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Sticking with what works best: Gore, Bush offer contrasting leadership styles

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Like so many of the policy differences between them, the leadership styles of presidential rivals Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore are sharply different in nature, and reflect their longstanding views of how government works best.


In this story:

Gore: A detail man

Bush: avoiding confrontation

Tough decisions



Bush, the Republican nominee, is touting an agenda of broad tax cuts, limiting the role of the federal government and encouraging individual choice and responsibility to solve the nation's problems. Gore, running on eight years of unprecedented economic progress, hopes to harness that boom to directly help those who have been left behind, mainly through government programs.

But those are the campaign promises. Political landscapes change. Congressional lawmakers are often divided and sometimes downright hostile to a president's wishes. In order to overcome those obstacles, both Bush and Gore would seek to fashion a "bully pulpit" based on leadership models that have worked well for them in the past.

Gore's career has been marked by a steady rise through the ranks of national politics: eight years as congressman from rural Tennessee, another eight years as a U.S. senator, and two terms as vice president in the Clinton administration.

He climbed Washington's political ladder by tackling bulky issues -- the environment, arms control, "reinventing government" -- with rigid studiousness and unrelenting drive, gathering bits and pieces from so many sources that he often found himself more informed than his own advisors.

"I think he found issues, especially in his early years in the House, which he felt were not too heavily occupied. And he tried to build a reputation for having some skill, expertise and interest on those issues," said Bruce Oppenheimer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University.

Gore: A detail man

Throughout his career, Gore has also displayed a knack for the mechanics of public policy. He combed through hundreds and hundreds of government efficiency proposals as head of the Clinton administration's "reinventing government" program designed to reduce government waste. Although not the most exciting of administration's early undertakings, Gore clearly relished the task.

That mastery of public policy was clearly evident during the presidential debates as Gore dissected Bush's tax-cut and prescription drug proposals. What's unclear is what impact his impressive detail knowledge would have on his decisions if elected president.

"He's been very active in the Clinton White House but the vice presidency isn't really an executive position," said Fred Greenstein, a presidential leadership specialist at Princeton University. "Gore tends to be something of a loner on procedure, although he's very open on issues and getting information, and surrounding himself with experts."

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CNN's Jonathan Karl interviews Al and Tipper Gore (October 30)

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Critics say that Gore's tendency to delve so deep into subjects could cause him to lose sight of the bigger picture, and hinder his ability to make decisive judgements -- or give decisive answers. Gore is also regarded as a poor communicator when compared to his boss Clinton and rival Bush, who both thrive upon their people skills.

When Gore and Clinton came under scrutiny for making fund-raising calls from the White House during the 1996 election cycle, Gore poured over records, huddled with lawyers, and concluded that there "was no controlling legal authority." Clinton flatly denied any impropriety.

But others see Gore's devotion to pouring over issues great and small as an attribute rather than liability.

"He's not a perfect case, but he has some very real political skills. Some of them are policy expertise skills, some are bargaining skills, some of them are just an enjoyment of working as hard as he's got to work at this sort of stuff," said Oppenheimer.

Staffers in a Gore White House could expect to work 18-hour days to meet the same demands the president would likely place upon himself. Seeking to convey his stamina for the job to American voters, the vice president campaigned for 27 continuous hours during the Labor Day weekend -- an "American Workathon." He will likely match that feat during the days leading up to the Nov. 7 election.

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But Gore' discipline will likely be tested if Congress continues to be narrowly divided between Republicans and Democrats. The GOP is expected to retain control of the Senate, but the party's six-seat advantage in the House of Representatives could be narrowed or erased on Election Day.

"While he was an important figure in both the House and Senate, it was as a policy advocate, not as a coalition builder who made strong alliances on the other side of the aisle," said Greenstein. He said Gore would rely on running mate Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut senator well respected on both sides of the aisle, to smooth over partisan tensions.

Bush: avoiding confrontation

Pointing to his own record dealing with a Democrat-controlled Texas legislature, Bush has cast himself as a president who would be a "uniter not a divider." Often times, the GOP nominee hits the campaign trail with a cadre of Texas Democrats who sing the praises of Bush's willingness to work with them -- and share the credit -- on passing education reform, tort reform and balanced budgets.

Much has been made of Bush's relationship with Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, a crusty Democrat who died in 1998. Bush intensely courted Bullock after his 1994 election and the two developed a harmonious relationship, with Bush -- as he liked to do with most legislators -- often unexpectedly dropping by Bullock's office to talk strategy.

There's the now almost legendary story of an angry Bullock telling Bush during a 1997 meeting: "I'm going to f--- you on this bill." Bush, unfazed by his rival's declaration, reportedly walked over and wrapped his arms around Bullock and responded: "You're gonna kiss me first." On his deathbed, Bullock is said to have told Bush that he would make a good president.

Scholars say that Bush, who reads people extremely well, would likely try a similar approach with Democrats in Congress, holding one-on-one meetings with lawmakers in a bid to bargain and flatter his way toward consensus.

It is a toned-down version of the "treatment" that President Lyndon Johnson successfully applied on lawmakers, with Bush attempting to cajole his opponents in instances where LBJ would have intimidated them. Some doubt that Bush would be able to match his Texas feat on a more complex and partisan national stage.

"(Senate Democratic leader) Tom Daschle will not be a natural ally of President Bush," says Earl Black, a political scientist and presidential scholar at Rice University. "…The difference is going to be that he'll have to look to find a Bob Bullock. That will be a search."

 VIDEO
CNN's Jonathan Karl follows the actions of the two presidential candidates as they approach their final week of campaigning

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CNN's Garrick Utley explains the intricacies of the Electoral College

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Bush has less experience in Washington than Gore does, and has a clear distaste for formal meetings and cumbersome policy details upon which his Democratic rival seems to thrive.

Scholars contend that Bush, with his Harvard MBA, would run the White House like a classic business executive. He would delegate large swaths of power to a high-profile staff of trusted hands such as Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice -- who served under his father. A Republican version of President Kennedy's "best and the brightest."

Bush, as he told the New York Times, believes it is his job to direct the "broad strokes of policy" and leave most of the details to others. Such a dependence on staff has led many to characterize the Texas governor as empty-headed, a label that Greenstein believes is false. Bush has demonstrated a proclivity toward issues such as education and Social Security reform, but struggles to keep an interest in a number of others.

"Bush does remarkably well by having advisors, but Bush is very resistant to get deep into most issues … he leans over so far backwards not to be a micromanager, he makes such a virtue of it," Greenstein says.

Tough decisions

Bush has the reputation of preferring short memos and short presentations by staff, often asking those briefing him to close their books and simply tell him what is important. With such a heavy reliance on advisors, Bush likely will be challenged with discerning the good advice from the bad, and making tough decisions when top aides disagree. For Gore, the challenge will be keeping sight on the bigger perspective, and acting accordingly.

Scholars point to crucial moments in history such as the Cuban Missile Crisis as a classic leadership moment. President Kennedy's advisors were evenly split whether to go ahead with ground strikes against nuclear installations on the communist island, or give Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev the opportunity to back off. With such contrasting leadership styles, it is hard to imagine what a President George W. Bush, or President Al Gore would choose to do.


Related stories:

Education a linchpin for presidential platforms

Gore, Bush health care solutions reflect disparate visions of government's role

Long untouchable, Social Security becomes a major campaign topic

Gore, Bush reap benefits of booming economy on campaign trail

Specter of McCain haunts Bush, Gore on campaign finance reform



More than one White House occupant has been known to lament that the presidency is loneliest job in the world. Both candidates have seen the job up close and are seemingly aware of such pitfalls.

Both men will campaign vigorously in the closing days of what could be the closest presidential election since Kennedy edged Richard Nixon in 1960. Bush has said that he won't be crushed if loses his bid for the job on Election Day. And Gore?

"If Gore loses this election, he's not going to go back into the woodwork," Oppenheimer predicts. "He will remain in some capacity in public life, maybe even think of running again depending on what happens in the next four years. My sense is that if Bush loses, he'll leave the Texas governor's office in two years, and he won't be in public life again."

 



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Monday, October 30, 2000


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