Originally created 08/17/00

Georgia delegates welcome Lieberman



LOS ANGELES - When Gloria Greenbaum of Augusta heard last week that Democratic presidential hopeful Al Gore had named Sen. Joe Lieberman his running mate, she thought that putting the first Jew on a national ticket was politically shrewd.

At first, her husband, Lowell, thought it risky because it might unleash a wave of anti-Semitism. But he, too, soon concluded the vice president had made a smart move.

Asher Rivner, like the Greenbaums a Jewish member of the Georgia delegation to the Democratic National Convention, thought of Mr. Gore's choice in more personal terms. The rising senior at the University of Georgia thought of how it would affect his little brother.

"He's a role model for Jews," said Mr. Rivner, who hails from Augusta. "In this country, for a Jew to be nominated for the second-highest office in the land .ƒ.ƒ. sends a powerful message: America is truly the land of opportunity."

The Georgia delegates stomped and cheered as loudly as any on the floor of the Staples Center on Wednesday night as Mr. Lieberman delivered his acceptance speech. And the delegation's Jewish members were particularly proud, both for what his selection means for Jews and for the opportunities it creates for other minorities to rise to the top of American politics.

"Whether this country is ready for a Jewish vice president we're going to find out," said Mr. Greenbaum. "If they are, it would be a wonderful thing for everybody because it opens up the door to everything."

"This unusual choice will make this campaign," added Mrs. Greenbaum.

The only concerns raised by some Democrats in the week after Mr. Lieberman's selection were his differences with Mr. Gore on some issues vital to the party's base, including affirmative action and school vouchers.

But Mr. Lieberman assuaged those concerns Tuesday during what Georgia Rep. Calvin Smyre described as a "straightforward" meeting between the senator and black Democrats.

"He's for affirmative action, but he's not for percentages and goals .ƒ.ƒ. outlined to protect any particular group in America," said Mr. Smyre, D-Columbus. "It's almost like the Clinton-Gore administration's (policy of) `mend but don't end.' I think the issue's been laid to rest."

Georgia delegates roundly dismissed the notion that having a Jewish-American on the ticket could cost the Democrats votes in Georgia and other states in the Bible Belt. In fact, several said the strength of his religious convictions will appeal to Christian voters.

"Joe Lieberman's going to find a very good reception in the South because of his faith, because of his beliefs," said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, one of the speakers who introduced the senator to the convention Wednesday night.

"The people who would vote for Gore are not going to not vote for him for nominating a Jewish person," added Mr. Rivner. "Maybe I'm naive, but I think America's beyond that."