Greenville News

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Lieberman on Tuesday

The Connecticut senator is strong on defense and moderate on fiscal matters. He shouldn't be counted out.


          South Carolina voters have an opportunity Tuesday to influence the Democratic presidential primary when they vote in the first race in the South. This newspaper recommends Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman as the best choice for this state based on the tested politician's views and votes on national defense, homeland security, trade, education, taxes and other fiscal issues.

          Lieberman has distinguished himself as strong on many of the cultural issues that resonate with voters in this state. Of the seven candidates still running in the Democratic presidential primary, Lieberman is the only one who claims a centrist philosophy. Regrettably, he has suffered during this primary for not backtracking on some of his most important recent votes, most notably on the authorization for the use of force in Iraq.

          A serious Democratic candidate, especially in this state, is North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. He's a sentimental favorite, too, for his close ties to South Carolina, his Southern charm and affable personality, and, most importantly, for his ability to empathize with the plight of unemployed manufacturing workers.

          Edwards was born in Seneca, grew up in North Carolina and has a background similar to many people native to our area. His dad worked 36 years in a textile mill, and Edwards is a first-generation college graduate. He was a highly successful trial lawyer who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998.

          For his many attractive qualities, Edwards has the negatives of less experience than several other Democrats in the field and some distressing inconsistencies that have crept into his views. The main one is this: Edwards, and Democratic front-runner Sen. John Kerry, voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. But last fall, both Democratic senators, with an eye on the White House, voted against the $87 billion supplemental appropriation to fund the continued military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and support the rebuilding of those two countries.

          On the issue of Iraq, Joe Lieberman is refreshingly clear about the need for military action there. He was a strong supporter of the war, he voted for the $87 billion supplemental appropriation and as he said in a recent interview with this newspaper, "I knew my vote for the second Gulf war would be a contentious issue if I ran for president. You have got to do what is right for the safety of this country. I haven't wavered like some of the other candidates."

          And this statement, which has been repeated often on the campaign trail: "There's no question America -- and Iraq -- is safer with Saddam in prison instead of power." While Lieberman has criticized some of President Bush's decisions in the aftermath of the war in Iraq, the Democratic senator hasn't sought to undermine the president or withhold money needed for the military operation.

          Lieberman is a moderate when it comes to fiscal matters, and while, like several Democratic candidates, he would roll back the tax cuts on the richest Americans, he resists some of the cheap shots coming from his rivals. He would expand the tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses.

          On trade, Lieberman steers clear of a protectionist view and adds, "I don't think you can create jobs by building a wall around America." He wants tougher enforcement of American patents and copyrights, and tax credits for manufacturers who keep jobs in the United States. He wants a better relationship between government and business, and he recognizes this: "Government doesn't create jobs, the private sector does."

          Instead of bashing Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative, Lieberman recognizes the president "has a worthy set of goals," but adds that the federal act "is not well implemented or funded."

          Lieberman is a progressive on social issues, sometimes to a greater degree than many South Carolina voters. But he is an experienced national leader who has centrist beliefs and is strong on national defense. He is thoughtful and independent, and he should appeal to South Carolina voters who take time to study his record.

          Voters will go to the polls Tuesday in seven states. South Carolina voters who are Democrats or independents should take advantage of this early opportunity to have a say in who will represent the Democratic Party this fall.

Copyright © 2004 The Greenville News.  Reprinted by Permission (Beth Padgett 02/19/04).

Editorial board consists of Publisher Steve Brandt, Editorial Page Editor Beth Padgett, Associate Editor Leroy Chapman, and Associate Editor Paul Hyde.  The board met with or had telephone conversations with four of the candidates.  The endorsement came after the Jan. 29 debate in Greenville.