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Larry King Live
What Does Joseph Lieberman Think About Running for Vice President?Aired August 8, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, in his first interview since getting the nod, the Democratic nominee for vice president of the United States, Senator Joseph Lieberman, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We are in office of the provost at historic Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where today, about eight hours ago, Al Gore anointed, Mr. Joseph Lieberman, the senator from Connecticut, and it's our honor to have him in his first interview. He'll be with us for the full hour. We'll also include some phone calls. And later, we'll even meet his wife, Hadassah, as well. Thank you very much.
Are you still in kind of a -- you didn't expect this.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did not expect it, Larry. Hadassah and I actually concluded on Sunday. And I think our mistake on Sunday was that we watched too much television, so.
KING: You gave up.
J. LIEBERMAN: From the talk shows, we said, this has been a thrill, Al Gore has been great to put me in what one of the newspapers in Connecticut as good enough to call a "final four" -- "Lieberman Makes it to Final Four." For a college basketball fan, it doesn't get much better than that.
KING: How did you know know? When did you know it was you?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, we went to bed Sunday night, we said, it's not going to happen, but this has been great. You want the details? The alarm clock went off a little before 7:00 on Monday morning, flipped on the remote TV in our bedroom, and I hear the local Connecticut news about go to national morning shows, say "And let us just repeat one more time this exciting lead story: Our own Senator Joe Lieberman has been tapped by Vice President Gore to be his running mate.
KING: First thing you did?
J. LIEBERMAN: That was the first I heard about it. I said to Hadassah, still sleeping, did you here that? "What?" I repeated it. She said, "I don't understand." And you know, then the phones started to ring, our family, and it was thrill. KING: Did President Clinton call as well?
J. LIEBERMAN: President Clinton called about mid-day, had a wonderful talk. Chris, you know that I know Bill Clinton for 30 years, since the time he was a Yale Law student, had walked into my very first campaign headquarters, and he even helped he me run for state senator. We stayed in touch. I met him again. When I became a senator, we worked together in they Democratic Leadership Council. I think he I the first senator outside of South, maybe outside of Arkansas, to support him in '92. And so there is a lot of history. It was a very gracious call.
KING: On that note, the day you got up in the Senate to criticize him, was that on one of the hardest days for you?
J. LIEBERMAN: One of the hardest days, maybe the hardest day that I've had as a United States senator. Now why was it hard? Because this is a long friendship, and it's not just the personal friendship, but it's a partnership on ideas and programs that he took in to the White House with Al Gore, and put into effect, and it's part of why we had great economy, welfare reform, crime statistics are down.
KING: You didn't have to do it?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, I'll tell you, sometimes, I think a friend has to say to a friend, I just didn't like what you did. or it is not going to get better. It was very hard for me, but because of our long friendship, because of our political alliance, because of our shared beliefs in so many values, because of my pride in his record as president, when the Lewinsky stuff came out, I was heartbroken, I was disappointed, I was angry. And I personally felt that it was never going to get better unless somebody who was a friend and supporter of the president's spoke out. And he was good enough, let me say after I did -- I remember he was asked when he was in Ireland about the speech, and he said, I agree with everything he said.
KING: Politically do you think, Joe, among many reasons you're on this ticket is to sort of bring morality back to the Democratic Party in a sense?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, I can only take Al Gore at his word. And said all along, he had three criteria: one that the person that he chooses be able not only to serve as vice president, but in time of emergency, to serve as president. That's an awesome thing to think about, but I believe he reached that judgment. Secondly, that we have common values, which we do; and third, that he feels comfortable With me in a working relationship. So look, I...
KING: Many of the other "final four" fit those categories, didn't they?
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, so I mean I guess the question is for the vice president, but, look, I think that he -- I know him for 15 years. Tipper, and Hadassah and Al and I are friends, and I know this man as a person of extraordinary values, and vision, committed to his family and his faith. And if I can help the American people see that side of him which is genuine, then I'll feel very proud about the role I play in the campaign.
KING: We've got lots to talk about, and we thank you for giving us this hour.
J. LIEBERMAN: It seems like right place to begin the tour.
KING: The LARRY KING LIVE.
J. LIEBERMAN: The LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Two weeks ago, tonight, on this show Dick Cheney was -- I think you saw the interview.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: And he said he regretted a couple of votes that we brought up, or didn't remember the Mandela, but regretted the vote on the child care and others.
Is there any vote as you think back you regret?
J. LIEBERMAN: Oh, I'm sure there are some, you know.
KING: Any pop out, a vote you know?
J. LIEBERMAN: No. My wife always tells me I have a great knack to block things I don't want to remember, so.
KING: Nothing pops out though that you just say, boy, I was wrong there.
J. LIEBERMAN: Nothing offhand. I mean, look, you know, maybe I -- I'm sure during this campaign, I will be reminded of votes that I wish I had not cast, but nothing jumps to mind.
KING: Great men have served in United States Senate, in both parties, of the Jewish faith. You think of -- just go back to Herbert Layman (ph).
J. LIEBERMAN: Sure.
KING: A Democrat. Jake Javits.
J. LIEBERMAN: Jake Javits, right.
KING: None of them ever had a prayer that they would be on a national ticket. What do you make of this as a Jew, as a first?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, I'm just -- it's still, at some level, unbelievable. I mean, I've gone through these two days, and you go event by event, you try to do your best, because you want help the vice president. I'm so grateful to him. And yet there are moments when the voice comes on, and you step back and you say, wow, has this really happened? So I am so grateful, and it redeems the faith that my parents gave me when they brought me up, which is that you know you don't have to be like everybody else to make it in America. America gains its strength from its diversity, and the American people are fair, and they are tolerant and they will judge you based on who you are what your qualities are, and I believe that, and I think Al Gore,deserves the credit for breaking this barrier, Larry. I didn't do it. I just happen to be lucky to be the person he called on.
KING: You know there is anti-Semitism out there, and people are talking about it. Can a Jew -- will a Jew get votes? What about being only 3 1/2 percent of the population?
Politically, what do you make of it?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, politically, I say a couple of things. First, let's give Al Gore the credit; he broke this barrier. And as I said in my remarks today, one of the great conversations I had yesterday was with Jesse Jackson, and he made the larger point that any time a barrier is broken for one person in this country, the doors of opportunity open wider for every other American. So I think in al from Al Gore's courage, there is a very positive message of increasing opportunity.
But I don't kid myself. I'm sure there are some anti-Semites out there. But you know, this people, the American people, are so tolerant, they're so open, I'm just convinced that they're going to vote for me or against he me not based on my religion, but based on how to they judge me as a person and whether they think I can do this job, and I can't ask any more than that.
KING: You know Dick Cheney well?
J. LIEBERMAN: I don't know him well. We had some contact when he was the secretary of defense, during my first four years in the Senate. I found him to be an able and decent man. Obviously, some of the votes that he might wish he hadn't cast that I have heard about surprised me, because they don't represent, you know, American mainstream values. But I don't -- I view him as a good man. I think George Bush and Dick Cheney are good men. We're not going say they're bad men. We just have some honest, important differences with them about the future of our country.
KING: You look forward to debating Dick Cheney?
J. LIEBERMAN: I do, and I think that's an important part of any campaign.
KING: Back with more of Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. We're going to ask him if he's going to stay on the ballot as a senator as well, right after this.
KING: We are back with Joe Lieberman. Before I ask about the Senate thing, we have Conservatives. We have Reforms. We have as, Alan King, says "Come as you are." We have the Orthodox. You are a observing Jew.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, I like to call...
KING: Briefly explain to people -- you are only three percent of the population.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: What is that?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, I like to think of myself, as an observant Jew, because it is broader and it's inclusive. Hadassah and I mostly go to an Orthodox synagogue or two Orthodox synagogues, one in New Haven, one in Washington, but we also have worshiped at conservative and reform temples. Hey, I have worshiped at churches in my time.
KING: You keep the Sabbath, right?
J. LIEBERMAN: Keep the Sabbath. I mean, basically what it means is we adhere to a lot of the commandments and the values and the laws that come right out of Old Testament. So, you know, it says it right there in Fourth Commandment, honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy. And that's what we try do.
KING: So, from Friday night to Saturday night, you don't do anything.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, I -- and what it is all about? It is all about saying thank to you God for creation and recognizing God as the creator. And also, practically, it becomes a day to stop, to pray, to get some perspective on the rest of the week.
KING: And you will not -- what do you do governmentally on a Saturday if there is an emergency?
J. LIEBERMAN: Right, I have always, Larry, distinguished between politics as politics, which I don't do on the Sabbath...
KING: You won't campaign on the Sabbath?
J. LIEBERMAN: I won't campaign on the Sabbath. And fulfill -- do you mind if I take this out of my ear -- I feel like...
KING: No, if it's hurting, take it out.
J. LIEBERMAN: I feel like somebody is whispering to me back there. I know it is not. Politics is politics, which I don't do on the Sabbath, because I think respecting the Sabbath and honoring the Fourth Commandment of the 10 is more important. But when it comes to governmental responsibility, I have always felt -- and the Rabbis have encouraged me in this -- and Jewish tradition does -- that when you have a responsibility to people that can protect or advance their well-being or their lives, then you have got to do it. If the Sabbath is about respecting creation and honoring and protecting human life, then how could you let the specific prohibitions of the Sabbath stop you from doing that? So I voted on the Sabbath. The vote on the Gulf War resolution was on a Saturday. And of course I was there. Votes on Medicare...
KING: But you didn't drive that day, you walked.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, I try to avoid driving, because the Rabbis over the centuries have created these prohibitions as a way to try to protect the day of rest. You can't use electricity. You can't drive. Now I get in -- if there is an emergency, and I have got to be in a meeting at the Capitol or the White House, and I haven't had advance notice, then I will take a ride to get there, because that is my responsibility.
KING: Kosher home.
J. LIEBERMAN: We keep a kosher home.
KING: Does this mean, fairly...
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes?
KING: ... are you not balanced in the question of Israeli and the Palestinians? Are you pro-Israel?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, America is pro-Israel.
KING: Yes, but Clinton had to show balance at Camp David.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, look, if in my work in the Senate, and if I'm honored and fortunate enough to become the vice president of the United States, my first and primary loyalty is of course to the United States of America. I remember what President Kennedy said: When you put your hand on the Bible and take that oath to Constitution and swear to uphold he the interests of United States of America, if you don't do that, you are not only violating the oath, but by saying "so help me God," you are effectively sinning against God, because you have taken the Lord's name in vain.
Now, you know, generally speaking, American policy and Israeli policy has been in the same direction. I have got a lot of friends both in the Arab-American community, and I greatly appreciate the reaction of some of them to my nomination. And I have had very close relationships with leaders in the Arab world: Yasser Arafat, President Mubarak, the late King Hussein. I've even spent time with late President Assad in Syria.
So, I'm a believer in the peace process. And it is not going to happen without...
KING: It's an area of dispute in your own party.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: Should Jerusalem be the capital? Hillary says yes.
J. LIEBERMAN: Right. I have been a supporter of moving our embassy to Jerusalem. It just seems to me that in every other country in the world, we put our embassy in the city that the country says is its capital. Now, I know history here. I know it is complicated. But honestly, the peace of land where -- which we already have designated for American embassy in Jerusalem -- it is in a part of Jerusalem that was Israeli back to 1948.
So under no settlement would that change. I must tell you right now, I think it would not be a good idea to do that while there is still the flame of hope burning about the king -- the Camp David -- King David, we hope is involved there -- but Camp David -- Larry King, that is how I got confused. Larry King, King David, you know, the whole thing.
J. LIEBERMAN: Camp David. I think they made tremendous progress at Camp David thanks to the extraordinary leadership of President Clinton. And I think they can still bring an agreement home before the end of the year. So I agree with what the president said a couple weeks ago on Israeli television -- President Clinton. Let's wait until the end of year, see where we are, and then, before he leaves office, he will make a decision about moving that embassy.
KING: You are on the ballot running for reelection as a senator.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: You can leave that ballot and let someone else run as a Democrat. You can stay on. If you win, then there is a special election. If you lose, you are a senator if you win in Connecticut. What are you going to do?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, you know I haven't had a lot of time to think about it, but I have had the intention of continuing to be a candidate for reelection to the Senate. The people in Connecticut have asked me to do that. The law allows it. It is a very complicated process in Connecticut. If I withdrew from the election, a very small group of people would choose the nominee. And I don't know that that is fair to people of the state.
KING: But you know then that, if elected, there will be a Republican senator in Connecticut because you have a Republican governor.
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, there might be for a while, but as Tom Daschle said on the television the other day, he is confident that when the election is held -- and it could be a special election next year -- that a Democrat will take that seat back.
KING: So you are going to stay on the ticket? J. LIEBERMAN: That is my present inclination. I am going to talk to folks, including the vice president and other leaders who I haven't had the chance to talk to, but that is what I'm inclined do now. But honestly, my devotion, my energy, is going to be put on helping Al Gore get elected, because I just think he is so capable of being a great president.
KING: We'll get into other issues. We're still to meet his wife. We'll take some phone calls as well for Senator Joe Lieberman. I'm Larry King. Don't go away.
KING: That is Kirkland Hall here on the campus of historic, beautiful Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. It's called the Harvard of the South. They think that Harvard is the Vanderbilt of the North. And getting equal time, Lieberman prefers Yale.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, you know, the big breakthrough here really was not that Al Gore chose a Jewish-American to be vice president, but that a graduate of Harvard chose a graduate of Yale to be his vice president. Now that's magnanimity.
KING: OK. Let's run down some issues.
J. LIEBERMAN: OK.
KING: I know you're pro-choice.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: What about partial birth abortion?
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, I have -- I did not vote to prohibit that procedure, because as horrific as the description of it is, the law of the land clearly is that you cannot ban any procedure at all stages of a pregnancy. In other words, the Supreme Court has said and I think the moral consensus in our society is that up until the point of viability the decision about terminating a pregnancy, no matter what we think personally, has to be between a woman, her doctor, and her own moral standards and God.
KING: No matter what?
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, no matter what. So the problem with the partial birth abortion was that it banned that one procedure at every stage of pregnancy. Some of us put in an alternative amendment that said, OK, let's not only ban it, let's ban every other form of abortion post-viability unless the life or the serious health damage to the mother was in danger.
KING: That got turned down?
J. LIEBERMAN: And that got turned down. And it's too bad, because I think that's the kind of common ground approach that could actually pass the Senate. KING: Wouldn't most Orthodox Jews be pro-life?
J. LIEBERMAN: It's much more varied. A lot of times people say that, but Jewish law generally on this says that what begins at conception is potential life. And frankly, depending on which rabbi you talk to, some say that the fetus at viability, when it can at least theoretically sustain itself on its own, outside the body of the mother, that's when life begins. Many other rabbis say that it begins at birth. So it's a matter of personal judgment.
And like everything else in Judaism, ultimately, it's up to each of us to decide what we think is right.
KING: Capital punishment?
J. LIEBERMAN: I have -- I have been for capital punishment, going way back to my time in the state Senate. You know, as Ed Koch once said -- funny person to quote, I suppose -- the Bible says it's moral, the Supreme Court says it's legal, and I think it's effective.
It's awful to have to impose it, but there are certain categories of crime that are so extreme that they cry out for a response, the ultimate response, if for no other reason than to give some sense of justice to the families and the friends of those who were victims of those killers.
So there's a very important debate going on now about the way the death penalty is applied in our country. I think we have to follow that thoughtfully.
KING: The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Illinois is suspending it.
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, I admire the governor, and I don't know that I would have done it. But I'll tell you one thing I think we should do, we have legislation, bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would offer not only the clear opportunity and right for DNA testing for people accused of capital crimes, but also to provide adequate resources to make sure people accused of a capital crime and subject to the death penalty ought to have first-rate legal counsel.
KING: Areas where you disagree, how are you going to handle that?
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: Because we know that you've been generally a conservative -- moderate Democrat...
J. LIEBERMAN: Moderate..
KING: ... and you have strong areas of agreement, but you've had disagreements. Missile shield system, you favor one...
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: ... this administration does not, right? There are areas that you -- how are you going to handle that? Do you have to suddenly change? Or will you say, I disagree with Mr. Gore in this area?
J. LIEBERMAN: Right. Look, it's been fascinating to watch the Republican response to Al Gore's selection of me.
KING: They're saying that you agree with George Bush.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, and I suppose I should, you know, be flattered or appreciate that they're not attacking. The response surprises me, because honestly the areas where I agree with George Bush are so much the exception and not the rule. If you look at the...
KING: ... disagree.
J. LIEBERMAN: I'm sorry. The -- no, the areas where I agree with George Bush are the exceptions...
KING: Oh, George Bush.
J. LIEBERMAN: ... and not the rule.
If you look at my overall career and the important issues before the country today, Al Gore and I have a remarkably similar voting record. We both focused on national security, we both focused on environmental protection. We both have had the same set of ideas about how to help make the economy grow; how to use the surplus, not to throw it away in an enormous tax cut, but do what every American family with good American values of thrift would do: save it, invest it, pay off the debt.
KING: But there are areas of disagreement. How will you -- the basic -- let me get a break and I will come back for a response.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, good, OK.
KING: We'll be right back with Senator Joseph Lieberman on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: So when you are asked about the areas of disagreement, the missile shield system, which you favor -- you are more hawkish than say this administration generally. Right? Or the health care plan...
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, I...
KING: ... Hillary's health care plan, you were opposed to it.
J. LIEBERMAN: I was opposed to it, right.
KING: What are you going to do now... J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: ... if there's a proposal you don't agree with?
J. LIEBERMAN: Right. Let me say a couple of things. One, there are some areas where I haven't fully agreed with Al Gore. But I think it's a mark of the strength of his leadership that he chose somebody as a running mate who didn't agree with him on everything.
KING: What do you do about those areas?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, look, I know the rules of the game. If I'm elected...
KING: You have to support him.
J. LIEBERMAN: No. If I'm lucky enough to get elected as vice president -- and Al Gore and I have a wonderful relationship, not just as friends, but we've had a longtime personal, intellectual...
KING: You pray together.
J. LIEBERMAN: We both pray together and we discuss issues together. And we'll discuss those issues. But when the president -- when President Gore decides, Vice President Lieberman is with him 100 percent.
KING: But in the back room, Vice President Lieberman will always tell him what he thinks?
J. LIEBERMAN: I think that's my obligation, and I'll tell you something, that's what he wants me to do. He's made that clear.
KING: Have you ever parted on a moral question?
J. LIEBERMAN: With Al?
KING: Yes. Something where you have to go public in disagreement with Al or this administration, like you did in the Lewinsky matter, where you stood up.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: Have you ever had -- you know, has there been an area of a civil rights bill...
J. LIEBERMAN: No, no. I cannot think of such a case. And look, let me speak specifically to that. That statement I made in the Lewinsky matter, as difficult as it was, was something I simply would not have done if I were vice president. And you cannot do that. Not only do you have a loyalty to the president, but you have a constitutional responsibility as the successor to the president not to separate from him publicly or create unprecedented problems in terms of the stability of the country.
KING: Would you have told him personally what you thought, though?
J. LIEBERMAN: Of course.
KING: But you stand moot -- stand mute publicly?
J. LIEBERMAN: You have to. I mean, I think that's what leadership is all about, and that's what the stability of succession in our government is all about.
We certainly wouldn't want a vice president separating from a president, creating the sense that somehow they're at odds and the vice president is trying to push the president out of office. That could create a real constitutional crisis.
KING: We're going -- so it's going to be hard for you as an independent senator some days, isn't it?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, I'll tell you why it's not going to be hard for me, because of all the senators I've been pleased to serve with, I can't think of one that I've had more agreement with than Al Gore.
J. LIEBERMAN: I mean it. We agree on values. We agree on our vision for the country. But priorities -- what do you do about a patients' bill of rights, what do you of Medicare coverage of prescription drugs, I mean, how do you deal with the surplus. The big questions...
KING: The environment...
J. LIEBERMAN: How do you deal with the environment. I mean...
KING: You're identical.
J. LIEBERMAN: Talk about -- I mean, we've talked about continuity, because Al has been at the center of the great economic record of this administration, putting 22 million people into jobs that didn't have them before. He's best prepared, and I can help him keep that going.
But let's talk about future problems that the Republican Congress has not let us deal with, like the threats to our environment, to clean air, clean water, the whole global warming problem. That's a greater future threat than a lot of the things we argue about, and he and I will work to make that better for our families.
KING: We'll get a break. We'll take some calls for Senator Lieberman, and then in a little while we'll meet Hadassah, his lovely wife. Don't go away.
KING: Just as we did a couple weeks ago with the vice presidential candidate of the Republicans, Dick Cheney, we'll take a couple of calls for the vice presidential candidate of the Democrats. They'll be in Los Angeles next week. We'll be there, too, with two shows nightly.
San Bernardino California, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. Good evening, senator.
J. LIEBERMAN: Good evening.
CALLER: What do you say to the voters that say Vice President Gore has moved to the center in order to be more in sync with Governor Bush's ideas?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well you know, I -- Al Gore was founding member of the Democratic Leadership Council, which is the centrist new ideas wing of Democratic Party, and we like to now call ourselves "new guard Democrats," so...
KING: New guard now?
J. LIEBERMAN: New guard Democrats, as opposed to the old guard Republicans.
KING: ... George Bush conservative? George W. Bush?
J. LIEBERMAN: I do. I mean, I know that there was a lot of pleasant blurring coming out of Philadelphia. But on the issues, look at the platform, look at the choice of Dick Cheney. I think this is a conservative party, and still on the key issues in the country different from our party. I honestly believe Al Gore and I now represent the mainstream alternative in America. And I think he's moderate; he has been moderate all his life. He's very strong on national defense.
KING: Why is he so far behind?
J. LIEBERMAN: Why is Al Gore behind? Well, the latest CNN/"USA" poll shows it a dead heat, so.
KING: One day of Lieberman and it's a dead heat. But assuming he's behind, let's say, the general tenor is that he's behind, most polls say that he's behind. Why haven't you sold it?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, we'll see. Look, the campaign in many ways is just beginning now. We're going into our convention. I think this an opportunity for Al Gore to sort of come out from behind the vice presidency, very important role. He's done it with such skill, success and loyalty. But now is the opportunity -- and I think we've got a challenge here not to let the Bush-Cheney ticket blur differences, because honestly, on what to do with deficit, on middle- class tax cuts, on fighting for working families, prescription drug coverage under Medicare, protect the environment, patients' bill of rights, the Gore-Lieberman ticket is where America is, and we've got to convince them of that.
And when they get to know Al Gore -- and I honestly feel so proud that I think in this choice that he made of me,as his running mate, he said some things that are very important about himself that maybe people weren't appreciating. He is a man of courage. He is a man of character. He's a man of faith, and very committed to his family. And that is why the choice and the closeness of the two of us and our two families. And so I think when people focus on Al Gore -- look, even the Republican convention really didn't have much critical to say about the last eight-year record, because it's been such great record.
KING: Cheney said, "Do you want next four years to be like the last eight?"
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, and I'll tell you, I think most people in America would say, yes. The last eight years have been great. If you're one of the 22 million people who got a job in the last eight years, you'd like the next four years to be the same.
KING: Collingswood, New Jersey, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: My question is, after elected, what will vice president Lieberman do if there is a national emergency requiring his presence on a Saturday?
KING: He answered that already, but you'd be there, right?
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, that's a very fair question. Look, my record and my personal reading of my religion, but also my sense of obligation, not a moment's hesitation to be there, not just in a national emergency, but whenever I am needed to serve the interests of the people of the United States. And I mean, for instance, very clear, the vice president receives daily national security briefings. Of course I would receive those on the Sabbath so I could be ready in case of emergency. Foreign leaders are in town, important meeting. Of course I would be part of that. That's my responsibility.
You know, I give the comparison just to help folks who have never had to think about this. You know, I go to synagogue with doctors. They get beeped. They listen to the beeper. They go down and make a phone call. If somebody needs them for their health, they get in the car and drive to the hospital or the patient's home. They are not only permitted to do that, they are required to do that. And I take it to be the same.
KING: You and Bill Bennett, a prominent Republican, who a couple weeks ago on this program said he loves you, would still vote...
J. LIEBERMAN: And I love him.
KING: And you love him. He'd vote the other way.
J. LIEBERMAN: We're good friends.
KING: You have been outspokenly critical of the place where you're going to have your convention.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: Hollywood, "Springer" show, some things like that.
J. LIEBERMAN: Right.
KING: Is that going to put you out of whack with that wing of your party?
J. LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, maybe it will. But, look, I have got to stand by my principles. I got into this as a father, and I think Bill Bennett did as well. I watched some stuff that my youngest, my daughter Hana, was watching when she was five, and I hated the message it was sending her about violence, and about sex, and about respect and civility. So what we have done is reach out and call out to folks in Hollywood, and the record industry, the video game industry, television, and say exercise some self-restraint. Bill Bennett and I believe with a fierce devotion in the First Amendment.
KING: You don't want a law.
J. LIEBERMAN: We'd never ask for censorship. The most we've done by law -- and incidentally, the Vice President Gore has been a critical supporter of this effort, pass the V-chip, give parents the power to block what they don't want their kids to see, ask the TV stations, and the movies, and the video games and the records to rate the products, so parents will know what their kids are buying, and can exercise some control.
This matter is going to be something that Al and Tipper, and Hadassah and I are going to work on, because we care about moral future of our country.
KING: Some of your biggest supporters make those movies and those records.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, well you know, we've got to speak -- sometimes you've got to speak truth to your friends, and ask them to draw a line, and say, OK, maybe we can make a few more dollars going over this line, but it's not worth it, because it's not good for our country and for our kids. And let's remember that Tipper Gore was a leader on this 15 years ago, before it was...
KING: And regarded very controversially, too.
J. LIEBERMAN: Absolutely.
KING: Labeling records.
J. LIEBERMAN: Right. Before it was, well, fashionable, to do it. So she is going to be great partner in this effort, and I think in doing this -- and I love movies, I love television; I'm just asking them to give us better stuff, because -- final word, Larry -- when I started on this battle about six years ago, I'll never forget, I ran into a young mother in a supermarket in New Haven, and she said to me, please keep this up, I feel as if I'm in a competition with the entertainment industry to raise my children, and I'm not winning; we need your help. And that's what we're going to try to do.
KING: We shall meet Hadassah Lieberman, right after this.
KING: We are at historic Vanderbilt University in Nashville with Senator Joseph Lieberman. He will be his party's vice presidential nominee. And joining us now is his wife, Hadassah, his second -- it's the second marriage for both of you, right?
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, it is.
KING: How did you get a name -- can you quickly tell us -- like Hadassah, which everyone knows is an organization?
HADASSAH LIEBERMAN, WIFE OF SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Yes, I was born...
J. LIEBERMAN: There's a whole story (OFF-MIKE)
H. LIEBERMAN: OK, I'll do it quickly. I was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia after the war -- my parents -- my father out of labor camps, my mother out of Auschwitz and Dachau.
KING: Your parents were both in concentration camps?
H. LIEBERMAN: Yes, yes. I was a very lucky child to be born after the war, and that they were still alive. And my dad -- my mother wanted to name me after my grandmother, and my father, of course, said sure. And her name was Esther, but when they went to the Czech authorities to write the name down, there was confusion of Esther being a name that might be associated in a negative way with the war.
J. LIEBERMAN: It sounded Germanic to people.
KING: So they named you...
H. LIEBERMAN: So they named me the translation, Hadassah.
J. LIEBERMAN: The Hebrew of Esther is Hadassah, from the Bible, Queen Esther.
H. LIEBERMAN: Of Esther, the translation.
J. LIEBERMAN: From the Bible, Queen Esther, my queen.
H. LIEBERMAN: Right.
KING: And then you came to this...
H. LIEBERMAN: And then we came to this country and the nuns were registering my parents for, you know the immigration, the citizenship.
J. LIEBERMAN: They were absorbing them in Gardner, Massachusetts. It's a beautiful story
J. LIEBERMAN: An order of Catholic nuns.
H. LIEBERMAN: An order of Catholic nuns, and they looked at my name, and my dad said, well, now that we're here in the United States, we are going to change her name to what it was supposed to be, Esther. And one of the Catholic nuns said: No, Hadassah is so unique, keep it.
KING: Do you know anyone else with that name?
H. LIEBERMAN: No, I've since met a few people. I always get jealous, because I had that name for a long time.
KING: All right, how do you feel today? I mean, your parents were in a concentration camp and your husband is running for vice president.
H. LIEBERMAN: It's the biggest thrill of...
KING: It's a contradiction almost, it's like weird. Weird is a bad word.
H. LIEBERMAN: Well, it is more than a contradiction. It is a thrill, It is saying something -- I know Joey -- I start talking about it, and, you know.
J. LIEBERMAN: That's my code name, Joey.
KING: Ah, we've learned something.
J. LIEBERMAN: No, it's only -- she is only person in the world who calls me Joey.
KING: Well, I'll start now.
J. LIEBERMAN: All right, buddy. All right, Larry.
H. LIEBERMAN: It's a thrill of my lifetime, because it is a miracle that my parents survived, that I was born, the daughter of Holocaust survivors. And here I am in the greatest country in the world. And my husband, because of this very special, special person, Al Gore, who decided that this was what he was going to do, now is a nominee to be vice president of the United States of America.
So, I really feel privileged at this point in time to be joined by all of the immigrants in this country who have come here and have found a better life.
KING: Do you almost feel like Holocaust victims are present?
H. LIEBERMAN: I do. I felt that way today. People kept telling me how wonderful -- when I spoke. And I felt as if they were all there with me. And it was something I had to say. I didn't think it through very much. It just came out of me.
KING: Were you shocked that he got it?
H. LIEBERMAN: I was surprised. I wasn't shocked, because...
KING: You knew you were on the short list.
H. LIEBERMAN: We knew we were on the short list. And I know who Joe is. And I know how he qualifies in every single way. I was very surprised, though -- you know, anyone who would be in this position -- and I was so proud that Al Gore did this.
KING: And how about for both of you how suddenly, in a minute, your life changes?
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
KING: It ain't never be the same.
J. LIEBERMAN: No, it has been an extraordinary experience. You cannot prepare for it. You get swept up, as if on a cloud. But it's really a whirlwind. I'll tell you what has made it livable and manageable., which is the personal care and support that Al and Tipper have given us. I can't say enough of that. I mean, they have just -- they were through it, so there was nobody better to stick with us.
They also have just given us some of the best people from their staff to be with us for the next three or four weeks to help us in this transition. So, there is nothing you can do to get ready for it, but they sure have made it easier to survive.
H. LIEBERMAN: And just very sensitive to the needs of our children, our family, which is...
KING: Your children are how old? They are grown, aren't they?
H. LIEBERMAN: Yes, they go from 32 to 12.
J. LIEBERMAN: Twelve, with a couple in -- and we have four kids.
H. LIEBERMAN: And two daughters-in-law.
KING: And we have one bond. Your 12-year-old was delivered by the same doctor
H. LIEBERMAN: That's right.
KING: ... at UCLA who delivered my two
H. LIEBERMAN: That's right.
KING: He was at Yale then, right? J. LIEBERMAN: He was at Yale then. We always say he was the third participant in the production of Hana Lieberman.
KING: And you each have children from other marriages, right?
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes we do. I have two from my first marriage, and Hadassah has one.
KING: And are they all close? Are you all close?
J. LIEBERMAN: Very.
H. LIEBERMAN: We really -- you know, Larry, the wonderful thing is that we are all together. We have four children and now really six children, because we have our two daughter-in-laws, and two grandchildren. And we are very -- we have worked very hard at coming together as a family.
KING: Is it true that when Al called you, you prayed on the phone?
J. LIEBERMAN: We did. I tell you, the first thing that just came out of my mouth was, you know: Thank God. I mean, I'm so grateful to God. And he responded. I can't capture the words with a prayer of thanksgiving. I mean, we have had a lot of religious conversations over the years. We have had religious conversations about how our faith has moved us to accept a sense of responsibility and stewardship about the environment, for instance. So, it came naturally to us and it was so meaningful.
KING: We will take a break. We'll be right back with the Liebermans, Joey and Hadassah. Don't go away.
KING: Was there ever a time where you favored the appointment of an independent prosecutor into the financial dealings of your party?
J. LIEBERMAN: No. I mean, I always felt that that was a decision that was up to the attorney general, which it is under the law. And I know it was controversial. And I got some criticism, for it. But I always felt that, you know, you can agree or disagree with Janet Reno, but she didn't make those decisions for political reasons. She called them the way she saw them.
KING: What do you want to do as Mrs. -- as second lady? You have a particular kind of cause you want -- we know things -- Tipper has gotten involved in mental health.
H. LIEBERMAN: Yes, and I'm very interested in women's health. I have been working on it.
KING: Women's health as a general
KING: ... breast cancer.
H. LIEBERMAN: Women's health and heart disease, as well, which is an unknown killer of women, unfortunately - number one.
KING: You think of heart disease, you think men.
H. LIEBERMAN: That is right. That is right. So it is really important to make women more aware of it, and really to join Tipper in these concerns about health, which are similar concerns of my own.
KING: Frankly, do you think this nomination helps Tipper with the Jewish vote in New York.
J. LIEBERMAN: Hillary.
KING: Hillary. I'm sorry.
J. LIEBERMAN: Well...
KING: They get interchangeable after eight years.
J. LIEBERMAN: Who knows? I mean, I think Hillary is an extraordinarily capable person, and she'd be a great senator.
KING: You're going to campaign for her?
J. LIEBERMAN: I sure will, and I hope my candidacy helps her, of course.
KING: Do you think you might retain -- get control of the House?
J. LIEBERMAN: I think we can, and you know, I'm still an optimist. We have a shot at getting control of the Senate. I just think we're still early, there's a lot go, and when we begin to show the American people the differences, which ticket represents their mainstream values, how do you stand on the budget, on the deficit, on middle=class tax cuts, on patients' bill of rights, working-class families...
KING: And guns, too.
J. LIEBERMAN: And guns. I mean, extraordinary differences on big issues to people, then I think we're going to win.
KING: Is Hadassah going to speak in Los Angeles?
H. LIEBERMAN: I don't know. We just -- we...
KING: Because Lynne Cheney spoke. I wonder if you get equal time.
H. LIEBERMAN: I really don't know. We haven't discussed any of those details yet. As of...
KING: Would you like to?
H. LIEBERMAN: I'll do whatever to be part of the team, the dream team. I'm there.
KING: When you do speak?
J. LIEBERMAN: I think it's Wednesday night. I've got to tell you, yesterday morning seems like about three years ago, Larry.
H. LIEBERMAN: Yes.
J. LIEBERMAN: So next week seems like about three years forward.
J. LIEBERMAN: I think it's Wednesday night.
KING: What's the schedule you now? Tomorrow you go to...
J. LIEBERMAN: Tomorrow I can tell you. I'm doing one day at a time. Tomorrow it's home-town day. We go to Al Gore's home town in Carthage, Tennessee. We do a town-hall meeting, which I really look forward to. We're going to visit his family home, his mom's house, and Ms. Pauline Gore, who's a great lady, you know.
Just to go back on an anecdote, the first Sabbath I was in Washington in the Senate, 1989, when I stayed at the Capitol to vote because we had some important matters up, Al came over to me, and he knew it was the Sabbath. He said, "What are you going to do?" I said, "Well, I'm going to stay over. I'm going to sleep in the..." We have a gym there and a cot.
He said: "Don't do that. My folks have an apartment across the street," magnificently named at the Methodist Apartments right across the street. Took me over, got me set up, and spent the night there.
KING: And then you go where? To Stamford?
J. LIEBERMAN: And I just want to tell you, his mom always calls me her tenant as a result.
Anyway, then we go to Stamford, Connecticut, which is my home town. We're going to visit my home at her house and do a rally somewhere there. And then I think we go on to Atlanta to meet with some Southern governors, and then...
H. LIEBERMAN: And I'm going to Gardner, my home town.
J. LIEBERMAN: ... to Philadelphia.
And Hadassah is going to that town that greeted this family...
KING: And made her a citizen, brought her in.
J. LIEBERMAN: Made her a citizen.
KING: Back with our remaining moments with the Liebermans, right after this.
KING: A couple of other quick things in our remaining moments: You voted against same-sex marriage, right? You're opposed to...
J. LIEBERMAN: Voted against same-sex marriage, right.
KING: You're opposed to it.
J. LIEBERMAN: That's right.
KING: Even though you have certainly been pro the gay movement.
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, I've been -- I've been an original co- sponsor, one of the lead co-sponsors of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, says you don't discriminate against people in the workplace based on sexual orientation. I was actually against from the beginning the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, because I felt that if you're gay and you want to serve in the military, you ought to be given that right, not have to conceal your identity. You just...
KING: So you're still -- you're still against it?
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes, because I think if you...
KING: Gore supports it.
J. LIEBERMAN: I hope he changes.
I think he has, because I think gay people and lesbians -- gay men and lesbians in the military ought to be treated like everybody else. If they do their job and play by the rules, why not let them serve and not have to conceal their identity?
KING: Hadassah, any major thing you disagree with your husband about politically? Go ahead.
H. LIEBERMAN: No, nothing politically.
J. LIEBERMAN: Don't encourage her.
H. LIEBERMAN: No, we're -- no. And I wouldn't discuss it tonight anyway.
J. LIEBERMAN: It's like.
KING: Later we'll discuss it. J. LIEBERMAN: It's like my relationship, if we're lucky to be elected with President Gore. The disputes will be in private.
KING: You favor some privatization of Social Security?
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes. I tell you, that...
KING: It's a Bush mainstay...
J. LIEBERMAN: Yes. You know, there's a case where the Bush campaign has taken some comments a couple of years ago and made them into holy writ. It is not true. I was intrigued by the idea of privatization part of Social Security. I'm always interested in new ideas. That's what I think it means to be a new guard Democrat, how do you better solve problems if you don't look at new ideas.
But every time I went down the road on this, it didn't end up with having any there there. I had three different groups of colleagues come to me and urge me to sign onto bills over the last couple of years to support privatization of Social Security, and I stopped, because in the end -- of course, Governor Bush hasn't given us any details. But in the end, they do two things. One, they don't benefit you in your retirement, because most of them say, I'm going to take your private account, subtract it from Social Security. Secondly, they take a trillion dollars out of the fund, Social Security trust fund, which really does jeopardize the Social Security fund for the future.
KING: Hadassah, thank you.
H. LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
J. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Larry. Doing great.
KING: Thanks. We'll see a lot of you.
J. LIEBERMAN: I look forward to it. You're the best.
KING: The Liebermans. We thank them both for joining us. See you tomorrow night, another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Good night.
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