Skip to comments.In Bowing Out, Gore Took His Own Advice
Posted on 12/16/2002 11:51:16 PM PST by kattracks
ALEIGH, N.C., Dec. 16 Al Gore told a story today that he had told many times, but he gave it a new ending.
He recalled that in 1970, after his father lost a bitter Senate race in Tennessee, they paddled a canoe on the Caney Fork River near their home and mulled whether Albert Gore Sr. should stay in politics.
As Mr. Gore recounted: "He said, `You serve 32 years in the Senate and the House and this happens and what do you do?' And my advice to him was, `I'd take the 32 years, Dad.' "
Then came the new ending, with Mr. Gore admitting that with his own decision, announced on Sunday night, not to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, he was following that same advice.
"In a sense," Mr. Gore said, "my decision over the last couple of days was a decision to take the 24 years," a reference to his time in the House, the Senate and as vice president.
Mr. Gore's eyes welled up briefly as he told reporters here about his decision, which he said almost certainly precluded his ever running for office again. He paused at length before adding, "I mean it when I say that my heart is full with the feeling of deep gratitude for the chance that I've had to serve my country."
This was Mr. Gore's valedictory to his quest for the presidency, a dream fueled by his father, who died just before Mr. Gore began his campaign for 2000, which was his second failed bid for the White House.
Mr. Gore was suggesting today that in weighing all the good from his near-quarter-century in politics against the potential bad of running for a third time, he had opted to remember the good.
He said he knew from conversations on his book tour, which he and his wife, Tipper, were continuing here today, that people were most interested in the 2000 race and the 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision that ended it and kept him from the Oval Office, even though he won more votes than George W. Bush.
"A rematch would have taken part of the focus back to a rehash of what all has gone before," Mr. Gore said. That would have diverted attention from the economy, which he said should be the prime issue in 2004. He said he thought he would have been able to "fight through that somehow, some way," but realistically, he added, the Democrats would be better off with a fresh face in 2004.
"Of course this has been probably the most difficult decision that I've ever made," he said. "You can probably guess a lot of reasons for that personal, political and all the rest. But I'm completely at peace."
He said there was a "slow dawning of what I felt was the right thing to do." He had been in New York all week with his family, rehearsing for his appearance on "Saturday Night Live," and began having discussions that he had not expected to have until the holidays.
He said that he had made up his mind on Friday morning and called Lesley Stahl, a reporter on the CBS program "60 Minutes" and asked for time on the Sunday broadcast. He did not discuss his decision in advance with former President Bill Clinton or with Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Mr. Gore said that it was too early to say which Democrat might benefit the most from his withdrawal, but that after his announcement, he received calls asking for his support from the three Democratic senators who are likely candidates: his former running mate, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut; John Kerry of Massachusetts; and John Edwards of North Carolina. He said he would probably endorse someone, but did not know when.
He added with a laugh: "It's not just my support. I'm very influential with my wife and children and take it from me, a half a dozen votes could make all the difference in a presidential race."
Asked what he would like his political epitaph to say, Mr. Gore said he was not ready for any kind of obituary. "I intend to remain active politically," he said. He said he would still deliver policy speeches he had planned for January (although "I may not have an audience for them") to share ideas that may help other candidates. "So hold off on getting the chisel and granite out," he said.