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Campaign Snapshot: Senator Joe Lieberman

December 22, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


GWEN IFILL: Now, another of our snapshots from the Democratic presidential campaign. Tonight, remarks made recently by Senator Joe Lieberman to workers at a manufacturing company in Newark, Delaware.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I’m here as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. You’re going to have a very important primary here in Delaware on Feb. 3, one week after New Hampshire. So it’s going to be a critical moment in the presidential campaign. And I wanted to talk to you about where our economy is.

I mean, we’ve had a tough three years under George W. Bush: 2.9 million jobs lost, 2.6 million of those in manufacturing. We’re bleeding manufacturing jobs. If we don’t make things in this country, we’re not going to have the economy we want, but more important, we’re not going to be able to protect and grow the middle class, which is the heart of America.

We Democrats, all nine of us, all agree that we need a change. America needs new leadership of its economy and new leadership in the White House to give us a fresh start. But we’ve got different approaches to how to do that, and the approaches are real important to the security of your jobs, and your kids’ ability to live a good life that you want them to in the future.

Some of the candidates, Howard Dean particularly, wants to repeal all the tax cuts of the last three years, and that would include repealing all the middle class tax cuts and all the tax cuts to business that help business invest and create jobs.

To me that’s wrong. I’m the only one of the Democratic candidates who has actually gone beyond the tax cuts now and recommended a new tax cut for the middle class, because the middle class is paying a larger share of the cost of government, and the highest-income businesses are paying a smaller share. So I’m about new ideas.

I’m not George Bush. I’m not Howard Dean. I’m Joe Lieberman. I’m an independent-minded, center-out Democrat who is committed to keeping America strong on security, strong on values, restoring economic growth, pro jobs, and being a fighter for social justice, social progress in this country, which is what our values call on us to do, and what the American dream is all about.

MAN IN AUDIENCE: Talking about tax cuts for the middle class, the reality is, the top 10 percent of wage earners pay 64 percent of U.S. income taxes. Does that seem fair to you?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: What doesn’t seem fair to me is the allocation of taxes paid by the top 2 percent particularly, and that’s part of what I want to turn around.

So I am proposing the tax reduction for 98 percent of the income taxpayers, which is what my proposal is. I want to pay for it by raising taxes on the top 2 percent — because if you look at– I said it briefly before– but to me this is not only important for the middle class that really is under pressure today, more than I’ve ever seen in my adult life, but also, it’s to help ease that pressure.

But it’s also fair, because if you look over the longer term at who’s paying the cost of government, the highest income people again– I talk about the top 2 percent people making over $200,000 a year or more– they’re paying less.

Corporations are paying less, in that case mostly because of loopholes, and the middle class is paying more of the cost of government, more of the higher percentage, and that’s not right.

MAN IN AUDIENCE: I was kind of offended when Al Gore threw his support behind Dean instead of you, with you being… well, he chose you last time for vice president running.

What’s your feelings on that? I mean, have you talked to Al Gore at all to see exactly what he was thinking?

As a registered Democrat, I’m kind of on the borderline with Al Gore, and I’m just trying to see how you feel on that.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: You’re a good man. (Laughter) Let me state for the record, we have never met each other before. I did not ask for that question.

Look, it happened. I was surprised about it, first because I heard about it from the media; secondly, because in supporting Howard Dean, Al Gore is supporting somebody who has taken positions totally opposite what the Clinton-Gore administration took.

But the kind of person I am, when I face a situation like that, I bet not unlike a lot of you, I double my determination to keep fighting for what I believe is right, and going even with more determination toward the goal that I have.

You know, it’s one thing to be angry about– and there are a lot of reasons to be angry– but ultimately you’ve got to take your anger and channel it into better ideas to bring people together, to make the future of the country better.

MAN IN AUDIENCE: I know you agree with the war on Iraq right now, a continuation of the Gulf War, but if you become president, would you continue this good offense makes a good defense?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: You should always reserve the right to strike, to defend your security against somebody who is prepared, who is about to strike against you. But I thought it was a mistake to declare it, because it unsettled our allies and agitated our enemies. It’s something you keep inside, ready to use.

You reserve the offense for when you think diplomacy and nothing else will help you protect the security of your people. But I want to just take your sentence and use it one other place. I’ve thought about terrorism a lot.

When I first came to the Senate in the early ’90s, I did a series of hearings and investigations on it, and that was an area where people… all the experts said to me that when you’re dealing with terrorism, the best defense is an offense. And they meant particularly intelligence. We let our human intelligence capacity drop for too long. And why do you want to do that?

For the obvious reason. We want to be watching, listening to, infiltrating every conceivable terrorist group that’s out there, so that we will know what they’re planning and stop it and them before they strike. And in that sense, I do believe that the best defense remains an offense, and particularly an intelligence offense. Thank you all, it’s been a really interesting discussion. Happy holidays to you.