For a man counting on a lot of female votes come next November, Vice President Al Gore continues to show a remarkable lack of curiosity about the allegations of rape Juanita Broaddrick leveled against his boss earlier this year. Mrs. Broaddrick said then-Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton raped her in a Little Rock, Ark., motel in 1978. Having bitten through her lip in the process, she said, Mr. Clinton thoughtfully added, “Better put some ice on it,” as he was walking out the door.
This week a woman attending a town hall meeting with Mr. Gore decided to ask him what he thought about the controversy. A transcript of the exchange follows:
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: “My question to you is not a question about you being a presidential candidate, but a question to you as a husband, a father, and a student of Christianity. When Juanita Broaddrick made the claim, which I found to be quite credible, that she was raped by Bill Clinton, did it change your opinion about him being one of the best presidents in history? And do you believe Juanita Broaddrick’s claim? And what did you tell your son about this?”
ALBERT GORE: “Well, I didn’t know what to make of her claim, because I don’t know how to evaluate that story, I really don’t.”
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: “Did you see the interview? Did you see the interview?”
GORE: “No, I didn’t see the interview, no.”
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: “I’m very surprised that you didn’t watch the interview.”
GORE: “Well, which what show was it on?”
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: “ABC, I believe.”
GORE: “Yes, I didn’t see it. There have been so many personal allegations and such a nonstop series of attacks I guess I’m like a lot of people in that I think that enough is enough. I do not know how to evaluate each one of these individual stories. I just don’t know. I would never violate the privacy of my communication with one of my children, a member of my family, as for that part of your question.”
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: “So you didn’t believe Juanita Broaddrick’s claim?”
GORE: “No, I didn’t say that. I just I said I don’t know how to evaluate it. And I didn’t see the interview.
“But I want to say something else to you about this. Why don’t you stand back up, and I’d like to be able to look you in the eye. You know, I think that I think that whatever mistakes he made in his personal life are, in the minds of most Americans, balanced against what he has done in his public life as president.
“My philosophy, since you ask about my religious faith, I’m taught in my religious tradition to hate the sin and love the sinner. I’m taught that all of us are heir to the mistakes that are prone to the mistakes that flesh is heir to.
“And I think that in judging his performance as a president, I think that most people are anxious to stop talking about all the personal attacks against him and trying to sort out all of the allegations, and want to instead move on and focus on the future.
“Secondly, I felt the same disappointment and anger at him during the period when all this was going on that most people did. You may have felt a different kind of emotion, I don’t know. I sense that maybe you did. I certainly felt what most Americans did.
“Third, I have been involved in a lot of battles where he and I have fought together on behalf of the American people, and I think we’ve made a good, positive difference for this country.
“Number four, I’m running for president on my own. I want to take my own …”
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: “(inaudible) pep rally supporting him.”
GORE: “… I want to take my own values of faith and family to the presidency. And I want you to evaluate me on the basis of who I am, and what you believe I can do for this country as president.”
There’s a lot to discuss here, but at one point Mr. Gore drew himself up, looked his questioner in the eye and said that “whatever mistakes [Mr. Clinton] made in his personal life,” the voters have balanced them against his accomplishments in office. The questioner’s point was about rape. “Mistake” is not a word one ordinarily associates with “rape.” If Mr. Gore can’t make the distinction, he too may need ice on which to put his campaign.