WASHINGTON (Jul. 9)
Jewish leaders say that installing U.S. Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.) in the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket will boost Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton’s bid for the presidency, especially among Jewish voters.
They say Gore, who waged an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1988, is a known quantity with a proven track record on issues of importance to the Jewish community, including a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
Gore’s strengths, particularly in foreign policy and the environment, are expected to complement Clinton’s, and will help deliver Democrats the Southern states that have been traditional Republican strongholds and are rich in electoral votes. Meanwhile, Gore and Clinton’s relative youth will bolster their claim that they are the answer to the voters’ call for change. Gore is 44 and Clinton is 45.
“It is a great choice for the party and the country,” said Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), who described Gore as a close friend. “He is extraordinarily able and principled,” said the senator, who himself had been mentioned as a possible running mate. Lieberman half-jokingly called Gore a “very Jewish candidate.” Besides being a strong friend of Israel, he said, there is a “congruence” of views between Gore and Jews on what kind of country this should be, from economic justice to privacy rights.
“He’ll be a big plus,” said Lewis Roth, spokesman for the National Jewish Democratic Council. “He is a dynamic, Southern moderate who is a (leader) on foreign policy and environmental issues. And from a purely political point of view, he gives Clinton security. He’s been through this process and there will be no bombshells.
“He’s very pro-Israel and has a terrific record with the community,” Roth added.
‘ALWAYS BEEN THERE FOR US’
“He makes a very strong candidate,” said Robert Lifton, president of the American Jewish Congress. “He’s young, he’s committed to eliminating environmental problems and he’s very, very supportive of the U.S.-Israel relationship. He’s always been there for us.”
“Jews will go to the ballot box (to vote Democratic) with a great comfort level,” said a top Jewish organizer who requested anonymity.
Gore has consistently voted for U.S. aid to Israel and was a co-sponsor of the proposal to grant guarantees for $10 billion in loans sought by Israel. He has close ties to pro-Israel groups in Tennessee and on the national level. He made his first visit to Israel in 1986 on a trip sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.
Gore found himself in the middle of a storm during the New York state primary in 1988, when, as an underdog, he won the endorsement of then-Mayor Ed Koch over Michael Dukakis, the party’s eventual nominee. Koch praised Gore for his commitment to Israel and to American cities.
But Koch came under fire for saying that Jews would be crazy to vote for the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was also running in the primary. He was criticized by those who charged that a vote for Gore would weaken-Dukakis and translate into a boon for Jackson.
Koch’s endorsement backfired on Gore, who dropped out of the race not long after a stinging defeat in New York.
Jackson, meanwhile, has reacted coolly to the Gore selection, saying two moderates make the ticket imbalanced.
Gore was a key organizer of the first National Jewish Leadership Conference on the Environment, held in March, where he made “a major impact,” according to Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and coordinator of the conference.
He also has drawn national notice for a particularly impassioned speech advocating force in the Persian Gulf last year, a stance that placed him at odds with his party’s leadership. After the war, he took President Bush to task for abandoning the Kurds.
MODERATE ON SECURITY ISSUES
Gore learned politics at the knee of his father, former Sen. Albert Gore Sr. He served in the army in Vietnam, was a reporter in Nashville while attending divinity school at night, and first ran for Congress in 1976.
In the House, Gore was thought of as bright and thoughtful, particularly in science and arms control, and in 1984 he ran successfully for a Senate seat after Howard Baker retired.
In the Senate, he has worked primarily on space, science, environmental and defense issues. He is socially liberal but decidedly moderate when it comes to national security.
Clinton hailed Gore as a “leader of great strength, integrity and stature” who “has what it takes to lead this nation from the day we take office.”
By all appearances, Clinton may find Gore as much of a soulmate as a running mate. “We won’t just be sharing the ticket,” he said. “We will be sharing values of hard work, faith and family.”
Gore, Clinton said, is “a father who, like me, loves his children” and “shares my hunger to turn this country around.” Both, he noted, are married to two of the nation’s top advocates for children.
Gore’s wife, Mary Elizabeth, better known as “Tipper,” is best known for her campaign to get music companies to label records with songs containing offensive lyrics. Hilary Clinton is a prominent attorney and board member of the Children’s Defense Fund, a national children’s advocacy group.
Gore had rejected the idea of running for the presidency this year, citing family considerations. He is the father of four children.
Now, however, Gore appears ripe for the fall campaign.
“This ticket gives our country the best chance for the change we so desperately need to move forward again,” he said.
Gore’s presence on the ticket is expected to blunt claims by the Republican campaign that only a Bush-Quayle ticket represents “family values.”