Jewish World Review Dec. 12, 2003 / 17 Kislev, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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Karenna defends her dad; now she tells us!; say it ain't so, Mo!; more | NEW YORK — Al Gore's eldest daughter vehemently defended the 2000 Democratic nominee yesterday from presidential candidate Joe Lieberman's allegations that Gore blindsided him with his surprise endorsement of rival candidate Howard Dean.

A few hours before Tuesday's Dean-Gore campaign event in Harlem, Lieberman — Gore's 2000 running mate who delayed the start of his own campaign until Gore announced he wasn't running — went on the "Today Show" to complain: "I'm not going to talk about Al Gore's sense of loyalty this morning . . . I was caught completely off guard. No notice. I heard about it from the media."

Later, after the Connecticut senator and the ex-veep finally managed to have a phone conversation, Lieberman groused: "It lasted four or five minutes. It was too late."

On Thursday, Karenna Gore Schiff told me her dad "really wanted to make calls not only to Dean's opponents but also to his own longtime friends and supporters. But the news leaked before he had a chance to do that.

"I was with him that night as he was trying to get Lieberman on the phone the whole night. He was calling literally every few minutes. He definitely called many times, and he was told that there was a Lieberman event and the senator wasn't with a staff person, and he couldn't get him on the phone."

Schiff, 30, added: "My father behaved incredibly honorably in his own process, in his own thinking, and on his own terms. The timing of the leak was, of course, the only thing that was a disappointment. He would have liked very much to have talked not only to Sen. Lieberman but to everyone else."

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A top Lieberman aide angrily disputed Schiff's account, noting that news reports said Gore informed Dean last Friday.

"If Gore called Dean to tell him that he was endorsing him, that means he just as easily could have called Lieberman and extended him the courtesy of letting him know what his decision was," the Lieberman aide told me. "The bottom line is this: Gore could have called anytime after Friday but did not. Basically Gore and Dean made a political calculation to maximize the surprise of this announcement, and it is disingenuous for anyone to now suggest otherwise."

Contrary to speculation that Schiff, wife of New York physician Drew Schiff, was "a guiding hand" in her dad's decision, she insisted: "I was shocked when my father initially said he was going to endorse somebody. He made up his mind pretty much on his own, and, it's safe to say, very recently."

She added: "I think it was a bold move. Anytime you make a bold move, you ruffle some people's feathers. But if you've paid attention to my father's speeches for the last year, particularly his foreign policy speeches, the natural choice for him was Dean."


Was Mo Rocca trying to make trouble at Thursday's lunch at Planet Hollywood celebrating his Court TV show, "The Smoking Gun TV Year-End Special"?

Rocca, a correspondent on Comedy Central's "Daily Show," told this column that he's toiling away on an important and insightful socio-political book for Crown, to be completed in time for fall 2004 publication.

"It's about the presidencies, but through the eyes of their animals," Rocco said. "I will have about eight to 10 stories . . . I will be including Buddy, and the conspiracy behind Buddy's murder. It could have been Hillary — because you know, Socks the Cat was banished. So it was Hillary behind Buddy's murder — just like she was behind Vince Foster's murder!"

Probably he was just kidding.


NOW SHE TELLS US!: A new interview with President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, gives ammo to critics of the Bush administration's postwar performance in Iraq.

"There's nothing I am worse at than long-term planning," Rice admits in the upcoming issue of Reader's Digest. "I have never run my life that way. I believe that serendipity or fate or divine intervention has led me to a series of wholly implausible steps in my life. And I've been open to those twists and turns because I didn't have a long-term plan."

True, Rice was discussing the possibility of running for office, but still . . .

MAKING BOOK: Natalie Portman says she's given up on celebrity tabloids and other salacious reading matter — even gossip columns. "Sometimes I like it," she told us, "but right now I'm trying to stick to the books and stay away from Us magazine!"

Certainly one worthwhile volume is Charles Frazier's Civil War epic "Cold Mountain." Portman plays a war-widowed mother in the movie version.

At Tuesday night's premiere party, Frazier told me he's happy with the film: "I was a little worried because sometimes books are just transformed. But the accuracy and faithfulness of this was incredible."

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© 2003, Creators Syndicate