Biography: Gore's road from Tennessee to the White House
June 16, 1999
Web posted at: 12:11 p.m. EDT (1611 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 16) -- More than most vice presidents, Al Gore has carved out a niche for himself as a full partner in a presidential administration.
|Chat: Vice President Gore's first online conversation as an official presidential candidate, Thursday at 4:50 p.m. EDT.
When Bill Clinton named him as his running mate in July 1992, Gore brought impressive experience to the table, including service in the House and Senate, serious environmental credentials and expertise in science, space policy and emerging communication technologies. Gore also is close in age and ideology to his boss.
Early on, Clinton tapped Gore to conduct a comprehensive survey of the entire federal government, with an eye toward eliminating waste and cutting costs. The result was the National Performance Review report. Clinton and Gore take credit for downsizing the federal government, though critics say much of the reduction was due to post-Cold War cuts in the military, not meaningful cuts in bureaucracy.
The 1992 Democratic ticket
One highlight of Gore's first term as vice president was his successful defense of NAFTA in a November 1993 debate with Ross Perot on "Larry King Live." Gore got the better of the feisty Texan, saying it was "a choice between pessimism and optimism ... We're not a nation of quitters."
The environment is another of the vice president's particular concerns. His 1992 campaign coincided with the publishing of "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit," his best-selling book on the environment. In the Clinton Administration, Gore has been heavily involved in global warming treaty negotiations, the creation of technology that benefits the environment, and administration efforts to help develop lower-emissions automobiles.
While Gore has made a ritual of poking fun at his wooden image, it continues to bedevil him, even though he often is personable and warm in non-formal settings.
And Gore took some high heat in 1996 and 1997 over charges that he had made illegal phone calls to Democratic contributors from his White House office. Those calls, and a visit Gore made to a Buddhist temple near Los Angeles in April 1996 that resulted in several questionable contributions to the Democratic National Committee -- purportedly without Gore's knowledge -- became the subject of a Justice Department investigation .
The controversy dragged on for months and still threatens to tarnish Gore's reputation and is a ripe issue for his 2000 opponents.
The stakes are rising for Gore as he tries to refocus the public image of him not as a vice president but as a possible president. That will mean, sooner or later, putting some distance between himself and Clinton and charting his own course.
So far, Gore has resisted doing so. During the impeachment drama, Gore stood firmly in his boss' corner proving one of Clinton's strongest supporters.
But the presidential arena is not a strange one to him. In addition to twice being Clinton's running mate, Gore ran for the presidency in 1988, and it is often forgotten that he won Democratic primaries or caucuses in seven states that year.
Gore's Tennessee and Washington roots
Al Gore with his father
Gore is the son of former Sen. Albert Gore Sr. — himself a former senator from Tennessee — and his wife Pauline (La Fon). Raised in Washington and Carthage, Tennessee, Gore received a degree in government with honors from Harvard University in 1969.
After graduation, Gore was drafted for service in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam as an Army reporter for six months. He was elected to the House in 1977 from Tennessee, then to the Senate in 1984 and again in 1990.
March 31, 1948
St. Albans Episcopal School for boys;
B.A., Government, Harvard University, 1969;
Course work at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, 1971-72.
Course work at Vanderbilt University Law School, 1974-76.
Wife, Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Gore; four children.
U.S. Senator from Tennessee, 1985-1992;
Author: Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, 1992;
Candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, 1987-1988;
U.S. Representative from Tennessee, 1977-1985;
investigative reporter, editorial writer, The Tennessean, 1971-1976;
home builder and land developer, Tanglewood Home Builders Co., 1971-1976
U.S. Army, 1969-71
When Gore returned from Vietnam, he was offered a job as an investigative reporter with The Tennessean in Nashville. In 1971-1972, while working the night shift at the Tennessean, Gore studied at Vanderbilt University's Divinity School to explore "the spiritual issues that were most important to me at the time," he said.
In 1974, Gore enrolled in Vanderbilt University's Law School and stayed until 1976. He took away no degrees, deciding abruptly in 1976 to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Competing against eight others in the Democratic primary, Gore emerged the victor largely because of name recognition. Once established in Congress, Gore's seat remained secure; he was easily elected to the House in 1976, 1978, 1980 and 1982.
When Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker Jr. (R-Tennessee) announced his retirement in 1984, Gore quickly became a candidate for his seat and won because of the momentum he managed to build through the two years of campaigning.
During his two terms in the Senate, Gore maintained his interest in defense, especially arms control, while serving on the Armed Services Committee. And after the Challenger disaster, he dug up proof NASA had cut back on "quality monitoring." He studied the hole in the ozone layer. He went to Brazil to examine the destruction of rain forests. Gore advocated requiring wrapping materials to be biodegradable. Overall, Gore supported traditional Democratic positions on economics, took a harder line than most Democrats on international policy and developed an interest in science and the environment which, together with his articulateness, made him a popular presidential candidate.
When he announced his intentions to enter the presidential race June 29 1987, Gore was still younger than 40. The high point of the campaign came on March 8, 1988 - Super Tuesday - when Gore won 5 of the day's Southern primaries: Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. He won a larger share of the total vote in the Super Tuesday states than any other democrat. Only Jesse Jackson won more delegates. Gore also won two caucuses that day.
But Gore couldn't sustain his momentum outside the South and dropped out of the race.
Gore's campaign established him as a leading contender for the 1992 Democratic presidential field. But after his son, Albert III, was hit by a car as the two left a Baltimore Orioles baseball game, Gore decided to sit out 1992. Instead, Gore became Clinton's running mate in his successful presidential race.
Gore was inaugurated as the 45th vice president of the United States on January 20, 1993. He was re-elected to a second term in 1996, and was sworn in again on January 20, 1997.
Gore is married to the former Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Aitcheson. They have four children: Karenna (born August 6, 1973), Kristin (born June 5, 1977), Sarah (born January 7, 1979), and Albert III (born October 19, 1982). Karenna Gore Schiff, 25, and her husband, Drew Schiff, 33, are expecting their first child in June 1999.