The Magazine

PRESIDENT GORE?

Sep 21, 1998, Vol. 4, No. 02 • By TUCKER CARLSON
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THERE IS A POINT AT WHICH EVEN James Carville runs out of spin. Until recently, that point existed only in theory. Then, last week, Ken Starr submitted his report on the Lewinsky investigation to Capitol Hill and the normally talkative consultant seemed to run out of things to say. So, Carville was asked the day after the report arrived, who do you think will be in the Gore administration? Carville didn't even muster a dismissive chortle. "Call somebody else," he said.


Carville is a Clinton partisan, so his unwillingness to talk about the possible aftermath of the president's impeachment or resignation is not surprising. What is surprising is how willing some Gore advisers have been to speculate (provided they're not identified by name) about what will happen if Gore becomes president before the year 2000. Gore is famous for his loyalty to Clinton and for his refusal, even in private, to criticize his boss. "For four years I was with [Gore] as much as anyone," says a recently departed aide, "and I never heard him say a thing about what he really thought of Clinton, even when I asked him leading questions. Nothing." Still, there is evidence of hairline cracks in the Clinton-Gore relationship, beginning with their views on foreign policy.


During his years in the Senate, Gore often boasted of his extensive knowledge of world affairs, and he is widely thought to be unimpressed with Clinton's scattershot, inattentive, and weak foreign policy. If Gore were to become president, says someone who has helped form his positions, "you'd see a tougher foreign policy. Gore is-more interested in foreign policy, more inclined to use military force." Gore is said to be particularly dismayed by the administration's decision to suspend vigorous inspections of Iraqi chemical-weapons sites. "You have to interpret the rolling of the eyes," says a close friend who has talked to Gore about the subject recently. "I've seen eye-rolling."


A number of advisers claim Gore is also dissatisfied with the ineffectual performance of Madeleine Albright. "If Madeleine Albright remained secretary of state" during a Gore administration, says one, "she'd be even more symbolic and flatulent than she is now." Fearful of criticism from organized feminists (who pushed Clinton into appointing Albright over George Mitchell in the first place), Gore probably wouldn't go looking for a new secretary of state. Instead, he'd likely bring in a more hawkish national security adviser -- or at least fire the present one. "There's a vast gap between Sandy Berger's view of the world and his," says a Gore intimate.


Most other high-level Clinton appointees would be safe in the first months of a Gore administration. When Clinton is forced to leave office prematurely, says someone who knows the vice president, "it's going to be such a traumatic event, it will reinforce Gore's native caution. I doubt he'd go out willy-nilly firing cabinet members." Nor, says another Gore aide, could he afford to: "There are a lot of politics behind the cabinet. You're not going to [replace commerce secretary William] Daley because of Chicago, [energy secretary Bill] Richardson just got there, and you don't knock off Madeleine [Albright] because you don't want to offend the women's groups. Within the next year, people will start to leave on their own." Treasury secretary Robert Rubin is rumored to be on his way out already, to be replaced perhaps by Jim Johnson, departing head of Fannie Mae. As for Janet Reno, says someone who works for Gore, "now that she's investigating him, she's got the safest job in town."