From email@example.com Sun Aug 20 14:11:19 2000
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 00:21:52 -0500 (CDT)
From: MichaelP <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: brit view of gore pledges
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
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
'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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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'.
THE STYLE FILE: GORE AND CLINTON
WILLIAM JEFFERSON BLYTHE CLINTON IV
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.
ALBERT ARNOLD GORE JR
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
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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