Image: Lieberman
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., salutes well-wishers as he leaves a rally in Hartford, Conn., on Monday.
updated 10/13/2003 6:52:28 AM ET 2003-10-13T10:52:28

Democrat Joe Lieberman, hoping to jump-start his presidential campaign with a fresh attack on White House policy, is promising to ensure that upper-income Americans pay more taxes than they did before President Bush’s record-breaking tax cuts.

AS PART OF what the Connecticut senator calls a major tax reform package, he also would adjust income tax rates to lower the burden on middle-class Americans, many of whom already received cuts under Bush’s policies.

By reducing spending and raising taxes on the wealthy, Lieberman believes he can cut the deficit every year he’s in office and balance the budget by the end of a second term.

The details were provided by senior campaign officials who spoke on condition of anonymity about Lieberman’s weeklong critique of Bush’s policies and character.

Calling his five-day tour “Leading With Integrity,” Lieberman is contrasting his reputation for moral certitude — he was a leading Democratic critic of President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky — with what he says is the Bush’s failure to keep promises.

EMBARKS ON FIVE-DAY TOUR

Lieberman began the tour Monday in Hartford, Conn., then traveled to New Hampshire to outline his case against Bush in a way he hopes distinguishes himself from eight Democratic rivals.

“My friends, next November, integrity is on the ballot. I know that is one we can win,” he told about 200 supporters at a riverfront park in Hartford.

In Keene, N.H., Lieberman shook hands on his way into Timoleon’s restaurant, and told the crowd, “I’ve never seen people in America more worried about the future than they are today.” He accused President Bush of “taking care of a small group of people.”

In a text of his address planned for delivery in Manchester, N.H., Lieberman said Bush has been less than honest with Americans about Iraq, the environment, the federal deficit, education and the economy. A supporter of Bush’s war resolution, Lieberman said Iraq is now “teetering on the brink.”

On the first day of his tour, Lieberman focused on his economic plan. He argued that the administration has shifted tax burdens from the wealthy to middle-income earners.

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“George Bush and his administration have taken our country far off track. And, even worse, they lack the honor and integrity to acknowledge their mistakes, change direction and give our country the fresh start it deserves,” Lieberman said in a text of his address planned for delivery in Manchester, N.H.

He said Bush has been less than honest with Americans about Iraq, the environment, the federal deficit, education and the economy. A supporter of Bush’s war resolution, Lieberman said Iraq is now “teetering on the brink.”

On the first day of his tour, Lieberman focused on his economic plan. He argued that the administration has shifted tax burdens from the wealthy to middle-income earners.

“That’s class warfare,” Lieberman said. “I’m proposing a cease-fire. By leading with integrity, we can restore fairness to the tax code and give some real help to struggling American families.”

Under his plan, a married couple earning $50,000 annually would save up to $1,000, he said.

Lieberman would do that by changing income tax brackets.

SURTAX ON THE WEALTHY

He also would reverse Bush-backed tax breaks given to people earning more than $200,000 annually — and impose a limited surtax on them. The surtax, which campaign officials did not detail, would ensure that the wealthy do not benefit from the rate changes.

Lieberman’s rivals want to repeal Bush’s tax cuts for wealthy Americans, with most setting the bar at people exceeding $200,000. Two candidates, Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt, want to repeal all of Bush’s tax cuts, including those benefiting middle-class Americans.

From Connecticut and New Hampshire, the tour is taking Lieberman to Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida and Michigan. Iowa is absent from the list, a sign that his campaign is shifting resources from — and perhaps pulling out of — the early caucuses because of his dismal showing there thus far.

All but Florida are key early voting states in the primary fight. Florida is the site of the 2000 election recount, where the Gore-Lieberman ticket narrowly lost to Republicans George W. Bush and Dick Cheney after a Supreme Court appeal.

Lieberman is trying to give a lift to his campaign after languishing near the bottom in key state polls and fund raising. He is being urged by supporters and staff to abandon Iowa’s caucuses and focus his resources on a handful of states that hold elections afterward. A major shift in strategy is likely soon, campaign officials say.

The tour will highlight Lieberman’s proposals on scores of issues, including corporate responsibility, energy, health care, the environment and fiscal discipline.

Most of the proposals were previously unveiled, but the senator is tying them together under a broad challenge to Bush’s integrity — calling the broad package “a blueprint for better days.”

© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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