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Confusion in Camp?

By Christina S. Lewis

Al Gore must be shaking with restrained delight. Why, you ask? Right now, it doesn't seem like he has much to chuckle about. His post-convention bounce (which put him nearly 10 points ahead of Bush) has evened out into a statistical neck-and-neck. Yes, it looks like the debates will fall out in his favor, but Dubya could easily come from behind armed with the "character issue" and take home the pie. The election looks to be the tightest and most competitive in recent history. So why is Gore so happy? Because finally, finally, finally, he's no longer number two. Imagine being a respectable, monogamous, married gentleman from a well-established southern family. Now imagine spending eight years as the subordinate to a randy Arkansas governor. Finally, Al Gore is no longer identified as the President's drone, I mean, clone. Clinton who?

But apparently, someone forgot to pass the Clinton camp that memo. At a reception I happened to hear Norman Mineta, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, say that if Gore were elected, "He hoped to be on for another four years." Interesting that one of the men in charge of the country doesn't realize that the last thing Gore wants around if elected is a former member of the Clinton administration--other than himself.

Professor of Government Paul E. Peterson agrees. "[Former V.P.s become president] pretty much start over. Few feel constrained to keep someone from the previous cabinet, unless it is a luminary. No one fits the bill this time around."

So how did Secretary Mineta get this crazy idea? Well, perhaps Bill and Al are having some communication issues. It wouldn't be the first time. Gore and Clinton did not seem to be totally in sync during the convention. The New York Times reported that Clinton raised almost as much money for his presidential library as Gore did for his election. After that, Clinton left the country to tour Africa leaving Gore centerstage. He is limiting himself to Millenium Summits and other goodwill endeavors that are appropriate for a President but where little occurs except photo-ops.

It seems, however, that some in-fighting may remain among their little people. Each camp seems to be saying something different. Devona Dolliole, Deputy National Spokesperson for the Gore/Lieberman campaign, chose not to comment on Al Gore's potential cabinet. However, as she was no-commenting she made a couple of (Freudian) slips. She called Democratic nominee the V.P. and then promptly corrected herself. "I mean Al Gore," she said. I guess they're hoping people will forget that big bad Bill Clinton is still Gore's boss.

She then referred to Bill Clinton as the V.P.

A few moments later, spokesperson Jason Schecter assured me that the Clinton-Gore relationship had not changed at all in the eight years they had worked together. He said that Gore "and Clinton talk frequently. He [Gore] is, after all, a part of the Clinton administration."

When I asked Dolliole to comment on the relationship between Al and Bill, she was less forthcoming, "Mr. Gore is trying to focus on the campaign right now."

So Gore is secretly telling people that Clinton is the true number two while Clinton is whispering to members of his administration like Mineta that Gore will retain them once elected. I guess those two are on the same page.

So who's right? Well, those like Mineta who are hoping to be kept on will most likely be disappointed. Presidents far more influential than Clinton have tried and failed to extend their presidential influence after their terms ended. It never worked. Teddy Roosevelt, one of the most popular Presidents ever, practically handpicked his successor Taft. Once in office, however, Taft ceased to be the former-President's pawn and replaced all of Teddy's people with lawyers. Of course, Teddy was livid and journeyed back from his African safari to run for President again. He lost.

You can't take it with you.

Secretary Norman Mineta, however, still has reason to hope. Many former VPs have kept the former president's cabinet when the president died or was deposed during office. Mineta can always pray for Clinton to catch a sudden case of pneumonia as Harrison did from making a speech without a hat on. Or, since Ford did keep all of Nixon's cabinet, he can hope for a second impeachment.

If Mineta would rather not harbor such macabre illusions there is always another chance. According to Brett Flehinger, Professor of History, there are cases of members of the cabinet going on to be elected President (like President Hoover). So if Gore is elected and decides to ask for Mineta's resignation, he can always run to become the big cheese himself in 2004. Here's to hoping.

Christina S. Lewis '02, a Crimson executive, is a history and literature concentrator in Leverett House.

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