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Jewish World Review Dec. 29, 2000 / 3 Teves, 5761

Roger Simon

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AlGore's divorce


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WELL, THAT'S one honeymoon that didn't last long.

No, I am not talking about the honeymoon between George W. Bush and the Democrats. I am talking about a honeymoon that was even more high-risk: the honeymoon between Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

It is hardly a secret that while once their friendship was real -- their weekly one-on-one lunches in the White House were considered a symbol of their good relations -- relations between the two grew very strained over the Monica Lewinsky affair and broke down during Gore's presidential campaign.

Simply put, Clinton wanted to campaign for Gore, and Gore did not want him to.

Clinton pointed to his high job-approval ratings as proof that the public still loved him. Gore pointed to Clinton's low personal-approval ratings as proof the public did not.

Gore never said this to Clinton directly, but Gore aides told Clinton aides that every focus group they did, including focus groups made up exclusively of African-Americans, led them to believe that Clinton would be a hindrance and not a help to the ticket.

The White House never bought this argument. Clinton thought then and thinks today that it was just Gore's ego getting in the way, that he didn't want to be beholden to Clinton and he didn't want to be Clinton's third term.

So Gore refused to let Clinton campaign very much, even on his own. And, perhaps as one result, Gore lost Arkansas, Clinton's home state.

And Clinton let it be known: I told you so.

But now that Gore is not going to be president, what is left for the two to fight over? The leadership of the Democratic Party.

Last week, The New York Times ran a front-page story quoting a number of Democrats saying that Clinton -- and not Gore -- is the real head of the party.

And to show that he was leaving office, but not leaving politics, Clinton moved swiftly, backing Terry McAuliffe, one of his best friends and chief fund-raisers, for the job of Democratic chairman.

Gore could not have been happy at this, especially when Sen. Robert Toricelli, D-N.J., said that McAuliffe "would ensure Clinton's involvement" in running the DNC.

That McAuliffe presided over the funding for the scandal-wracked Clinton re-election campaign is not considered a drawback. Raising tons of money is what a party chairmanship is all about these days.

And last week, it looked as if McAuliffe was going to skate to a victory. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and AFL-CIO president John Sweeney were said to have endorsed him. Even Al Gore was grudgingly convinced to support him when he realized he had no choice.

But there were still those unhappy with the deal: African-Americans, who once again demonstrated their loyalty by voting overwhelmingly for Democrats (nine to one in the case of Gore) and saw little pay-off.

So former-mayor Maynard H. Jackson, the first black mayor of Atlanta, announced recently he would seek the job and Gore backers were overjoyed that someone was willing to take on Clinton's choice.

"I don't think we can be so preoccupied with money that we forget about the grass roots," Jackson said. "I believe I represent a Southern strategy for the Democratic Party, and that strategy will be essential to win in 2002 and 2004."

One thing is certain: Without black support, Democrats will never recapture the White House. No Democratic presidential candidate has carried the white vote since Lyndon Johnson.

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., quickly backed Jackson and Jesse Jackson (no relation) said, "Given the role African-Americans played in this campaign, we must be in the inner circle of leadership of the party."

The 451-member national committee will probably meet in February to make a choice, and McAuliffe said he had already lined up 44 state Democratic chairman and seven black and Hispanic leaders.

Though a compromise is possible -- the job is currently split between a general chairman and a national chairman, which gives the Democrats the option of putting both men in place -- it might just get down to a one-on-one vote.

If it does, the names on the ballot won't really be McAuliffe vs. Jackson.

They'll be Clinton vs. Gore.



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