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From papadop@peak.org Sun Aug 20 14:11:19 2000
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 00:21:52 -0500 (CDT)
From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org>
Subject: brit view of gore pledges
Organization: ?
Article: 103051
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
X-UIDL: @^9!!<>Y!!"e?!!cl6!!

Gore gives America a stark choice

By Ed Vulliamy in Los Angeles, Observer (London)
Sunday 20 August 2000

It was trailed as the most important speech the Vice-President would ever make - the reaction to Gore's pledge to shake off the past and be his own man

Down in the mosh pit, while Al Gore was midway through his coming-out speech, two of his aides slapped a high five; his young and idealistic speechwriter, Eli Attie, and seasoned, cynical 'message guru', Carter Eskew.

'I stand here tonight,' Gore had just told the electrified crowd, 'as my own man'. It was the moment of the passing of the torch, the handover of the leadership of the Democrat Party - and maybe the White House - by the President who had stolen the show on Monday night. His deputy and political 'son' was now delivering the most important speech of his life.

To the delight of Gore's audience and the surprise of many, he rose to the occasion with a declaration of war in a time of peace; with impatience at a time of prosperity and content. Naomi Wolf's 'Alpha Male' had broken free.

The speech was unabashedly populist, a class-conscious battle-cry crafted to forge an abyss between himself and his opponent, George W. Bush, who next day accused Gore of 'class warfare'. Gore cast Bush as a defender of 'powerful interests', while he would champion the 'working families of America'.

It is a high-risk strategy, which enlivens the struggle against Bush. This now becomes - issue for issue, brick by brick - the most politically polarised election since Ronald Reagan's.

'The presidency,' said Gore, 'is more than a popularity contest' - a dig at Bush and, in its way, at Clinton too - 'it is a day-to-day fight for people. There are big choices ahead and a shopping list of reforms in education, health-care, social security, law and order, and our whole future is at stake ... We have got to win this election.' This was not a 'new' Al Gore, but it was - as one of his close aides said - 'as good as he gets', when it mattered most.

Gore took a big gamble last week in Los Angeles. He was forced into it not so much by his own convictions as by the most contorted and complex heredity ever bestowed on a politician - a miasma of personal and political relationships.

Talking to The Observer after the speech, one of Gore's closest aides said: 'It's been so incredibly complicated - like a family fraught with relationships and loyalties pulling and pushing him in all directions. Clinton, Hillary, Monica, the whole White House thing.'

Foremost among those relationships is that with the President, out of whose long shadow Gore had to emerge if he was to live up to the declaration of independence that Attie and Eskew (among others) enjoyed so much.

Last week Clinton cast two contradictory shadows over his protege -- his lambent valediction on Monday night, and the news, leaked on the day of Gore's speech that Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr's successor is considering re-opening the Monica Lewinsky wound.

The President had promised not to step into Gore's spotlight, but he could hardly help being himself. Everyone agreed that Clinton's farewell address was a star performance.

Far from setting the stage for Gore, Clinton staked his own personal claim of credit for America's good times. This is something Clinton has always felt he was due, but not granted, as his obsession with his legacy swings between three moods: contrition, whimsical melancholia and Monday's charismatic self-satisfaction. The mood swings are fast and frequent. Last week Clinton went before the cameras to clutch the hand of a tele-evangelist, describe his embarkation upon a 'new life', beg forgiveness for his 'terrible mistakes' and implore the public not to blame Al Gore.

Meanwhile, staff in the West Wing talk about Clinton's 'dark moods', which often permeate his speeches in lines that resemble those of an emperor who has seen through his own game of power play - such as, 'in 200 years' time, all of us will have been forgotten'.

Then came Monday: Clinton's contrived but effective gladiatorial walk down a tunnel leading to the stage, his shining smile and defiant response to what he took to be a personal affront from George Bush - the notion that he had somehow 'squandered' economic opportunities. It takes that kind of wound - coupled with a sense of occasion - to bring out the magic in Bill Clinton.

All three moods in the Clinton bequest created different and complex challenges for Gore last week. Gore had to maintain his distance from the Lewinsky scandal, but needed also to claim some reward for his part in Clinton's roll-call of achievement. On the other hand, he had to do this in a way that enables him to appear as a leader, not a perennial number two.

He also needed to find his own manifesto - it would not be enough to promise more of the same - especially because Bush thinks that is his line.

There were other pressures too, not least from an even longer shadow across American politics than that of Clinton, and an even more illustrious name - Kennedy. The note sounded by that name was a loud one in Los Angeles last week: it was exactly 40 years ago in LA that John F. Kennedy was nominated by the Democratic convention, announcing the 'New Frontier' in an epic speech which defined the politics and aspirations of a generation.

In the year 2000, the bridge between Clinton's big night and that of Gore's began with the remarkable appearance of four Kennedys during Tuesday, notably the secretive Caroline - sole survivor of JFK's immediate family. Her rare, elegant address was a high water mark of the convention, recalling her father's life and death, and saying: 'Now we are the New Frontier, and now that many of us are doing so well, it is time once again to ask more of ourselves. Much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.'

The leader of the clan, Senator Ted, followed with a coded manifesto for everything that he - as guardian of the party's left wing - believes the Clinton administration should have done but did not, mainly in healthcare and social security.

In an interview with The Observer , the heir to Camelot - Patrick Kennedy, son of Bobby - said he found it 'surreal' to have his relatives take the stage in this way. 'This is not the real world here,' he said. Now in charge of the Democrats' fundraising, Congressman Kennedy added that 'politics is not about the kind of charisma that my father and uncle had; it is about hard work, everyday hard work'.

But all these Kennedy conversations and addresses had one striking feature in common: Clinton was not mentioned. Four decades on, the name Kennedy represented the liberal ideals that Clinton is thought, by the party's left, to have abandoned, or at least sidelined, and which now lodged their claim - from among the party base, at least - with his successor.

The challenge to Gore was to balance this claim - and the need to secure his own, still not conquered, party base - against the battle for the centre-ground votes and the 'undecideds', among whom he trails Bush.

Faced with this labyrinth of complex and contradictory challenges, the stakes were higher than the expectations when Gore took the podium on Thursday to take President Clinton's baton. In the event, Gore took a gamble.

He forged what may emerge as his own brand of unashamed populism, which combined some of Clinton's centrism with a decisive step to the left of the President he has served.

At a time when a largely contented electorate shows little taste for political confrontation, Gore laced Clinton's 'New Democrat' vision with more than a touch of the 'Old'. He blasted big oil, big insurance, big tobacco and big everything in bellicose language that belonged more to Franklin Roosevelt's party of the Thirties than that which Clinton returned to the presidential office eight years ago.

Gore focused not on what the Clinton administration has done, but what it left undone in the lives of those whom pundits call the 'K-Mart voter', whom Gore promised to champion and characterised as 'people trying to make house payments and car payments, working overtime to pay for college and do right by their kids'. Out of the 5,100 words in his speech, only one of them was 'Clinton'. Twenty were 'fight'.

At times, Gore's description of the political landscape even felt like a speech from opposition, rather than from the deputy leader who had painted it.

Indeed, George Bush was quick to spot this on Friday, saying that the 'laundry list' of Gore's proposed reforms 'seems like a reflection on past failures'.

In his best lines, Gore conceded that he appears 'a bit of a policy wonk' and 'won't always be the most exciting politician', but offered a stark contrast to Clinton with a pledge that: 'I will never let you down.'

The list of commitments on children, health insurance, education, guns, abortion and crime was a strident and often ambitious one, and, echoing Caroline Kennedy, Gore promised to 'challenge a culture with too much meanness and not enough meaning'.

In the aftermath of the speech, those around Gore were happy, but wary of the electoral task to which this rhetoric now commits them, and those on the left were pleasantly surprised.

Harold Ickes is the Democrats' left-wing Svengali figure and a long-time foe of Gore (he privately believes Gore cost him the post of Chief of Staff). He conceded to The Observer: 'It was good. The last quarter, very good.'

George Stephanopoulos, a key strategist in both Clinton presidential campaigns, who left Clinton's White House disappointed, told The Observer he thought 'Gore did a good job. Great speech. It's what we've been waiting to hear from him'.

The early polls suggest that America broadly agrees, but the test will come over the next few days. One source close to Gore said that the team felt the 'springboard effect of the convention has to bring Gore within three points of Bush, otherwise we're in big trouble'.




19 August, 1946, three months after his father died. His mother married Roger Clinton four years later.


BA in Foreign Service Georgetown University (1968); Rhodes Scholar to Oxford (1968-70); law degree from Yale (1973); taught law at the University of Arkansas.


No military experience, he was a Vietnam draft-dodger. Defeated in campaign for Congress in Arkansas (1974). Elected Arkansas attorney-general (1976). Governor of Arkansas (1978) - defeated when he ran for second term. Re-elected Governor four years later and remained in office until 1992, when he became President.


Wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton; Daughter, Chelsea, born 1980.

Brushes with the law:

When he leaves office, may be charged with a criminal offence, when a grand jury would hear evidence to decide if Clinton committed a criminal offence by lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.



31 March, 1948, to an affluent, political family. His father was Tennessee's Senator Albert Gore.


B.A. in government, Harvard University (1969); Vanderbilt School of Religion (1971-72); Vanderbilt Law School (1974-1976).


US Army (1969-71), Journalist (1973-76); Congressman from Tennessee (1977-1985); Senator from Tennessee (1985-1993); Vice-President (1993-present). Gore ran for President in 1988 - when he asked for Bill Clinton's support, he was turned down. Clinton became President in 1993 - a quashed Gore had to make do with being 'Veep'.

Last week Gore moved a step to the left of Clinton on welfare and social security policy.


Wife: Mary Elizabeth 'Tipper'. Four children: Karenna, 25; Kristin, 22; Sarah, 20; Albert III, 16.

Brushes with the law:

Confessed to 'rare and infrequent use' of soft drugs in his youth.

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