HARTFORD, CT—Eager to distinguish himself in the nine-member field of Democratic candidates, presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) pledged Monday to "gloss over any and all issues boring to Americans today."
"Are you sick of politics as usual in Washington?" Lieberman said at a campaign fundraiser held at the downtown Hartford Hilton. "Are you sick of politics in general? Well, I can see why. Politics, frankly, is boring. In this campaign, I promise to slide past the tedious issues and get to the point: I want to be your next president! Vote Joe in 2004!"
"Endless details, mathematical proposals, and tax plans," Lieberman continued. "Why should the nation as a whole have to tolerate all that?"
Lieberman, among the most politically moderate of the Democratic hopefuls, first delivered this new stump speech in New York on Oct. 3. On that day, he promised a group of factory workers in Buffalo that all future speeches would focus on his ultimate goals instead of on the intricate workings of his actual proposals.
"Americans are very busy, and I won't bore them with the details of my positions," Lieberman said. "I think George W. Bush is doing a terrible job as America's chief executive, both at home and abroad. I'd do much better. I'd keep America safe. It's all very complicated when you get into it, so I'll spare you the boring legislation-this and appropriations-that. All you need to know is that I'm on it."
To growing applause, Lieberman quickly ran through a list of issues important to voters.
"The economy? I'll make it better," he said. "Reconstruction of Iraq? No problem. International relations? I'll patch those up in my first 100 days. Poverty? I got a plan."
"World trade? Women's rights? Education? Yes, yes, and yes," said Lieberman, who spent the next 45 minutes discussing the Red Sox.
Reached by phone at his office Tuesday, Lieberman re-emphasized his commitment to instituting change, rather than talking about the mechanics of instituting change.
"This great nation needs a leader who's willing to roll up his sleeves," he said. "Exactly what I'm going to do, and how I'm going to do it—ack, forget about it. Unlike some of my opponents, I solemnly pledge not to annoy you with endless status reports in the process."
This new message marks a change for Lieberman, who relied on hard-to-understand, fact-riddled positions during his unsuccessful bid for the vice-presidency in 2000.
"I'm the same Joe Lieberman I've always been, just a little easier to tolerate in long stretches," Lieberman said. "I haven't changed on the issues, though—just look at my voting record. Actually, don't waste your time. Those things are really dense."
When pressed for more information, Lieberman sighed.
"Well, you asked for it," Lieberman said. "I'm pro-business, pro-national-security, and pro-health-care. I'm a bit more conservative than some of the other Democratic candidates in this race. But I'm a lot less boring. That's the last time you'll hear all of that."
A reporter asked Lieberman for his stance on Chinese currency valuation after Monday's speech.
Lieberman shook his head. "Listen, I know that the renminbi has been pegged within a narrow band around 8.3 to the U.S. dollar for nearly a decade, and that China refuses to revalue it despite increasing international pressure," he said. "But everyone else in the country doesn't need to know that. If there's a problem, I'll do everything in my power to fix it. Now, back to the real issue: I can and will skip right past the whoozits and whatsits. Not just during the election, but throughout my entire term as president."
While he acknowledged that some critics see Lieberman's pledge as simplistic, campaign director Craig Smith said it demonstrates the senator's understanding of the average voter.
Lieberman's web site is only one page long. It features a short bullet-point list of his stance on issues—pro-business, pro-national-security, and pro-health-care—and two helpful charts of "Joe's Likes" and "Joe's Dislikes."
Many voters have responded positively to Lieberman's campaign promise.
"I liked his speech. It was nice and short," said Carol Meadows, 45, of Lancaster, PA. "He said he'd fix everything that's wrong, and then the music started playing again."
Some critics have dismissed Lieberman's concise message as a vote-grabbing ploy, launched in response to the record-breaking fundraising of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark. But Lieberman's press secretary, Jano Cabrera, insisted that the senator's campaign strategy was intended to benefit the public, not the campaign.
"Let me ask you this: Would the average American rather read the Financial Times or People?" Cabrera said. "Joe Lieberman is finally giving the people what they want, while other candidates just go on and on and on and on."
"It's like, next campaign stop: Yawnsville," said Cabrera, who then pretended to fall asleep standing up. "Wake me up when Howard Dean's done talking."