HIGHTOWER: The Pro-Business Ticket

When he named Sen. Joseph Lieberman to be his running mate, Al Gore portrayed the choice as a "bold" move, and it certainly is symbolically significant that he put the first Jewish American on a national ticket. Symbolism aside, though, Sen. Lieberman's idea of boldness is occasionally to wear a plaid shirt--this guy is strictly cut from corporate cloth, and he's not about to do anything to upset business as usual in Washington.

Indeed, when Gore recently had a momentary outbreak of mild populist rhetoric, pointing out that the pharmaceutical and insurance giants are greedy for opposing Medicare coverage of prescription drugs, Bold Joe jumped forth to assure Wall Street that it need not fear Al's bark. "There is no rational reason why the markets should be in any way adversely affected by the positions and policies and programs of the Gore-Lieberman ticket," he cooed to the Wall Street Journal. "Political rallies tend not to be places for extremely thoughtful argument," he said with a wink, adding, "you have some rhetorical flourishes."

To soothe the hurt feelings of industry executives, Lieberman tossed them a couple of bon bons, praising drug makers for having "enabled all of us to lead better lives," and pledging to put more federal money into pharmaceutical research. Nothing like taxpayer cash to make a political boo boo all better.

Speaking of cash, Lieberman has taken plenty of it from corporate favor-seekers. In addition to running for vice president, he's also up for re-election to the senate, and so far he's taken $265,000 from pharmaceutical and insurance companies. "There's a natural connection between the industries and me," he says shamelessly. If corporate power had any further qualms about Gore-Lieberman getting out of line, Joe ended any doubt by declaring flatly that "this is a pro-growth, pro-business ticket."

This is Jim Hightower saying . . . So much for boldness on the part of these "Democrats."

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