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Al Gore: Getting Revenge, Making History

Al Gore: Getting Revenge, Making History

By Undernews Editor Sam Smith

AL GORE'S ENDORSEMENT of Howard Dean gives the former vice president a chance to revenge the damage Bill Clinton did to his political career. The relationship between Clinton and Gore was always far more complicated that the media understood.

In the run-up to the 1996 campaign there were even hints that Gore or his staff were attempting to edge the already scandal-ridden Clinton out of the race. Certainly some of Gore's people were known to be unusually interested in anti-Clinton material. One solid sign that something dramatic was afoot came with the unprecedented appointment of a key Gore man, Jack Quinn, as White House counsel. Another Gore man, Peter Knight, was given a key campaign role. A fair inference is that Quinn was placed there as part of a deal that allowed Gore direct knowledge of how the scandals were developing. As Gore said at the time, "As both my friend and close advisor for many years, he has consistently provided me with counsel that is steady, wise, and greatly valued," a service he presumably continued to provide during the little more than the campaign year that he served under Clinton. In October 1996, Gore was fully back on board, pronouncing that "I think the ethical standards established in this White House have been the highest in the history of the White House."

In the run-up to the 2000 election, the shoe was on the other foot. As we reported at the time, "Veteran Washington correspondent Sarah McLendon reports that the Clintons are talking about who should succeed the Vice President if Gore is forced to resign. If McLendon's story is correct, it represents a significant turnabout in the covert, complex relationship between the Veep and Clinton. Prior to the 1996 campaign there were hints that Gore or his staff was orchestrating efforts to edge Clinton out of the race. . . Then came Gore's campaign finance scandal and the inelegant manner in which he and his aides have handled it -- including the disingenuous argument that a fundraiser was actually a 'donor maintenance' event. Now, according to McLendon, the shoe is on the other foot and the Clintons spent much of their vacation discussing the future of Gore."

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In short, whereas in 1996 Gore had been in a position to pressure Clinton, now the president had some goods on his obstreperous veep. And it was not just the Buddhist temple contribution affair. It had been discovered that in January 1989 Gore, while a senator from Tennessee, had gone to Asia with the now notorious John Huang. The trip was funded by Fo Kwang Shan, the Buddhist organization that ran the temple where the DNC picked up those interesting checks from nuns and such.

Then there was the photo with Al Gore and a major drug dealer - Jorge Cabrera who gave $20,000 to the DNC -- at a Miami fund-raiser, a fact the Clinton administration initially attempted to conceal with the argument that a publicity shot with the veep was covered by the privacy act. Cabrera had been indicted in 1983 by a federal grand jury -- on racketing and drug charges -- and again in 1988, when he was accused of managing a continuing narcotics operation. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges and served 54 months on prison.

Obviously Gore was not in a good position to lecture Clinton, but in 1998 he went much further: "A short time ago, I spoke to the President and told him that Tipper and I have him and his family in our hearts and in our prayers. Along with the rest of the country, I watched the President's televised address in which he took full responsibility for his actions and apologized to the nation. I am proud of him -- not only because he is a friend -- but because he is a person who has had the courage to acknowledge mistakes."

If at this key moment, and subsequently, Gore had distanced himself morally from the president, the results of the 2000 election would probably have been quite different. Although the media mythology is that the Clinton scandals were not a factor, the exit polls show quite the contrary;

- Asked which qualities mattered most, honesty topped the list at 24% with only 15% of Gore voters saying so but 80% of Bush voters. No other issue showed such a split.

- 60% of all voters had an unfavorable opinion of Clinton as a voter, and 68% said he would go down in the history books for his scandals rather than his leadership.

44% thought the Clinton scandals were very or somewhat important.

Although the media diligently suppressed this aspect of the campaign, few things Gore could have done would have made as much difference as separating his moral views from those of Clinton. He would have, in all likelihood, have won.

Today, the Clintons and their capos, along with the crypto-conservatives of the Democratic Leadership Council, still have inordinate influence within the Democratic Party despite clear evidence that their administration was a disaster to the party in terms of lost public offices at every level - the worst of any incumbent Democratic president since Grover Cleveland. In short, Clinton saved the White House for himself and blew everything else, including his party's future. Further, Democratic margins in the Senate, House and governorships have been on a long-term down trend that became more pronounced with the Reagan administration and the rise of the copycat conservatives within the Democratic Party.

The Dean campaign has raised a serious challenge to the insider losers of the Democratic party. Whereas Clinton was selected by a small group of Washington establishment figures after scores of private meetings - at which Gore was interviewed as well - the Dean campaign is the product of what some cyber theorists call a stupid network (or what the non-technological would call a movement), one that, like the Internet, forms and reproduces itself without a strong hierarchy. There is simply no Pamela Harriman calling the shots behind the scenes as there was in the case of the Clinton selection.

The Dean campaign is also different because it may revive a sort of populist Democratic politics not seen since the Lyndon Johnson era. On Fox News, Dean asked, "Why can't we talk about jobs, health care and education which is what we all have in common, instead of allowing the Republicans to consistently divide us by talking about guns, God, gays, abortion and all this controversial social stuff that we're not going to come to an agreement on?" It is the question that the conservative copycat Democrats have been afraid to ask for years and so have driven the party into being a pale imitation of the very thing it wants to defeat.

The Dean campaign is even different from another renegade effort, that of Jimmy Carter, because, in the end, Dean himself may not be that important to what is happening. The Washington media worrying intensely about his statements or his policies miss the point; Dean is really just the excuse for his supporters to come together. Interestingly, the closest parallel may be John F. Kennedy who wasn't much of a president, but got a lot of other people excited and doing and believing things they wouldn't have had he not been around.

Al Gore obviously senses that something different is taking place. He sometimes reminds one of the nursery rhyme:

There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good,
She was very, very good
And when she was bad
She was horrid.

Seeking to recover from his abusive relationship with the Clintons, and even to pay them back, Gore realizes that the Dean campaign is unlike anything we have seen for a long time. And it's not all that often that you can get revenge and make history on the same day.


Dec 9 , 2003
From the Progressive Review
Edited by Sam Smith
Since 1964, Washington's most unofficial source
1312 18th St. NW #502, Washington DC 20036
202-835-0770 Fax: 835-0779


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