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Lieberman this morning on

Lieberman this morning on the Today Show about Gore ...

NBC Today Show

Tuesday, December 09, 2003 7:05 AM

Matt Lauer: Gore’s former running mate, Senator Joseph Lieberman, is here for an exclusive interview this morning. Senator Lieberman, great to see you.

Sen. Joe Lieberman: Good to be back, Matt, thank you.

Lauer: Wow. I mean, were you caught completely off guard?

Lieberman: I, I was caught completely off guard, no notice. I heard about it from the media. I was surprised, therefore, but you know I am more determined than ever to fight for what I believe is right for my party and my country to take us forward and not backward.

Lauer: Well I’ll talk politics in a second. On a personal note though, you stayed on the sidelines last year. Wouldn't announce whether you were going to run for president or not until you waited for Al Gore to make a decision. You saw that as your duty and loyalty. Did you receive the same loyalty from Al Gore?

Lieberman: Well, I, I am not going to talk about Al Gore's sense of loyalty this morning. I’m just going to tell you that I will always remain grateful to him for the extraordinary opportunity he gave me to run as his Vice-Presidential candidate and I have no second thoughts about what I did in, in 2001 and 2002. I did what I thought was right. I couldn’t run against the guy who gave me the opportunity to be Vice-President.

Lauer: Let, let –

Lieberman: No regrets.

Lauer: Let’s try and talk about what’s changed. I want to run a clip of something Al Gore said as he announced you as his running mate in 2000.

Lieberman: This’ll be nostalgic.

[Clip Begins]

Gore: Joe Lieberman has the experience and the integrity. He has the courage and the commitment, and for all his public life, Joe Lieberman has stood for working families. He’s the right person. No one is better prepared to be Vice-President of the United States of America. [cheers and applause]

[Clip Ends]

Lauer: Four years ago, Al Gore wanted you to be a heartbeat away from the presidency and now he endorses Howard Dean. What happened?

Lieberman: Well, you would have to ask Al because I’m the same person today that I was when he said those very kind things about me. And when he made the decision, as he told me, to put me in a position to be President in the case of an emergency in a judgment based on his conclusion that the American people would conclude that I was up to that task, so -

Lauer: In your opinion, has Al Gore changed? This was Bill Clinton’s vice-president, he was the New Democrat, the centrist, and now he’s endorsing Howard Dean, someone who’s seen by most people as an outsider.

Lieberman: Matt, you’re absolutely right on the substance. It’s not so much insider or outsider, it’s on the issues, and that’s where I’m also surprised here. Al Gore is endorsing somebody who has taken positions in this campaign that are diametric - diametrically opposite to what Al himself has said he believed in over the years:

Lauer: So -

Lieberman: Strong on defense, for tax cuts and against walls of protectionism that take away jobs.

Lauer: So, this morning, when you hear people say this gives Al Gore the clout, the political clout he, he has wanted in the race, is it possible it’s just the opposite? That he loses credibility because of this?

Lieberman: Well, I think that’s up to the pundits and the people. What really bothers me is that Al is supporting a candidate who is so fundamentally opposed to the basic transformation that Bill Clinton brought to the Democratic Party in 1992. Clinton made our party once again fiscally responsible, pro-growth, strong on, on values, for middle class tax cuts; and Howard Dean is against all of those. So Al Gore will have to explain why he is supporting

Lauer: One -

Lieberman: Somebody who I think would take our party and country backward, not forward.

Lauer: One of the local newspapers here this morning called this “humiliating” to Joe Lieberman’s campaign. Another said it’s “devastating.” One Democratic strategist said this “changes the whole playing field.” Al Sharpton, who is one of your opponents in this race, said “this wipes Lieberman out.”

Lieberman: Oh, no way. I mean, the voters are a month and a half away from voting. I, I never premised my campaign on Al Gore’s support. I premised my campaign on building on the transformation that Bill Clinton brought to the Democratic Party. Strong on security, strong on defense and pro-growth and for middle class tax cuts. And again, Howard Dean is against all of that. Al Gore has only one vote in the primaries - particularly in New Hampshire where voters are independent-minded, as I am. I don’t believe that they’re going to be controlled by what any politician or pundit says.

Lauer: Can you still win? In New Hampshire, you mentioned New Hampshire. You are running third in New Hampshire. You, you are behind in Iowa; you basically have surrendered that state. What is your strategy, then? How can you win this nomination?

Lieberman: Well, you know, I spoke to President Clinton last night. I was early a supporter of his campaign. And we both remembered with a laugh that in December 1991, everybody said he didn’t have a chance. Again, the voters decide who’s going to, who’s going to win this. My strategy: continue to fight for what I believe is right for the country. And I can’t stress this enough - in an age of terrorism and tyranny, I’m the strongest in this race on security. And In an age where the middle class is overly stressed, I’m the only one who’s proposed tax cuts for 98% of the income tax payers.

Lauer: Let me just follow up. You say you talked to President Clinton last night. Did you speak to him about Al Gore’s endorsement? What was his reaction?

Lieberman: I, I speak to President Clinton all the time, we, we go back 33 years in our friendship.

Lauer: What did he say about this?

Lieberman: Well, well, it’s always, our, our conversations are always private. But the important thing to say here is that we both laughed, having been through his first campaign restructuring, refocusing the party, reconnecting with the mainstream of American values and life that they read him out a lot. And it’s all up to the voters. I am confident. In New Hampshire, we’ve got something going. A whole bunch of people, independents who supported John McCain in 2000, are now supporting my candidacy, and they can vote in the primary and they’re going to have a good effect.

Lauer: Just a week ago this is what you had to say about Al Gore, “As president I would turn to him not only for advice but see if he would be interested in holding some high office in my administration. He’s an immensely capable, principled, effective person.” Has that changed now?

Lieberman: I’d say that’s less likely this morning. [Laughter]

Lauer: A candid response. Senator Joe Lieberman, good of you to come in this morning.

Lieberman: Thank you, take care.

Im rather less than

I'm rather less than a <$NoAd$>push-over for Howard Dean. But David Brooks' anti-Dean column in Tuesday's Times is like one long primal scream.

It's filled with stuff like this from the lede ...

My moment of illumination about Howard Dean came one day in Iowa when I saw him lean into a crowd and begin a sentence with, "Us rural people. . . ."

Dean grew up on Park Avenue and in East Hampton. If he's a rural person, I'm the Queen of Sheba. Yet he said it with conviction. He said it uninhibited by any fear that someone might laugh at or contradict him.

Hmmm. I don't know. Hasn't Dean lived in a predominantly rural state for like twenty-five years? (According to census data, Vermont is the most rural state in the nation.) Every pol likes to suit his biography to the needs of the moment. But that fact would seem to give Dean's statement at least a measure of credibility, no?

A weird column ...

Running short on time

Running short on time this evening, but let me share one other experience with you. I spent most of the day scribbling out notes on 'empire' and America's role in the world and the last two years and similar such things. And I hadn't had a good meal -- or any meal for that matter -- all day. So I went over to the local Chinese restaurant to grab a bite.

While I was there I ran into a union guy who I've met a few times and we got to talking. This isn't someone from one of the unions who's endorsed anyone. In fact, this isn't someone with any real involvement in the whole presidential primary business.

This is someone who's involved in the endless hard slog of trying to stop -- or at least delay -- egregious pieces of legislation from getting rammed through the Congress by the White House and the House and Senate leadership.

He walked me through all the terrible things that are in the big omnibus budget bills that are moving through the Congress. And that led to a discussion of the general worthlessness of the congressional Democrats. I don't mean that individually but collectively.

The Republicans hold the two houses of congress by slender majorities. But they are running the place like they have two-thirds majorities in each house. They are pushing through all sorts of things and the Democrats can't really get their act together to stop any of it. With the exception of holding up some judicial nominations they are virtually impotent. And that doesn't at all reflect the reality that the country remains extremely divided along partisan lines.

They're playing by an outmoded set of rules, operating on a defunct system of party discipline, and are generally getting creamed.

The outrage this spawns is the wind that is filling Dean's sails. It's one big, collective: Enough!

In a sense it goes beyond the Iraq vote which has gotten so much attention in this race. Almost all Dean's competitors in the race are compromised by that collective failure. Fair or not, there's a truth to it.

Its difficult to write

It's difficult to write anything about Howard Dean without Dean's fans thinking you're bashing him -- except, of course, if you're adoring him or cheering him on.

Having said that, a few more thoughts about the Gore endorsement.

Normally, these sorts of endorsements don't count for that much. But the real story about this primary race is how much the national Democratic electorate remains pretty much untilled ground.

The upshot of this endorsement is that the first serious impression that a lot of Democrats will get of Dean will be that Al Gore is supporting him. And that seems like an awfully big deal, especially since it plays favorably to Dean's chief perceived weaknesses -- namely, that he's a weak general election candidate.

I've always been a big fan of Gore's and I remain one, a strong one. But I was talking to a friend this evening about Gore's announcement and he said that Gore's endorsement wouldn't be all positive since a lot of people are still pissed at Gore for what happened in 2000.

But I think that's very much a DC reaction, and not one, I think, that's shared very widely among Democrats around the country. Whatever they thought of Gore going into 2000, I think most Democrats around the country see him as someone who by every measure was robbed of the presidency and thus has great credibility to make such an endorsement. (It's an estimation I agree with.)

I've always thought this race would quickly settle down to Dean versus some other candidate who turns out to be the anti-Dean. I think this will greatly accelerate that process, thus providing a benefit to whomever that anti-Dean candidate turns out to be. But it's not clear to me that any of the candidates in the race have generated the traction to move into that role and make something of it. One or perhaps two are positioned to manage it -- but the jury is out.

I'm sure (and in some cases know) that the other campaigns are spluttering in their efforts at a response. And I'm reminded that short term reactions to such announcements almost always overstate their significance.

And as far as analogies to previous election cycles, I'm reminded of a line from the great historian Edmund Morgan who once wrote: (and I'm roughly paraphrasing here) History never repeats itself. It only seems like it does to those who don't know the details.


The big F YouHeres

The big F You?

Here's a statement <$NoAd$>Joe Lieberman just put out about the Gore endorsement ...


ARLINGTON, VA -- Joe Lieberman issued the following statement in response to news reports that Al Gore has decided to endorse Howard Dean:

“I was proud to have been chosen by Al Gore in 2000 to be a heartbeat away from the presidency -- and am determined to fight for what’s right, win this nomination, and defeat George W. Bush next year.

“I have a lot of respect for Al Gore -- that is why I kept my promise not to run if he did. Ultimately, the voters will make the determination and I will continue to make my case about taking our party and nation forward.”

Ugghhh. Full-metal-ouch ... Note the "that is why I kept my promise ..."

Ouch ....

And as long as we're at it, Ouch!

Okay so who does

Okay, so who does Iraq owe money to?

As I noted over the weekend, it's a really important question. And here are the beginnings of an answer.

First, one detail: Iraq's debt is overwhelmingly in the 'official' sector, i.e. debts to other countries, rather than private creditors or international institutions.

Next, who does Iraq owe money to in the developed world?

The Club of Paris says that Iraq owes some $21 billion dollars to 'Club of Paris creditor countries.' That includes debts to the US, Russia, France, Germany, Japan and a number of other developed countries. (See this table at the Club of Paris website for details.)

But that's not where the real money is. Or rather, those aren't the countries to which Iraq owes the most money. We hear a lot about France and Russia, but the big debts are closer to home.

According to Oxfam, Iraq owes (see page 23 in linked document) a titanic sum of between $55 and $85 billion to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The $30 billion difference is money from the 1980s (I assume in support of the war against Iran) that the lenders say were loans and Iraq says were grants.

This is the backdrop for Baker's new mission.

Check out this very

Check out this very nice scoop from Newsweek's Hosenball and Isikoff about a June 2002 Iraqi National Congress memo pointing to John Hannah and Bill Luti as the conduits through which the INC filtered its 'intelligence' to the Vice President's office and the Doug Feith's operation at the Pentagon, respectively.

Frankly, this is only a scoop in the sense that there seems to be documentation (and that's definitely a scoop). I don't think you could find anyone who's covered this story who wouldn't be shocked if these conduits didn't exist. And Hannah and Luti would be logical channels.

The official denials noted in the story really don't pass the laugh test.

I think its a

"I think it's a moot point."

That was White House Chief of Staff Andy Card today on whether pre-war claims about Iraq's WMD capacity were "faulty."

James Baker now with

James Baker, now with his own US government plane and Iraq portfolio, will apparently be making one of his early stops in New Delhi, with an offer The Telegraph of Calcutta says the Indians may not be able to refuse.

Meanwhile, Mark Matthews's piece in Saturday's Baltimore Sun is the first, I think, to place Baker's appointment in proper perspective.

And then there's the matter of Robert Jordan, Texas oil lawyer and America's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia since September 2001.

Jordan and Baker are both partners in the Houston uber-law firm Baker Botts (co-founded by Baker's greatgrandfather, James Addison Baker, in 1873). And both were down in Florida in late 2000 organizing the recount effort. And Jordan represented President Bush in the Harken matter.

Here's the introduction on Baker Botts's Middle East Region page ...

As Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries in the Middle East continue to encourage private sector investment, opportunities for U.S., European and regional companies are growing. Baker Botts is able to assist clients with these opportunities through our depth of experience in the region and broad-based expertise in energy, technology, telecommunications, project development and finance. This position is further strengthened by our recent acquisition of an existing law office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which operates in association with the law office of Mohanned S. Al Rasheed, and a strategic alliance with Afridi & Angell, a law firm with offices in U.A.E. at Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, as well as in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Jordan and Baker are, needless to say, longtime friends and professional associates. And perhaps Jordan's assistance will be on offer for Baker, since Jordan stepped down as Ambassador just six weeks ago for "personal reasons" and is now back in the law biz in Texas.