The Lieberman campaign has distributed the transcript from Lieberman’s Today Show appearance:
Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Transcript of Joe Lieberman’s Response to Al Gore’s Endorsement
NBC Today Show
Tuesday, December 09, 2003 7:05 AM
Matt Lauer: Gore’s former running mate, Senator Joseph Lieberman, is here for an exclusive interview this morning. Senator Lieberman, great to see you.
Sen. Joe Lieberman: Good to be back, Matt, thank you.
Lauer: Wow. I mean, were you caught completely off guard?
Lieberman: I, I was caught completely off guard, no notice. I heard about it from the media. I was surprised, therefore, but you know I am more determined than ever to fight for what I believe is right for my party and my country to take us forward and not backward.
Lauer: Well I’ll talk politics in a second. On a personal note though, you stayed on the sidelines last year. Wouldn’t announce whether you were going to run for president or not until you waited for Al Gore to make a decision. You saw that as your duty and loyalty. Did you receive the same loyalty from Al Gore?
Lieberman: Well, I, I am not going to talk about Al Gore’s sense of loyalty this morning. I’m just going to tell you that I will always remain grateful to him for the extraordinary opportunity he gave me to run as his Vice-Presidential candidate and I have no second thoughts about what I did in, in 2001 and 2002. I did what I thought was right. I couldn’t run against the guy who gave me the opportunity to be Vice-President.
Lauer: Let, let –
Lieberman: No regrets.
Lauer: Let’s try and talk about what’s changed. I want to run a clip of something Al Gore said as he announced you as his running mate in 2000.
Lieberman: This’ll be nostalgic.
Gore: Joe Lieberman has the experience and the integrity. He has the courage and the commitment, and for all his public life, Joe Lieberman has stood for working families. He’s the right person. No one is better prepared to be Vice-President of the United States of America. [cheers and applause]
Lauer: Four years ago, Al Gore wanted you to be a heartbeat away from the presidency and now he endorses Howard Dean. What happened?
Lieberman: Well, you would have to ask Al because I’m the same person today that I was when he said those very kind things about me. And when he made the decision, as he told me, to put me in a position to be President in the case of an emergency in a judgment based on his conclusion that the American people would conclude that I was up to that task, so –
Lauer: In your opinion, has Al Gore changed? This was Bill Clinton’s vice-president, he was the New Democrat, the centrist, and now he’s endorsing Howard Dean, someone who’s seen by most people as an outsider.
Lieberman: Matt, you’re absolutely right on the substance. It’s not so much insider or outsider, it’s on the issues, and that’s where I’m also surprised here. Al Gore is endorsing somebody who has taken positions in this campaign that are diametric – diametrically opposite to what Al himself has said he believed in over the years:
Lauer: So –
Lieberman: Strong on defense, for tax cuts and against walls of protectionism that take away jobs.
Lauer: So, this morning, when you hear people say this gives Al Gore the clout, the political clout he, he has wanted in the race, is it possible it’s just the opposite? That he loses credibility because of this?
Lieberman: Well, I think that’s up to the pundits and the people. What really bothers me is that Al is supporting a candidate who is so fundamentally opposed to the basic transformation that Bill Clinton brought to the Democratic Party in 1992. Clinton made our party once again fiscally responsible, pro-growth, strong on, on values, for middle class tax cuts; and Howard Dean is against all of those. So Al Gore will have to explain why he is supporting
Lauer: One –
Lieberman: Somebody who I think would take our party and country backward, not forward.
Lauer: One of the local newspapers here this morning called this “humiliating” to Joe Lieberman’s campaign. Another said it’s “devastating.” One Democratic strategist said this “changes the whole playing field.” Al Sharpton, who is one of your opponents in this race, said “this wipes Lieberman out.”
Lieberman: Oh, no way. I mean, the voters are a month and a half away from voting. I, I never premised my campaign on Al Gore’s support. I premised my campaign on building on the transformation that Bill Clinton brought to the Democratic Party. Strong on security, strong on defense and pro-growth and for middle class tax cuts. And again, Howard Dean is against all of that. Al Gore has only one vote in the primaries – particularly in New Hampshire where voters are independent-minded, as I am. I don’t believe that they’re going to be controlled by what any politician or pundit says.
Lauer: Can you still win? In New Hampshire, you mentioned New Hampshire. You are running third in New Hampshire. You, you are behind in Iowa; you basically have surrendered that state. What is your strategy, then? How can you win this nomination?
Lieberman: Well, you know, I spoke to President Clinton last night. I was early a supporter of his campaign. And we both remembered with a laugh that in December 1991, everybody said he didn’t have a chance. Again, the voters decide who’s going to, who’s going to win this. My strategy: continue to fight for what I believe is right for the country. And I can’t stress this enough – in an age of terrorism and tyranny, I’m the strongest in this race on security. And In an age where the middle class is overly stressed, I’m the only one who’s proposed tax cuts for 98% of the income tax payers.
Lauer: Let me just follow up. You say you talked to President Clinton last night. Did you speak to him about Al Gore’s endorsement? What was his reaction?
Lieberman: I, I speak to President Clinton all the time, we, we go back 33 years in our friendship.
Lauer: What did he say about this?
Lieberman: Well, well, it’s always, our, our conversations are always private. But the important thing to say here is that we both laughed, having been through his first campaign restructuring, refocusing the party, reconnecting with the mainstream of American values and life that they read him out a lot. And it’s all up to the voters. I am confident. In New Hampshire, we’ve got something going. A whole bunch of people, independents who supported John McCain in 2000, are now supporting my candidacy, and they can vote in the primary and they’re going to have a good effect.
Lauer: Just a week ago this is what you had to say about Al Gore, “As president I would turn to him not only for advice but see if he would be interested in holding some high office in my administration. He’s an immensely capable, principled, effective person.” Has that changed now?
Lieberman: I’d say that’s less likely this morning. [Laughter]
Lauer: A candid response. Senator Joe Lieberman, good of you to come in this morning.
Lieberman: Thank you, take care.