The Magazine

"Win One for the Groper"?;

Why Gore is right to be wary of Clinton's help

Nov 6, 2000, Vol. 6, No. 08 • By TUCKER CARLSON
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Clinton is a problem for Gore. But that doesn't mean Gore ought to pretend they never worked together. You'd assume that every Gore speech -- whether about the economy or foreign policy or the space program -- would revolve around a single talking point: "During the eight years I've been vice president, America has become far more prosperous than it was." This is a simple argument. It would be effective. It is even, technically speaking, true. For some reason Gore rarely makes it.

Gore watchers attribute this, too, to the psychodrama. Gore can't stand to be reminded of Clinton, even when talking about Clintonism would help him. "He wants to win as his 'own man,'" says one Democratic strategist. "Why not just win?"

The irony in all this, as a number of Democrats watching from the sidelines point out, is that in trying to run as his own man, Gore has often turned the conversation back to Clinton. Gore's announcement speech last June, for instance, was almost entirely overshadowed by Gore's own efforts to distance himself from Clinton's marital problems. "They actually called reporters about it," growls someone who watched it happen. "Gore's message became: 'Let me talk to you about how I've decided I'm against adultery.'"

The other problem with Gore's reluctance to talk about his role in the Clinton administration is that it leaves him little to talk about. For months, Gore devoted a large portion of his stump speech to his biography. This was a calculated attempt to "reintroduce" himself to voters. But the person who Gore reintroduced wasn't very impressive. Gore didn't play up the highlights of his eight years as vice president, his work shaping welfare reform, or fighting for NAFTA. Instead, he prattled on about his years as reporter on a mediocre regional newspaper. He sounded phonier than ever.

He still sounds that way. Except weirder. Gore seems to have decided that instead of talking about his career as vice president, he will talk about his personal life -- the experience of being "his own man." As the election looms closer, Gore talks about his Own Man-ness in more and more detail. The stories become less convincing the more detailed they get.

Last week, Gore gave an interview to Queen Latifah, a former rap singer who has gone into the talk show business. Latifah asked Gore if he had ever "worn leather pants." No, Gore said. But he did once have a leather vest. He wore it when he rode his motorcycle. And boy, did he ride his motorcycle. One time in Boston, Gore said, he put three people on the back of it. Apparently that didn't sit well with the local fuzz. "There was a blue light, and I can't say for sure that they were coming after us. Just on the off chance that they were we cut through an alleyway." The cops blew past. Gore lived to cruise the boulevard another day. "I look back on those days and I feel like I'm very lucky to have survived." Al Gore as Marlon Brando? He'd be better off defending Clinton.

Tucker Carlsonn is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.