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Lieberman draws rave reviews in Illinois

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Senior Editor
August 28, 2000

CHICAGO—One thing’s for sure: Illinois Democrats like Joe Lieberman.

Speaking before an estimated crowd of 2,000 in Chicago’s Plumbers Hall, Lieberman delivered a speech significant not for raising new campaign themes, but for simply giving the crowd its first up close and personal look at the candidate.

Lieberman took the podium to a thunderous roar of “Go, Joe, Go,” prompting his remark, “Hey, I could get used to this.”

Lieberman referred to the roots he mentioned in his convention acceptance speech—his father working on a bakery truck, and his wife’s parents surviving the Holocaust.

“The fact that I’m standing on this stage today” as a candidate for vice president, he told the crowd in the labor union hall, is a testament “to the continuing power of the American dream.” There were kippot sprinkled throughout the crowd, a cross-section of whites and African-Americans, young and elderly, with many union workers in attendance.

Sounding another campaign theme–criticism of the Bush tax cut–Lieberman said that there’s nothing wrong with being rich. “But we shouldn’t help those who need it least at the expense of those who need it most,” he said to a loud roar.

The Connecticut senator said that Bush and Cheney don’t have a legitimate plan to help seniors pay for prescriptions, and that the Republican ticket had unveiled television commercials criticizing the Democratic prescription plan. Lieberman issued a challenge to his opponents on the issue. “Take those ads off the air and put your plan on the table,” he said.

Not surprisingly, attendees expressed support after the speech. “He came off as being open and honest,” said Clint Brown, an African-American field director with the United Food & Commercial Workers, Local 881 chapter. “He showed that regardless of your background, you can make it to the top. Maybe he can be president one day.”

A number of supporters stood on stage behind Lieberman along with Illinois politicians. One was Kay Greenbaum—age 93.

“I’m very proud of us,” she said after the speech, referring to Lieberman being the first Jewish candidate. “It’s been a long time coming.” She also appreciated Lieberman’s points about helping seniors pay for prescriptions. “I bought two prescriptions to be filled—and they were $161. And that’s just for 30 days,” she said.

During the introductions, Congressman Danny Davis remarked that winning Illinois means winning the election. Michael Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, spoke of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s central role in securing a Democratic win in Illinois.

Lieberman later thanked Madigan for making clear the mayor’s role. “You have told him that the future of America is on his shoulders,” Lieberman joked.

Lieberman also kept his humor about him when meeting the attendees. Rabbi Moshe Kushner, interim executive director of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, was among those standing on stage behind Lieberman. Introducing himself to Lieberman, Kushner added that he was a local mohel (someone who performs circumcisions). According to Kushner, Lieberman turned to the next person and remarked, “Watch out for this guy.”

The event also produced an unusual metaphor for a campaign in which much has been made of Lieberman’s religion—his Shabbat observance and his kosher diet. Don Turner, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, said the Gore-Lieberman team “has a history of delivering the bacon for working families.”

Earlier in the day Lieberman met with religious leaders from the Chicago area at an interfaith breakfast, where he called on them to encourage people to vote.

©, 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.


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