INTERVIEW WITH VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE

© 1996 Hedrick Smith Productions, Inc.


Clinton: Learning the Presidency and Relations with Congress

Gore: Senator Dole who was in the minority leader in the Senate, said in a matter of fact way, even a congenial way; you're not gonna get a single Republican vote for your economic plan. Many many months before a package is even put together, before you have any idea what the merits of the proposal might be, and whether it's good for the country or bad for the country, even at that early stage before you know any of that to say in advance, you will not get a single vote from this political party because its pure partisan opposition. I don't want to sound like the character in Casablanca who said he was "shocked, shocked" but really I did find it a little shocking because it was so purely partisan.

Party Unity vs. Lone Rangers and Renegades

Gore: Well, what I appealed to was a set of common beliefs, more than the party label. But there's no doubt that over several decades, especially since the introduction of television advertising and the raising of large amounts of money be-- individual candidates run their own campaigns. That's the glue that's holds people into political parties the same way they used to be in political parties. Not quite as strong as it once was.

The Need For Bipartisanship

Gore: I think reason number one that it didn't go the way we wanted it to was that it was a very tough nut to crack. I think that's reason number one. Number two, the interest groups that were lined up against change had lots of resources to put a lot of advertising on the air. to cultivate influence with a lot of people in the House and Senate, to line up votes against the kind of change we were advocating. And we just couldn't get the votes for them.

HS: Was the Cooper plan a real problem? In terms of what was out there?

Gore: It provided for a time, a place where some Democrats and some moderate Republicans could park themselves and say we're in favor of health care reform but a different kind than what the President's pursuing. To that extent, it made our job more difficult. A larger group made up of people who wanted to stop the President's reforms and felt that pushing an alternative that wasn't going to go anywhere any way was an effective, if cynical way, to -- uh -- strengthen the forces opposed to the President's plan.

Presidency: Power and Myth

The institution of the Presidency has an advantage against the institution of the Congress in a high stakes showdown. Harry Truman once said that most of the time spent by any President is in trying to persuade people to do what they ought to want to do any way the right thing. Then get them to do it. The power of the President is the power to persuade. I think that's really true. But there's no doubt that a narrow margin of victory makes it more difficult to persuade enough people to go along with everything you want to do.

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© 1996 Hedrick Smith Productions, Inc.