Joseph Lieberman, Al Gores pick for vice president, is supposed to bring the Democratic ticket back to the center. Gore secured his presidential nomination by pandering to leftist interest groups, from radical feminists and “gays” to supporters of abortion and Sharptonite hate purveyors. But to have any chance of winning in November, he needed a “New Democrat” who could appeal to the millions of moderates who are sick and tired of the Clinton era.

Enter Sen. Joseph Lieberman, whose public criticism of President Clinton during the Lewinsky affair is now deemed a political asset. As an orthodox Jew, the theory goes, Lieberman will appeal to devout people of all faiths. (They are interchangeable, after all.) And, as a friend and anti-smut ally of former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett—a “leading conservative” —Lieberman has upset Hollywood by demanding that it “clean up its act.” (Of course, Hollywood liberals have nowhere else to go, and they understand that Lieberman’s criticisms will have no real consequences.)

A genuine centrist, Lieberman is the model of the “New Democrat” that Clinton and Gore pretend to be. More importantly, in the words of the Jewish World Review, “He would lend gravitas to a ticket headed by a man whose prime characteristic is a willingness to say or do anything to get elected.” And the Jewish Ledger claims that the presence of Lieberman on the Democratic ticket will entice “independents and Republicans who are less than enamored with George W. Bush, to support a Gore candidacy.”

Lieberman has been promoted relentlessly by Washington insiders, notably the Weekly Standard and Roll Call pundit Morton Kondracke. From that fact alone, we know that the Gore campaign is doomed: An endorsement by the Weekly Standard is fatal to any political hopeful. Remember how Bill Kristol and company hailed John McCain as the new populist hero who would defeat George W. Bush—one week before the Arizona senator pulled out of the race?

The problem with Beltway pundits is that they don’t understand the ordinary people they presume to lead. Their arrogance makes them oblivious to the fact that Al Gore is downright charismatic by comparison to Lieberman. The Connecticut senator cannot save Core’s campaign, and not merely because he voted in favor of visas for “skilled workers,” global free trade, and welfare benefits for immigrants. Not even the fact that he has received substantial funds from Albanian lobbyists ($10,000 from the National Albanian-American PAG in 1994 alone) will necessarily harm this champion of campaign-finance reform.

No, Bush is now safe because Lieberman’s inability to come across as a regular guy, to look like someone with whom you would want to have a beer, exceeds even Gore’s. The mere thought of four years of Gore and Lieberman on the nation’s flickering screens is enough to make Canada seem like an exciting place of exile; it will also be enough to propel Bush and Cheney into the White House.

That is not particularly significant in itself: This year’s presidential choice has been rightly compared to the choice between Coke and Pepsi. The GOP’s soda, while uninspiring, is at least cold and fizzy. With Lieberman on board, the brew offered by the Democrats is even flatter and more tepid than before.