Jewish World Review Dec. 11, 2003 / 16 Kislev, 5764
Boo-hoo for Joe
He wanted to make a big splash by endorsing Howard Dean. And he did. But he made almost as big a splash by stiffing Joe Lieberman.
Joe Lieberman as a presidential candidate has not been doing that well this year. But Joe Lieberman as a victim has been a triumph this week. There have been press conferences! TV interviews! Front page stories!
It seems that before the endorsement story leaked, Al Gore did not call Joe Lieberman, his former running mate, to tell him that Gore was going to endorse Dean.
Ever since, Lieberman has been going from TV network to TV network boo-hooing about this terrible snub. But he is also keeping a stiff upper lip and claiming that this awful slight has revitalized his campaign.
But why, exactly, did Gore owe Lieberman a call?
First and this very obvious point keeps getting overlooked Gore did not control the leaking of the story.
The endorsement was not supposed to be made public until Tuesday morning, which would have given Gore time to call Lieberman on Monday night. According to one account, Gore was planning to call all the other candidates at 11 p.m. Monday.
Instead, the story broke Monday afternoon, before Gore could call anybody. But is that Gore's fault?
Second, what does Al Gore really owe Joe Lieberman?
Ever since the last presidential election, Lieberman has been attacking the central theme of the Gore/Lieberman 2000 campaign, which was "people vs. the powerful."
Lieberman has gone on TV and said the theme was misguided because it was "not expressive of the fiscally responsible pro-growth, grow-the-middle-class campaign we were running." (During the campaign itself, Lieberman made no public complaints about the theme. It was only after he lost that he found it wanting.)
In response, Gore argued in a op-ed piece in the New York Times: "Standing up for the people, not the powerful, was the right choice in 2000. In fact it is the ground of the Democratic Party's being, our meaning and our mission."
So what does Gore owe Lieberman now? Lieberman attacks the very campaign he was part of and he still expects a sympathy call from Gore?
But wait, the Lieberman camp argues, Joe held off on his own campaign plans until Gore decided not to run, thereby setting back Lieberman's fund-raising and campaign efforts this year.
Very true. But who asked him to? Gore didn't.
If you want to run for president, you run for president. You don't go around telling people that you are your own second choice.
Having said all this, now let me say that I am sure Gore couldn't care less about the feelings of the other candidates. I am also sure that calling them was one of the last things on his mind.
Gore often doesn't care about the feelings of others very much. Which is not to say that should the polar ice caps melt from global warming and 90 percent of humanity drown, that Gore would be indifferent. He would not be. He cares very deeply about humanity. But caring about specific human beings is an entirely different story.
His former aides can give example after example (he didn't treat some of them very well after the election, especially considering how hard they worked for him.) But let me give you one: At the end of 2002, Gore summoned a gaggle of reporters to Los Angeles, where he was on a book tour, to give them individual interviews. Speculation was rampant that Gore would run for president again and that is why the reporters were interested in Gore.
As it turned out, however, it was all just a scam to promote his book. Gore had no intention of running. (I was offered the "second magazine exclusive" interview with Gore in Los Angeles. I turned it down.)
After the scam became apparent, I asked a former Gore aide whether Gore felt any guilt at making all those reporters schlep out to Los Angeles to do stories about a campaign that he knew was never going to take place.
The former aide laughed. "Gore doesn't think about other people in terms of their feelings," he said. "Not at that level."
So does Al Gore feel bad about not calling Joe Lieberman?
But does Joe Lieberman have a legitimate beef that he didn't get a call?
The old saying is true: In politics, if you want a friend, buy a dog.
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