>Being able to pull from both directions is an impressive political feat,
>whatever else you can say about Gore's performance.
Wish-fulfillment can be a very powerful force.
Wall Street Journal - August 22, 2000
Lieberman Says Democrats Are a Pro-Business Party
By BOB DAVIS Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
BURLINGTON, Iowa -- Despite the populist rhetoric of the Democratic ticket since its convention closed, vice presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman sought to reassure financial markets that they shouldn't fear his running mate's "quite moderate" proposals.
He and Vice President Al Gore are "pro-business," the Connecticut lawmaker said in an interview on his campaign bus. "There is no rational reason why the markets should be in any way adversely affected by the positions and policies and programs of the Gore-Lieberman ticket," he said.
Sen. Lieberman's remarks came after a weekend of business bashing by Mr. Gore, who attacked the pharmaceuticals, insurance, oil and health-management industries during campaign rallies in the Midwest. "It all comes down to which side are you on," the vice president told supporters Friday in Prairie Du Chien, Wis.
George W. Bush's campaign dismissed Sen. Lieberman's remarks as a continuation of a "confusing message" from the Democrats' vice presidential contender. Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett said, "The new message from the Gore-Lieberman ticket is one based on class warfare ... I don't think that's a message that's going to be received very well by the business community, or the financial markets for that matter."
Fashioning a Message
Mr. Gore's strategists are trying to fashion a populist message that will rouse voters and demonstrate his leadership abilities, but the strategy may alienate some voters as antibusiness and a threat to the economic boom that Mr. Gore takes credit for sustaining. Mr. Lieberman's reliance on the insurance and pharmaceuticals industries for campaign money undercuts his ability to take a Gore-like populist line.
In the interview, Mr. Lieberman was careful not to contradict his running mate, but he drew a distinction between campaign rhetoric and Mr. Gore's policy proposals, which he called "quite moderate."
"Political rallies tend not to be places for extremely thoughtful argument," he said. Rather, "you have some rhetorical flourishes."
Businesses sometimes deserve criticism, Mr. Lieberman said, and Democrats will continue to dish it out. "When they're wrong and when they are doing something unfair to the people, we're going to be prepared to challenge them," he said. Gore-Lieberman 'Dream Team' Docks in Midwest, With Emphasis on Specifics
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He was more measured than Mr. Gore in his criticism of the pharmaceuticals industry, one of his biggest financial backers. Mr. Lieberman praised the industry for producing drugs "that have enabled all of us to lead better lives" and pledged to boost federal funding for basic research.
Plan to Extend Medicare
He also argued that the Democratic ticket's plan to extend Medicare coverage for prescription drugs would both help the industry and subsidize the elderly. Although drug makers "may quite rightly be getting less per prescription," he said, their volume would grow because "the elderly will be able to afford to fill prescriptions their doctors are giving them."
Mr. Gore proposes a Medicare drug benefit that would cover half the cost of prescription drugs up to $5,000 and all the cost after a beneficiary has paid $4,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.
Pharmaceuticals companies worry that the Gore plan essentially would allow the government to set drug prices and undermine profitability. Mr. Bush has endorsed added coverage for prescription drugs, but hasn't spelled out his plan.
Mr. Lieberman is up for Senate re-election this year, and businesses have been friendly to him: The insurance industry has contributed $184,000 to his Senate run, while the pharmaceuticals industry has given $81,000, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The contributions largely reflect the prominence of the industries in Connecticut, he said. "There's a natural connection between the industries and me," Mr. Lieberman said. He argues that he has maintained his independence by supporting a prescription-drug benefit and a strong patients' bill of rights.
Overall, Mr. Lieberman said, he and Mr. Gore are committed to extending the economic boom that has benefited business. "I hope the business community will conclude this is a pro-growth, pro-business ticket," he said. "We have both been part of this extraordinary eight years of prosperity and we know best how to continue and expand the prosperity."