- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

LOS ANGELES Vice President Al Gore Thursday night declared himself "my own man," seeking to escape President Clinton's shadow over his campaign, and asked that a Gore administration be judged by how it helps working families.
"I want you to know this: I've taken on the powerful forces and, as president, I'll stand up to them and I'll stand up for you," Mr. Gore told the Democratic National Convention in the climactic speech of the four-day pep rally for himself and running mate Joseph I. Lieberman.
"If you entrust me with the presidency, I know I won't always be the most exciting politician, but I pledge to you tonight I will work for you every day and I will never let you down," Mr. Gore said at the end of a 50-minute speech that often seemed hurried.
"For all of our good times, I am not satisfied," said the vice president who has long been attacked for uncritical loyalty to Mr. Clinton through a sex-and-lies scandal that led to impeachment in 1998.
"We're entering a new time. We're electing a new president. And I stand here tonight as my own man, and I want you to know me for who I truly am," Mr. Gore said in a speech seeking to move past celebrity and convey an image less wooden than comedians portray him.
Despite drawing the line between himself and the president, Mr. Gore praised Mr. Clinton for leading the nation "out of the valley of recession" into the nation's longer period of prosperity.
"Millions of Americans will live better lives for a long time to come because of the job that's been done by President Bill Clinton," he said before launching into great detail about how he would make it all better.
Mr. Gore made an unusual grand entrance, striding through the crowd and slapping high fives with delegates as he passed.
In the city where John F. Kennedy proclaimed a "New Frontier" in 1960 and Mr. Lieberman announced Wednesday a "next frontier," Mr. Gore offered a lyrical interpretation of what they have in mind to help "the people who pay the taxes."
"A new journey on which we advance not by the turning of wheels, but by the turning of our minds; the reach of our vision; the daring grace of the human spirit," he said.
Mr. Gore said he would battle "a culture with too much meanness and not enough meaning" and help parents deal with entertainment that "glorifies violence and indecency … and give more power back to the parents, so that you can choose what your own children are exposed to and pass on basic lessons of responsibility and decency."
In delivering the speech he claims to have written himself, Mr. Gore sought to let voters know him better as a man and to differentiate himself from the president whose policies he supported for nearly eight years. He was hoping the speech would electrify a somewhat lackluster convention that actually gave the Bush campaign a bounce in some polls.
Mr. Gore promised his acceptance speech would provide specifics of how he would govern if elected. Among items on his long list of objectives:
Campaign finance: "I will put our democracy back in your hands, and get all the special-interest money all of it out of our democracy, by enacting campaign finance reform… . That campaign finance reform will be the very first bill that Joe Lieberman and I send to Congress."
Health insurance: "We will move toward universal health coverage, step by step, starting with all children. Let's get all children covered by the year 2004."
Social Security: "We will balance the budget every year, and dedicate the budget surplus first to saving Social Security."
Abortion: "I will protect and defend a woman's right to choose. The last thing this country needs is a Supreme Court that overturns Roe v. Wade."
Schools: "It's not just about more money. It's about higher standards, accountability new ideas. But we can't do it without new resources."
Civil rights: "Defending affirmative action… . fight for an equal day's pay for an equal day's work … renew the Voting Rights Act … pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act."
Hate crimes: "We will honor the memory of Matthew Shepard, Joseph Ileto and James Byrd, whose families all joined us this week, by passing a law against hate crimes."
Mr. Gore's speech was the moment thousands of convention delegates came for. It followed the formal nomination of Mr. Lieberman and set off a festive celebration as red, white and blue confetti and tens of thousands of balloons rained down on the crowd.
Mr. Lieberman was nominated by Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California, and nominated by acclamation without a vote.
"Joe believes in quieting the political rhetoric, in quashing the political bickering, and in quitting the endless Washington game of blaming others when things don't get done," Mr. Breaux said. "Joe speaks in a calm voice of reason; he can be heard above the partisan shouting."
Mr. Lieberman spent much of the day making the rounds among important Democratic constituencies including black leaders, unions, teachers, the National Organization for Women, the National Abortion Rights Action League.
Rep. Maxine Waters of California, a Black Caucus leader who questioned Mr. Lieberman's views on affirmative action earlier in the week, Thursday called the vice-presidential nominee "my new best friend."
At the same time, Mr. Lieberman assured centrists he was their man.
"We didn't come to play. We came to win," Mr. Lieberman, chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, told about 150 DLC members.
Shortly before Mr. Gore positioned himself as a centrist focused on working families, businesses and middle-class tax cuts a leading liberal in Congress, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, painted a different picture from the same podium, calling the ticket as liberal as himself or the party's House and Senate leaders.
"Al Gore is not perfect. Neither is Joe Lieberman. Neither is [Senate Minority Leader] Tom Daschle or [House Minority Leader] Dick Gephardt or me. All we are is the best you're going to get on liberal issues between now and this election," Mr. Frank told the convention in a segment not widely televised.
"The choices are Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, with strong records of support on the important issues of gay and lesbian rights, and a woman's right to choose, and gun control, or a George Bush who has throughout his career done everything possible to undo any possible progress on all three," said Mr. Frank, an openly homosexual politician who began his speech by saying he would talk about immorality.
Mr. Gore was introduced by a video photo-montage with 30 years of images made by his wife, Tipper, who did the honors like the wives of other candidates at this year's convention but added an unusual photo array.
"Many of you know Al to be a decisive leader with strong values, deeply held convictions and an unwavering commitment to making the American dream a reality for all our people," Mrs. Gore told the convention. "But I also want you to know that as a husband, father and grandfather, Al has always been there for our family, and he will always be there for yours."
Both Mr. and Mrs. Gore made a point of mentioning that he enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam conflict and addressed critics who assailed his noncombat position.
"I was an Army reporter in Vietnam. When I was there, I didn't do the most, or run the gravest danger. But I was proud to wear my country's uniform," he said.
Although Mr. Gore embraced the party's stated intention to seek a middle-class tax cut as Mr. Clinton did in 1992 before reneging on the promise he added a large caveat.
"Let me say it plainly. I will not go along with a huge tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of everyone else and wreck our good economy in the process," Mr. Gore said.
That combination of offsetting objectives seemed consistent with his call to rescind the tax code's marriage penalty "the right way, the fair way." Mr. Gore voiced no criticism earlier this month when Mr. Clinton vetoed such a measure. The so-called marriage penalty is imposed by Internal Revenue Code provisions that set a higher effective tax rate on married couples who earn nearly equal wages than on unmarried couples earning the same amounts.
As Mr. Clinton did in the same hall Monday night, Mr. Gore linked the administration to the economic boom that began at the end of the Bush administration and blossomed under Mr. Clinton.
But Mr. Gore added an exception. "This is not an award for past performance," he said.
"Instead of the biggest deficits in history, we now have the biggest surpluses ever, the highest home ownership ever, and the lowest inflation in a generation," Mr. Gore said, saying Republicans blunted some of the profits.
"Instead of losing jobs, we have 22 million new jobs. Above all, our success comes from you, the people who have worked hard for your families. But let's not forget that a few years ago, the American people were working just as hard. But your hard work was undone," he said.
A long line of speakers delivered brief praise for their nominees, but a few jabbed directly at Mr. Bush, including Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin who ridiculed Mr. Bush's self-label as a "compassionate conservative" during a featured speech in the evening block.
"Today, compassionate conservatism means if you're a woman stuck in a minimum wage job, you've got a couple of kids and no health insurance, and you can't afford day care, they'll have compassion for you, but they won't help you," Mr. Harkin said.
He said the GOP offers the same to those without access to Head Start, school lunch or help for a failing farm.
"They'll have compassion for you, but they won't help you," Mr. Harkin said.
"If you believe that we need compassion with commitment … then from now until November 7th, you've got to knock on the doors and make the calls and register voters for Al Gore," he said.
Although candidates accepting their party's presidential nominations normally choose hope over harshness and leave direct attacks to the opponents, the vice president's speech was more retrospective and personal than is customary.
"Tonight, I ask for your support on the basis of the better, fairer, more prosperous America we can build together. Together, let's make sure that our prosperity enriches not just the few, but all working families," he said.
"My focus is on working families, people trying to make house payments and car payments, working overtime to save for college and do right by their kids. Whether you're in a suburb, or an inner city, or on a farm," Mr. Gore said.

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