In the Democratic Primary, W.W.A.G.D.?
[Feeling bereft after your favorite candidate has dropped out? Partisanship got you down? Need help deciding whether to raise your children Democratic or Republican? Send your question to Stumped. Questions may be edited.]
What is the deal with Al Gore? Is he going to sit out this campaign -- or even retire from politics altogether? -- after backing Howard Dean in 2004? What is the proper etiquette for the former vice president? Could he endorse the spouse of the man who made him vice president?
Al Gore's feelings about this election must be complicated (as I have written before). Given his politics in recent years, and reports of lingering resentment toward the Clintons, I can see how the former vice president may be rooting for Barack Obama. Maybe he'll still endorse him. That would be a huge coup for Obama, obviously, and a move of greater consequence than Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean in the 2004 primaries. For one, Gore has more stature than he did four years ago. And an endorsement now would be a direct insult to the Clintons, whereas his 2004 decision was only a slight against his hapless 2000 running mate, Joe Lieberman.
Still, as much as Gore may want to make a difference and may be tempted to deploy some of his considerable moral authority -- it tends to pile up when the Supreme Court denies you the presidency and you go on to win a Nobel Peace Prize -- I believe it would be a mistake for him to enter the arena.
I say this reluctantly. Not because I care about how many endorsements Obama collects or whether they help him, but because I believe people should be free to speak their minds, and because a Gore endorsement of anyone other than Hillary (his co-vice president for eight years) would make for riveting drama.
But a Gore endorsement of Obama, however it played in the short term, would diminish the former vice president's stature as a statesman. In 2004, when Gore endorsed Dean, Bill Clinton stayed on the sidelines, playing the role of party elder statesman. Now that Clinton has shed his post-presidential gravitas to become just another political hack, Gore has an opening: He can be the guy that settles intramural spats instead of exacerbating them. He can be the Democratic Party's Official Grownup.
There is also the issue of loyalty. A number of former presidents and their vice presidents haven't been especially close during or after their terms. Dwight Eisenhower famously said that he could probably point to a notable achievement by his vice president, Richard Nixon -- if given a week to think about it. Lyndon Johnson's relationship with the Kennedys was always fraught, as was as his relationship with Hubert Humphrey.
Still, endorsing Hillary Clinton's opponent would be bad form for Gore. He would probably be just another senator (ask Chris Dodd or Joe Biden what that gets you in Iowa) if Clinton hadn't tapped him to be his running mate in 1992. Gore's endorsement of Obama would strike millions of Americans as a petulant, ungrateful act.
It wouldn't be the first time his alleged disdain for the Clintons got the best of him. Indeed, one reason he lost his bid to succeed Clinton in 2000 was that Monicagate and the impeachment saga left him unable to boast as much as he might have about his own administration's impressive record. He barely allowed Clinton to campaign much on his behalf.
Gore shouldn't compound that error by crossing the Clintons again. He may not have wielded as much power as Dick Cheney -- not even George Bush can claim that! -- but Gore was a respected and influential member of the Clinton team. To endorse the man running against his former commander-in-chief's spouse would help obscure this fact, suggesting he has far more concrete reasons for his sour grapes.
Of course, there are no fixed rules for any of this, since the Clintons' dynastic ambitions are so novel. In my view, the rule of thumb should be this: Vice presidents owe some deference to family members of the president who moved them into the Old Executive Office Building. Not all family members, mind you -- just immediate family and first cousins. And not full deference, mind you -- just enough not to endorse their opponents.
Gore doesn't need to endorse Obama to assert his independence or signal that he has issues with the Clintons. His neutrality in itself -- the fact that he is not on the campaign trail for Clinton -- speaks volumes. And having watched Bill Clinton recently diminish himself by engaging in the messiness of primary politics, Gore should capitalize on the opportunity to supplant his former boss as the party's titular head, hovering benevolently above the fray. That's how he can get the last laugh.
Help me out here. My candidate (John Edwards) has just dropped out of the race, but before he did he got "pledges" from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that they would make his priority (fighting poverty) their own. So now I have to choose between Hillary and Obama.
I know you don't tell people how to vote, but I see precious little difference between the two on policy, at least on policies that matter to me. So I find myself making my decision based on which one I just like better -- and that's Obama. Is this so wrong? I know everyone said Bush was more "likeable" than Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004, and we all know how that worked out, so I'm wary of basing my vote on this. But honestly, what else do we have to go on? Especially if, as can be expected, the remaining candidate incorporates former opponents' issues into his or her platform? Aren't character and integrity and all that stuff more important anyway?
Dear Mr. Personality,
I think everyone is having a hard time discerning meaningful policy differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, which is why so much time is spent on trivial matters like the non-handshake at the State of the Union address. I believe Freud called this the "narcissism of small differences."
To answer your question: Yes, go with your gut. The Bush-Gore comparison is flawed, because in 2000 only Naderites failed to see that a Bush presidency and a Gore presidency would be vastly different. I believe ideological affinity trumps beer-drinking compatibility (and with Bush, I realize, that's non-alcoholic beer). But when the two candidates are on the same page (yours), vote for the one you'd like to hang out with. It's okay. Really.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: uibfrdt pcki | April 5, 2008 7:53 PM
Posted by: mkqhx qkgaxt | April 5, 2008 7:53 PM
Posted by: wqxaniy ucozirykw | April 5, 2008 7:53 PM
Posted by: oqby jfhxpnl | April 5, 2008 7:51 PM
Posted by: russian sex | April 3, 2008 7:22 PM
Posted by: steve perry - for the love of strange medicine | March 15, 2008 6:53 AM
Posted by: domain hosting | March 6, 2008 9:58 PM
Posted by: irculfgvj fimd | March 6, 2008 7:31 PM
Posted by: hdncyeo cjisrot | March 6, 2008 7:30 PM
Posted by: Elizabeth | February 18, 2008 3:59 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | February 7, 2008 2:01 PM
Posted by: Bucinka8 | February 5, 2008 9:57 AM
Posted by: Brian in NYC | February 4, 2008 7:24 PM
Posted by: DavidFlorida | February 4, 2008 10:14 AM
Posted by: cyberella | February 3, 2008 6:16 PM
Posted by: maxstar | February 3, 2008 4:43 PM
Posted by: Alan MacDonald | February 2, 2008 10:20 PM
Posted by: rcwkent | February 2, 2008 4:27 PM
Posted by: Dean A. Genth | February 2, 2008 10:21 AM
Posted by: Bob | February 1, 2008 11:45 PM
Posted by: Sandra | February 1, 2008 7:27 PM
Posted by: Paul R | February 1, 2008 6:18 PM
Posted by: Kevin | February 1, 2008 6:16 PM
Posted by: jps78 | February 1, 2008 5:58 PM
Posted by: agirm | February 1, 2008 5:10 PM
Posted by: T | February 1, 2008 4:35 PM
Posted by: lockheed | February 1, 2008 4:27 PM
Posted by: Fairness4All | February 1, 2008 2:57 PM
Posted by: monet11744 | February 1, 2008 2:14 PM
Posted by: stan | February 1, 2008 1:50 PM
Posted by: david | February 1, 2008 12:56 PM
Posted by: tenley | February 1, 2008 12:39 PM
Posted by: Jim | February 1, 2008 12:22 PM
Posted by: Zugernaut | February 1, 2008 12:19 PM
Posted by: NYC Steve | February 1, 2008 12:14 PM
Posted by: NYC Steve | February 1, 2008 12:11 PM
Posted by: clark | February 1, 2008 11:33 AM
Posted by: bannerscwt | February 1, 2008 11:22 AM
Posted by: muskrat | February 1, 2008 10:20 AM
Posted by: Elizabeth8 | February 1, 2008 9:43 AM
Posted by: mikel | February 1, 2008 9:16 AM
Posted by: Gene | February 1, 2008 8:53 AM
Posted by: PJ123 | February 1, 2008 8:38 AM
Posted by: Creamy Goodness | February 1, 2008 8:33 AM
Posted by: Luke | February 1, 2008 8:05 AM
Posted by: ellenlawson | February 1, 2008 7:51 AM
Posted by: Bo | February 1, 2008 7:05 AM
Posted by: Tony | February 1, 2008 7:03 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2008 6:25 AM
Posted by: woody21 | February 1, 2008 4:44 AM
Posted by: John Y.Cheng | February 1, 2008 4:39 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2008 4:28 AM
Posted by: XYZ | February 1, 2008 4:07 AM
Posted by: CBP | February 1, 2008 2:44 AM
Posted by: cleal | February 1, 2008 2:26 AM
Posted by: msd1 | February 1, 2008 2:24 AM
Posted by: Robert James | February 1, 2008 1:41 AM
Posted by: tropiburguer | February 1, 2008 1:15 AM
Posted by: MARTIN EDWIN ANDERSEN | February 1, 2008 1:05 AM
Posted by: jhbyer | February 1, 2008 12:50 AM
Posted by: kyblue1220 | February 1, 2008 12:29 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.