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 TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics with Congressional Quarterly

Analysis: Getting up for Gore

By Calvin Trillin/TIME

TIME magazine

I can't help wondering whether the powers in the Democratic Party can sometimes see Al Gore turning into Walter Mondale before their very eyes. As I imagine it, the Mondalian vision appears before them early in the morning before they're fully awake. Gradually it dawns on them that there is something familiar about the rush to pile up a commanding lead in money and endorsements for the party's putative presidential candidate--an experienced and worthy and charisma-free Vice President who has paid his dues--so that he can tie up the nomination and get on with the business of losing the general election.

It's only natural for people suffering such disturbing thoughts at dawn to scramble around in their minds for some reassuring arguments on the other side. As the Powers in the Democratic Party lie in bed, they take comfort in the fact that Gore does not seem to have assumed any of Mondale's mannerisms. Then it occurs to them that as Walter Mondale himself might acknowledge during a characteristically self-deprecating moment, he is a Minnesota Norwegian, and Minnesota Norwegians don't exactly have mannerisms. They tend to associate mannerisms with Swedes and other showy types.

This brings on another thought. Could it be that what is sometimes described as wooden or stiff or robotic about Gore--the quality that led me to describe him as "a manlike object"--is a reflection of some hitherto-unrevealed ethnic heritage? If so, maybe supporters who have grown tired of responding to comments about Gore's otherworldly stiffness by saying over and over again that he's good in small groups could switch to something like, "He's Norwegian, you know." On the other hand, what good did that do Mondale?

So how do the Powers of the Democratic Party stave off unwelcome thoughts and get out of bed to start the day? They reach for an entirely different parallel: if you look at Gore from a slightly different angle, squinting your eyes just a little, you may be able to see him turning into George Bush the Elder instead of Walter Mondale. George Bush the Elder was also an experienced and worthy and charisma-free Vice President who had paid his dues. Gore and Bush the Elder have other similarities--Ivy League educations, for instance, and fathers who served in the Senate. The Powers of the Democratic Party are relieved. Bush the Elder actually defeated somebody in a race for the White House! They smile, until they begin to calculate the odds on the Republican Party's nominating Michael Dukakis in 2000.

Fighting panic, the Powers of the Dem-ocratic Party try to think of a Republican nominee Al Gore might actually beat in 2000. A vision of the Republican primary campaign appears before them: George W. Bush defects to Cuba. Elizabeth Dole, purely on a whim, drops out to run a bed-and-breakfast in Mendocino County, Calif. With the rest of the field in disarray, Gary Bauer squeaks through in California to take the nomination. Greatly relieved by that vision, the Powers of the Democratic Party get out of bed and go out to raise more money for Al Gore.


Cover Date: June 14, 1999

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