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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Off & Running

Aired January 16, 2003 - 09:06   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: After coming this close to being vice president in the year 2000, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is staking his own claim for the main office in 2004.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I am ready to announce today that I am a candidate for president of the United States in 2004. And I intend to win!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: During his tour as Al Gore's runningmate in 2000, Americans came to know Joe Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, and now they've written a back about their amazing adventure in the national spotlight. I hope it was an excellent one.

Joe and Hadassah Lieberman are with us this morning.

Good morning.

LIEBERMAN: Good morning, Paula.

ZAHN: Are you sure you two are ready to do this again?

LIEBERMAN: We are. Somebody said, the title of the next week book will be, "You Thought That Was an Amazing Adventure."

ZAHN: You write in great detail about the tail end of the campaign.

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

ZAHN: And your disappointment what happened when the Supreme Court got involved. Here you are two years later, do you really believe you should be in -- you wouldn't be in the White House, you would be across the street.

LIEBERMAN: Not bad, naval observatory, right. Do I believe so? I think if everyone who went to vote in Florida had voted as he wanted, Al Gore and I would have carried Florida, we would have won the electoral college, we would have had the honor to serve as president and vice president.

So I think in that sense, the system didn't work. I understand the anger that a lot of people, particularly in Florida, feel about the fact that their votes were not counted. But fortunately, we've done something about that, we've adopted election law reform, and if we can put some money into it from the federal government and the states, we'll make sure that never happens again, if an election that close ever happens again. But that's the past and we're moving on to the future.

ZAHN: Yes, but I just want to know how you feel about the Supreme Court?

LIEBERMAN: I think the Supreme Court was wrong. I was shocked, as I say in the book, that they even took the case. It was a state case, it was not a federal case, according to their own precedents. I thought their decision didn't make any sense. There is a stinging dissent, that I quote, from Justice Stevens, who was previously Republican appointed by a Republican president and said the decision -- he says that we may never know exactly who won the election this year, but one thing we know is who lost, and that is the courts and the American people's faith that the courts are nonpolitical. That was very stinging, unfortunate, but we go on.

ZAHN: One of the things you also write about in the book is that the bigotry that some feared in the campaign never materialized. Do you believe the United States is ready for a Jewish president?

LIEBERMAN: I absolutely do. In many ways -- you know, when I took the podium at the convention in Los Angeles to accept the nomination, the first thing that came out of me is America a great country or what? When this was over in 2000, my answer was, notwithstanding the way it ended, you bet it is and one of the great things is it's true to its promise of equal opportunity. A lot of focus on our religion at the beginning of the campaign because I was the first, by the end no mention at all, the American people made their judgment based on what you would think they would, with common sense, not on religion or race or nationality or gender, who can best lead the country.

ZAHN: You are a woman of great conviction, and I know you take your religion and sense of faith seriously. Do you worry in this campaign that your family might be targeted with this some kind of bigotry?

HADASSAH LIEBERMAN, WIFE OF JOE LIEBERMAN: Not at all, everything was great in 2000. Joe has been in public office for a long time. He's got a reputation that really precedes him, and so we're eager to move forward and embrace the country, as we did in 2000.

ZAHN: What is your concern this time around, your chief concern?

H. LIEBERMAN: Well, my chief concern from the beginning was always the problem of the campaign trail that always takes a lot of time, and I know that this is important, I know that Joe will make a great president, and we're all behind him.

ZAHN: Before we let you go, I wanted to move outside the book for a moment. You criticize the Bush administration for not being as actively engaged as you would like to see in the Middle East. What else could the Bush administration be doing right now that would change anything?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I think being on the ground in a daily and persistent way, making it clear to the Palestinian leadership that they have to stop the terroristic attacks against Israel, and if they do, then there really is a prospect of peace, two states, and a better life for people on all sides.

The other thing that we have to do is continue to press in on our allies in the Arab world and tell them that they have to stop the flow of all money to terrorist groups that are responsible for the fear that is unfortunately still too widespread in America and through the world.

ZAHN: I know you've been moving around town today, but you probably heard what Hans Blix said, and I think he caught a lot of people by surprise. There have been people so highly critical of accusing Blix of hijacking basically the whole U.N. process and trying to create his own time deadline. Based on what he said today, do you think there is a greater chance that we will be at war in a month or two?

LIEBERMAN: Again, it's all up to Saddam Hussein. But if the past is -- and this man's stubbornness, and deceit and evil is any guide to the future, unfortunately, we'll have to go to war it to disarm. Because if we don't, and I'm convinced -- and I appreciated with what Mr. Blix said today. I'm convinced, and have been for a long time, that Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons that can kill millions of people. If we don't disarm him or take him out of power, I fear that we're going lock back and say, why did we let him go? And today, Mr. begins to makes the case for why we may have to do that.

ZAHN: And we'd love to have you come back another time to talk about "An Amazing Adventure: Part II" as you embark on this new journey.

Good luck to both of you. Have you thought about stockpiling some sleep now?

H. LIEBERMAN: Yes.

ZAHN: One thing you never get on the campaign trail.

H. LIEBERMAN: You never get.

ZAHN: Thank you. I appreciate you stopping by.

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