STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) – Sen. Joseph Lieberman jumped into the 2004 race for president yesterday, criticizing President Bush while promising to “talk straight to the American people” and show them he is “a different kind of Democrat.”
Lieberman, who could become the nation’s first Jewish president, told students at his old high school that during the Bush campaign two years ago, “we were promised a better America, but that promise has not been kept.”
He also reminded them that he and Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 when he was Gore’s vice-presidential running mate.
“I am also proud to say, in that election, as you may remember, that Al and I got a half million more votes than our opponents, and we actually got more votes than any Democratic ticket in the history of the United States,” Lieberman said.
At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said: “There are many things many Democrats are going to say in order to stand out in the Democratic primary. The president looks forward to welcoming whoever wants to run.”
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards are already seeking the Democratic nomination. Several others are said to be considering bids.
Lieberman was considered a prospect for 2004 as soon as the 2000 race was over, and he traveled from New Hampshire to California testing support.
Gore took himself out of the 2004 race weeks ago, freeing Lieberman from his self-imposed pledge not to run if the former vice president did.
“I intend to talk straight to the American people and to show them that I am a different kind of Democrat,” Lieberman said. “I will not hesitate to tell my friends when I think they are wrong and to tell my opponents when I think they are right.”
The 60-year-old moderate was among the first members of Congress to call for a U.S.-led campaign to oust Saddam Hussein.
He was also an early proponent of suspending elements of Bush’s tax cut, and convened hearings on homeland defense and Enron’s collapse into bankruptcy.
Lieberman was not widely known before Gore picked him to be his running mate, though he drew national attention in 1998 when he criticized President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky from the Senate floor.
He described Clinton’s behavior as “disgraceful” and “embarrassing” to the country, though he voted to acquit Clinton of impeachment charges. He has also long campaigned against sex and violence in the media.
As Gore’s running mate, Lieberman was accused by Republicans of softening or abandoning his positions on issues such as school vouchers and affirmative action. Lieberman denied changing his positions.
An Orthodox Jew, Lieberman refused to campaign on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, during the 2000 race.
Asked by reporters yesterday how he felt the American people would react to his faith, Lieberman said: “I am not running on my faith, but my faith is at the center of who I am, and I’m not going to conceal that.”
A Yale Law School graduate, Lieberman was a state senator and Connecticut attorney general before winning election to the U.S. Senate in 1988.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman enters 2004 presidential race, says he is ‘different kind of Democrat.’