(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the man of the moment for Democrats, appeared on the morning news shows Wednesday, with Al Gore right there beside him - Gore, jumping into many of the questions directed at his running mate.
On NBC's Today show, Katie Couric asked Gore if he minded sharing the spotlight with Lieberman "since we haven't heard from him very much so far."
"I'm getting used to it," Gore joked. "Don't hurt my relationship with the boss, here," Lieberman joked right back. "All right, well, he's going to have to learn to share the spotlight," Couric responded firmly.
Indeed, it seemed difficult for Gore to share the spotlight.
In an interview on ABC's Good Morning America, Gore interrupted questions directed at his running mate three times. Two of those interruptions appeared designed to keep Lieberman on "script," if indeed there is a script - to remind Lieberman of an additional response he should have made.
On NBC's Today show, the same thing happened, with Gore jumping in to the conversation - uninvited - three times, to amplify and/or clarify something his running mate had said.
In the ABC interview with anchorman Jack Ford, Gore interrupted questions aimed at Lieberman:
- to play up the "historic" angle of his decision to choose Lieberman as a running mate; to portray himself as a man of faith, just as Lieberman is; and to emphasize issues on which he and Lieberman agree with each other (affirmative action, allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military.)
During the NBC interview, Gore interrupted for some of the same reasons:
- to say he's not afraid to choose a vice president "who sometimes disagrees with me" to say he agreed with Lieberman's speech in which Lieberman publicly chastised President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky and to note that both he and Lieberman both defend "the separation of church and state."
Lieberman-Gore Comments on ABC
In a discussion about the role of faith in politics, Lieberman noted that faith has always informed American life, dating back to "the hearts and minds of those who founded our country."
"But a centerpiece of America, of course, is the separation of church and state," added Leiberman in the ABC interview.
In response to another question, Lieberman said his own Jewish faith "informs" his decisions but would not dictate his public policy decisions. As Ford attempted to steer the interview in another direction, Gore jumped in.
"Jack, if I could comment there," interrupted Gore. He played up the "historic" angle of his decision to choose Lieberman by recalling the 1960 nomination of a Roman Catholic candidate -- John F. Kennedy -- and implying that his own choice of a Jew continues that "barrier-breaking" theme.
Taking Gore's cue, Lieberman said, "Al brought another wall down by choosing me." Then Lieberman repeated something he'd said Tuesday, that "when a barrier falls for one person, doors of opportunity open wider for every American." That's what Jesse Jackson told him, Lieberman said again today.
ABC's Jack Ford noted that Leiberman, during the course of his speech Tuesday, had mentioned God and faith a number of times.
"But do you think that if the Republicans had chosen a Christian conservative as a vice president, and that Christian conservative had given a speech where they also mentioned repeatedly God -- don't you think that members of the Democratic Party would be expressing some concern over the possible mingling of religion with politics?" Ford asked.
"I don't think so, I certainly wouldn't have," Lieberman quickly responded.
Lieberman said the words of prayer he spoke yesterday "honestly just came out of me, they were unscripted, the spirit moved me because I was just so overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude...But you know, that's freedom of religion. I have a right, as American does, to speak words of faith when the spirit moves me, but that's quite different from doing so as a matter of law..."
"Jack can I comment on that also?" interrupted Gore, this timemaking the point that he also invoked God when Clinton chose him to be his vice president eight years ago.
"I went to the podium at the Smith County Courthouse and just spontaneously, because I was so move by this transition in my life and the importance of the obligations that I was undertaking, I said, 'Hey, look, I don't know if anybody thinks this is inappropriate or not, but I'm going to start with a prayer.' And I did," reminisced Gore.
"Right," said anchorman Jack Ford, as Gore continued. Ford said the word "right" the same way you might say it when someone else is talking and you want to change the subject.
When Ford asked Lieberman if he'll need to change his position on issues where he and Gore differ, Lieberman responded that he and Gore share the same values. Lieberman noted that he and Gore are "together" on issues such as national security, consumer protection, environmental protection, and economic growth.
"We don't agree on everything, and I think that's a strength of leadership in Al Gore, that he's chosen somebody who will work with him," said Lieberman.
Gore interrupted for a third time, saying that both he and Lieberman support affirmative action and allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military.
The same scenario played out a few minutes later, when the Today show's Katie Couric asked Lieberman (with Gore close beside him) about issues on which he and Gore disagree.
"How are you going to settle your differences on vouchers?" asked Couric.
"Overall, Al Gore and I have so much agreement," said Leiberman, echoing what he'd said earlier on ABC. "But we do have a few areas of disagreement. I think it's a mark of the strength of [Gore's] leadership that he chose somebody who he doesn't agree with on everything."
Lieberman said his differences with Gore - the "free exchange of ideas" - will continue in private, "hopefully, for the benefit of the country." But Lieberman said as vice president, he would support anything Gore ultimately decides.
"Do you or do you not support vouchers?" Couric asked Lieberman directly.
"I have supported vouchers, there's no question about it, to test the program to see how it works for poor kids, also to judge the effect on the public schools. What I'm saying is, it's not my only position on education, and on the big issues, we're together."
"Katie, could I comment on that?" Al Gore chimed in, making a point that Lieberman had just made.
"I'm not afraid to have somebody as my vice president who sometimes disagrees with me," said Gore. "The policy will be the policy I decide. But I think it's a strength, not a weakness, an asset, not a liability, to have somebody in that room when the decision is made who can bring up the strong points that ought to be considered, to try to make it work for all the people."
Asked why Lieberman supports parental notification for minors - another area where he and Gore disagree - Lieberman noted, "My overall record has been pro-choice." He admitted that abortion is "a difficult personal judgment, but I think the law of the land expresses the consensus of our society."
"I've always said that I would not support parental consent or notification if there was not an opportunity for that child to go to a judge and make that decision." He said he's actually voted against a few parental consent proposals in congress "because they haven't provided that fair alternative to go to a judge when it can't be worked out in the family."
On the subject of President Clinton, Couric noted that neither candidate had mentioned his name at yesterday's rally in Tennessee. She asked Gore if that was a conscious decision on his part.
"No, not really," said Gore, explaining that Tuesday was a day to focus on his running mate.
"I am very proud to be part of an administration that in the last eight years has helped to create the strongest American economy in all of American history," Gore added, saying that the two will see each other next week at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
"He's going to campaign for this ticket throughout the fall, and I welcome that," said Gore.
Lieberman explained how difficult, but necessary, it was for him to chastise Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
"I worked with him and Al in the new-guard Democratic movement to create the ideas that they brought into the administration...so when the Lewinsky matter occurred, I was so profoundly disappointed - I'll say it, even angry - because I felt the president's personal behavior had jeopardized the extraordinary record that he had built for the country, and that's why I spoke out," said Lieberman.
Gore jumped in: "And I said, Katie, at the time, that I agreed with that speech, every word of it."
But, Couric said to Gore, you also said Bill Clinton would be remembered as one of our greatest presidents.
"I think the accomplishments of this administration -- in creating the strongest economy in history, in bringing the crime rate down for eight years in a row, cutting the welfare rolls in half, creating the family and medical leave act, boosting the minimum wage and the prospects for working families -- is going to be regarded by historians as among the greatest record that any eight-year period has seen," said Gore.
Couric noted that Gov. Bush has "spoken quite eloquently about the importance of Jesus in his life, and he has been criticized by some for that." She asked Lieberman what role religion should have in a presidential campaign.
I think religion, not through the state, but in our country, has always been a great asset. He called it a great source of values and good behavior, but in the NBC interview - unlike the ABC interview - Lieberman forgot to mention the church-state issue.
"Katie, if I could speak to this," interrupted Gore. "There is a big difference between separation of church and state, which we both defend."
"Absolutely," murmured Lieberman.
Again, Gore brought the topic back to the historic moment when the American people decided to elect a Roman Catholic as president.
"I'm betting you that the American people are going to make that same judgment again this year," said Gore as the interview came to an end.
"Well said," whispered Lieberman.
As the interview ended, Couric thanked both men. "Vice President Gore, thank you for keeping relatively still," she said.