn.) searched for a TV set to watch a speech by President Clinton. A parking attendant led Mr. Lieberman and his wife to a nearby apartment where they watched Mr. Clinton admit to lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

As he watched, appalled, Senator Lieberman decided to deliver a speech condemning Mr. Clinton when the Senate reconvened. Mr. Lieberman said that the President's explanation "failed to show that he understood his behavior has diminished the office he holds.''

That outspokenness is one reason Vice President Gore today will name Mr. Lieberman his running mate. Mr. Gore selected not only one of Mr. Clinton's harshest Senate Democratic critics but also a man widely respected by Republicans and Democrats.

Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush and his running mate Dick Cheney issued a statement commending Mr. Lieberman's "intelligence (and) integrity.'' Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) said Mr. Lieberman's "word is his bond.'' Sen. Mike DeWine (R., O.) said Mr. Lieberman "is a man of integrity and honor." Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) said Mr. Gore has chosen a man "with a high degree of integrity and ideals.''

Mr. Lieberman, 58, was born in Connecticut, earning a liberal arts degree from Yale University in 1964 and a law degree from Yale in 1967. He spent his summers working for Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D., Conn.) before being elected to the Connecticut Senate from 1970 through 1981, serving as Democratic leader for five years.

In 1982 he was elected state attorney general in 1982. In 1988 he defeated Sen. Lowell Weicker (R., Conn.) by fewer than 10,000 votes. He was re-elected with 67 per cent of the vote in 1994 and has been expected to score an easy win this year. Under Connecticut law, he is able to run for the vice presidency and his Senate seat at the same time. He has published five books.

He and his first wife Elizabeth divorced in 1981. Their children are Matthew and Rebecca. In 1983 he married Hadassah Freilich, a graduate of Boston University who earned a master's degree from Northeastern University in Boston. She has a son Ethan. She has spent much of her career in marketing and public relations. Their child together is Hana.

Since his election to the Senate in 1988, Mr. Lieberman has become known as an advocate of bipartisan cooperation, an internationalist and a moderate Democrat who often breaks with his party's leaders.

As are Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore, he is a major supporter of the Democratic Leadership Council, formed to push the Democratic Party to the political center.

"He's an experienced, qualified choice, a man of intellect and talent with a good streak of independence,'' said William Carrick, a Democratic consultant.

Mr. Lieberman's voting record is filled with ideological swerves. The American Conservative Union scored Mr. Lieberman "zero'' last year on its issues such as opposition to abortion with a lifetime voting average of 19 out of 100. The pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce rated him at 42 out of 100. The liberal-leaning Americans for Civil Liberties has rated him in the 70s.

Mr. Lieberman was one of 10 Senate Democrats - including Mr. Gore, then a senator from Tennessee - who in 1991 backed former President Bush's demand for military force against Iraqi forces invading Kuwait.

He has voted for arms control agreements, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which failed to pass last year. But he has backed development of a missile defense system, anathema to many Democrats.

He parted with organized labor to vote for the North American Free Trade Agreement. He voted to provide Clinton with fast-track authority to negotiate international trade agreements although it failed to pass.

On many domestic issues, he is a solid, Democratic vote. He voted against Mr. Bush's nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1991. He voted against a constitutional amendment to make desecration of the flag a crime. He voted for Mr. Clinton's 1993 budget package, including tax increases and budget cuts. He backed Mr. Clinton's veto of a bill to outlaw so-called partial-birth abortion.

He supports an increase in the minimum wage, voted for the 1993 Brady Law to mandate criminal background checks on handgun buyers and voted for the 1994 ban on the production and sale of 19 semi-automatic assault weapons.

But in 1998, he was one of five Senate Democrats to approve an education bill that would have set up investment accounts to help parents pay for private schools. In 1996, he supported welfare reform, a bill opposed by many liberals but signed into law by Mr. Clinton. And he has supported legal reforms to limit punitive damages in civil lawsuits.



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