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CNN Today

Democratic National Convention: The Women Who Shape Al Gore

Aired August 17, 2000 - 1:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: If you tuned in to the DNC last night you may have heard Joe Lieberman quip: Behind every successful man is a surprised mother-in-law. Well, Al Gore has several female relatives behind, around, and sometimes in front of him. And you will get to know them in this report from CNN's Bernard Shaw.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERNARD SHAW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Gore may have wanted grow up to be like his father. But he learned how to get there from mother, Pauline, one of the first women of her generation to go to law school.

FRANK SUTHERLAND, EDITOR, "NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN": If she were 30 today, it would be her who were running for Congress. But back then, back in the '30s, she couldn't run for office.

SHAW: She was as powerful a role model for the young Al Gore as was his father.

SUTHERLAND: She was behind the scenes. Other people hire campaign managers. She was the campaigning manager. Even though somebody else might have had the title, she's the brains behind the political savvy of the Gore family. But they were a team.

SHAW: In fact, her husband, the senator, relied so heavily on her political skills that he made this joking admission during his last campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ALBERT GORE SR. (D), TENNESSEE: I want to tell you, honey, you've done such an effective job of campaigning that I had a man say to me yesterday that the wrong Gore was running.

PAULINE GORE, WIFE OF SEN. GORE: Both Gores run all the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: The other huge formative influence in Al Gore was his older sister, Nancy. She was a surrogate mother to Al when their parents were away campaigning.

Sister and brother wee very close, but not at all alike. BILL TURQUE, AUTHOR, "INVENTING AL GORE": I think they both reacted to growing up in a political family in different ways. Al Gore became super compliant and obedient, and Nancy was kind of a wild child.

SHAW: But she had a passion for politics that Al looked up to. After college, she worked for the Democratic National Committee.

TURQUE: She was one of the very first volunteers for the Peace Corp. She helped manage her father's 1964 Senate reelection campaign. Had a very good political sense.

SHAW: When her father faced defeat six years later, she encouraged Al to enter politics himself. He had just married Tipper, who had no background in politics, but was willing to learn the family business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1970 CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: how did you feel when you made your first speech?

TIPPER GORE: I was very nervous. Once I got into it. Once I got going, and once I started seeing all these things Congressman Brock has voted against, I wasn't nervous any more. I wanted to tell the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: Family matriarch Pauline was also lobbying Al to follow his father to Capitol Hill.

In 1976, he left journalism to try. And Tipper was willing to help, quitting her job as a photojournalist to campaign with him.

TURQUE: She's a huge asset to him politically, I think. You talk to voters, one of the best things about Al Gore in their eyes is Tipper Gore. They just like her warmth, he -- she sort of makes him a little more accessible.

SHAW: Beyond softening Al Gore's image, she almost single- handedly raised four children, while a grueling schedule often kept him away.

KARENNA GORE SCHIFF, AL GORE'S DAUGHTER: She had lots of young kids, and she was always sort of making macaroni and cheese and driving us to the soccer game and all that stuff.

SHAW (on camera): What's her influence on Al Gore?

GORE SCHIFF: It is really hard to overestimate my mom's influence on my dad. It is so deep that it is almost hard to describe. I can always tell when he answers the phone and she's on the other end. His voice sort of changes.

SHAW: Does he get respectful, reverential. GORE SCHIFF: There is just a warmth and love there. He loves talking to her always, he always calls her between events.

SHAW (voice-over): Tipper was fast becoming his chief political confidant. But when he made first run at the White House, he went back to the Gores' most seasoned campaigner, his mother, Pauline, for a primer on debate tactics.

TURQUE: One day in 1988, he was getting ready to debate some of his competitors for the Democratic nomination, and she handed him a note just before he went on stage, and it had three words on it. And the words were "smile, relax, attack."

SHAW: Gore lost that race. But those words rang in his ears.

His debating skills have only gotten sharper since then. In that '92 race, Tipper Gore added spontaneity to the buttoned-up candidate, and during the White House years, while happy in the supporting role of wife and mother, she has quietly sold her husband on her own policy initiatives, such as the V-chip.

REED HUNDT, GORE FAMILY FRIEND: Tipper understood, before anyone else in Washington, the effects of popular culture on children.

SHAW: One of Al Gore's other policy choices was shaped by sister Nancy, even after death. At the '96 convention, he cited her fatal cancer as the inspiration for the administration's campaign against big tobacco.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: And that is why, until I draw my last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into the caution of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: In the latest campaign, Al Gore is feeling the influence of another Gore women, his daughter: Karenna.

GORE SCHIFF: Ladies and gentlemen, my father, Al Gore.

SHAW: In the tradition of her grandmother, she has emerged as a prominent adviser to her father. While tirelessly campaigning for him in the New Hampshire primary, she turned his attention to a neglected group of voters, her own generation.

GORE SCHIFF: Historically, campaigns have not paid enough attention to the young demographic. And part of the reason is that young people don't vote in high numbers.

SHAW (on camera): You have his ear, do you argue with him?

GORE SCHIFF: Yeah. I think that free, rambunctious political debate is a good thing. So I have never hesitated to speak my mind. My dad has always encouraged me to do that. And of course we don't agree on everything.

SHAW (voice-over): From his earliest days, Al Gore has been surrounded by women, unafraid to speak their mind: Mother Pauline, sister Nancy, wife Tipper, and daughter Karenna have all made their mark on this man who would be president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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