In An Amazing Adventure, former Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, give an inside account of the 2000 election. The book takes on new meaning now that Lieberman has announced he'll seek the Democratic nomination for the 2004 presidential election.
Here is an excerpt of An Amazing Adventure.
During 2000, someone told me that in the heat of a national campaign there are only two moods among campaign workers:
1. We're going to lose. 2. What job do I want in the administration?
In September 2000, the resumes were being polished. The Bush campaign had stumbled in the wake of our success at the convention. Bush's double-digit lead had evaporated after the Democratic National Convention, and even his negatives had risen above Gore's — 39 percent vs. 29 percent for Al, according to one poll. "We let [Gore] come back to life," griped one Republican strategist. "It was a great blunder."
Not only was Bush having trouble getting back on his feet, Gore was indefatigable (and so, may I add, was I).
We campaigned for twenty-four hours straight over Labor Day — from Philadelphia to Flint, to Tampa, to Toledo, to Detroit. Bush, on the other hand, seemed to be working half as hard. Every time we turned around he was heading back to his Texas ranch for another weekend of R&R. A senior Gore staffer joked that while Al traveled with a "football," the briefcase containing the codes for a nuclear launch, Bush's aides also carried a "football" for their boss — it contained Bush's pillow.
Bush seemed testy and insecure. He kept mangling words. A microphone was left open and he was overheard describing Adam Clymer of The New York Times to Dick Cheney as "a major league asshole," to which Cheney responded, "Oh yeah, big time." And he got bogged down in a debate over presidential debates. When Bush complained to reporters, "Debates suck the air out of the campaign," it made him look as if he were trying to duck being compared to Al Gore, who was known to be a great debater.
Somewhere around the third week of September, Bush snapped awake. Some observers gave Laura Bush credit for shaking her husband and his campaign out of its stupor. I don't know if that's the case or not. I do know that the Republicans launched a strong counterattack.
Up until that point, Bush's campaign was mostly directed against Bill Clinton, promising to "restore honor and dignity" to the White House. But Al Gore had stood before the convention and declared, "We're entering a new time. We're electing a new president. And I stand here tonight as my own man." Now Bush had to broaden his attack and go more directly after Gore. The Republicans didn't stop their anti-Clinton rhetoric. They just added a series of new attacks that were intended to tarnish Al's appeal and credibility, and mine.
At a speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on September 28, Bush declared, "The vice president was seated right behind Bill Clinton at the State of the Union when the president declared, 'The era of big government is over.' Apparently, the message never took … He offers a big federal spending program to nearly every single voting bloc in America. He expands entitlements without reforms to sustain them."
This was Bush's new refrain: Beware! Al Gore is a big government liberal in the guise of a New Democrat.