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Campaign Profile:  Joe Lieberman - 2004-01-08

U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is one of eight candidates seeking the Democratic Party's nomination for president in 2004. Correspondent Deborah Tate has a profile of the one-time vice presidential candidate who hopes to deny President Bush a second term in the White House.

Senator Lieberman has been the only staunch supporter of the war with Iraq among the Democratic presidential candidates.

"We were right to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein and protect America and the rest of the world from his aggression," he said.

Senator Lieberman takes aim at his rivals who did not back the war, saying they raise the specter of a Democratic Party weak on national security.

"By their words, some in my party are sending out a message that they do not know a just war when they see it, and more broadly, that they are not prepared to use our military strength to protect our security in the cause of freedom," he said.

He takes particular aim at former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, whose strong anti-war views have fueled his rise to the top of public opinion polls.

Mr. Lieberman questioned Mr. Dean's judgment after the former governor said the capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein by U.S. forces had not made the world safer.

"It seems to me that no matter where you were on whether we should have gone to war with Iraq, and there were good-faith positions on both sides, which I respect, I do not see how anybody could say we are not safer with Saddam Hussein in prison than loose," he said. "There is another big difference between him and me."

Senator Lieberman says his centrist ideas offer the best hope of defeating President Bush in November. But he ranks third or fourth among the Democratic candidates in public opinion polls in the states which will hold the nation's first presidential preference contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mr. Lieberman's critics say he is too conservative on a range of issues, including Iraq, to win the crucial support of the party's liberal base. For example, they note he has criticized cultural and sexual themes in movies and popular music, alienating members of the pro-Democratic party entertainment industry and civil liberties community.

But his supporters say the image does not take into account his deep commitment to abortion rights, homosexual rights, minority rights and the environment.

Senator Lieberman says he was surprised by former Vice President Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean. But he says he will always be grateful to Mr. Gore for choosing him to be his vice presidential running mate in the 2000 election.

Mr. Gore shares Mr. Dean's opposition to the war with Iraq.

Mr. Lieberman has been a member of the U.S. Senate since 1989. He was among the first Democrats to criticize President Clinton for his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to Mr. Clinton's impeachment.

The Senator is a devout orthodox Jew, and a strong supporter of Israel. But he strives to appear even-handed in discussing the Middle East peace process, underscoring his support for a Palestinian homeland.

"The only acceptable solution is quite clear: a two-state solution, peaceful, free Israel standing next to peaceful, free independent Palestine, and that will come only if the United States becomes involved and the first step must be an end to terrorism," he said.

The 60-year-old Senator is married to Hadassah, the Czech-born daughter of holocaust survivors.