Jewish World Review Dec. 10, 2003 / 15 Kislev, 5764
Gore acting on principle?
Former Vice President Al Gore's early endorsement of Howard Dean makes some
wonder what Al is thinking, and proves beyond argument that Dean is thinking
better than his rivals are.
The Gore endorsement also suggests that real power in the Democratic Party
today lies not with the party's regulars, but with left-wing special
interest groups whose deep pockets compensate for the harm Democrats did to
themselves when they embraced the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform
Gore's embrace of the former Vermont governor provides Dean with a sheen of
establishment approval. That sheen is more apparent than real. Gore has
gotten the Rodney Dangerfield treatment from most Democratic poobahs,
because he lost, and because most Democratic insiders think he ran a lousy
Gore personifies the anger that has propelled Dean to a widening lead. Gore,
understandably, is more upset than any other Democrat with the outcome of
the 2000 election. He is annoyed with the Clintons for slights when he was
vice president, and, understandably, is more inclined to blame his defeat on
the Clinton baggage he had to carry than on his own missteps.
And Gore's pride was hurt because other Democratic presidential candidates
were not actively seeking his advice and support. Dean may have gotten
Gore's endorsement chiefly because he was the only one who solicited it.
Gore's endorsement helps in Iowa. Democratic activists think more highly of
the former vice president than do the party's leaders. But the primary
benefit for Dean of Gore's endorsement was the explosion of favorable
publicity in what may be the last week before voters divert their attention
from politics to the Christmas holidays. This will prevent any of his rivals
from gaining traction.
The timing of the Gore endorsement was impeccable. Coming as it did on the
day of a Democratic debate, it guaranteed that the endorsement - and not
Dean bashing - would be the major topic at the debate.
So what's in it for Al?
First, attention. Outside the Dean campaign, the number of Democrats
thinking about Gore these last few months could be counted on fingers and
toes. Now Al is back on the evening news. Fame is fleeting, but it is balm
to a bruised ego.
Second, ambition. Gore would still very much like to be president. If a
Democrat other than Dean wins the nomination and loses to Bush, Hillary
Clinton will be the odds on favorite for the nomination in 2008.
If Dean is nominated, he could choose Gore to replace Clinton apparatchik
Terry McAuliffe as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a post
that would give Gore a platform from which to lay the groundwork for a
campaign against Hillary, a campaign in which he, presumably, could have the
grateful support of activists supporting Dean this time.
If Dean is routed, Gore's near victory in 2000 will look awfully good by
comparison. Gore might enjoy reminding people that he got more votes, and a
higher percentage of the vote, than Bill Clinton ever did.
And if Dean should win, Gore could be secretary of state, a handsome booby
Gore isn't as smart as he imagines himself to be, but he's no dummy. He's
no doubt noticed that real power in the Democratic Party has shifted to
left-liberal special interest groups like MoveOn. Org, which can accept the
big buck donations from fat cats like George Soros that the McCain-Feingold
law forbids the Democratic party from taking.
These organizations are flush with cash, while the Democratic National
Committee scratches for bucks to finance its national convention in Boston,
and South Carolina Democrats wonder how they can pay for what could be a
pivotal primary. With organizations like these behind him, Gore could
counter the prodigious fund-raising abilities of the Clintons.
Though journalists are loath to attribute anything but cynical motives to
politicians, Gore's endorsement of Dean may also have been fueled by
principle. Gore has been - or at least has appeared to be - a centrist
Democrat for most of his career. But the real Al Gore may well be the
Radical Al of "Earth in the Balance". He may have been a Deanie-beanie all
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
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