- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Former Vice President Al Gore will deliver a “major speech” on Iraq to a liberal activist group in New York tomorrow, fueling speculation that he will re-enter the race for the Democratic nomination for president.

A member of MoveOn.org said Mr. Gore approached the group, founded to battle President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, a few weeks ago about setting up the event.

“He wanted to give the address and asked MoveOn to sponsor it,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “He’s going to be speaking out about a number of different issues, not just about the war.”

The speech will be Mr. Gore’s first major public statement on foreign policy since delivering a scathing critique of President Bush’s Iraq policy at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club on Sept. 23. At the time, the United States was attempting to build support for going to war with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

Donna Brazile, who served as Mr. Gore’s campaign manager during his run against Mr. Bush in 2000, said she is looking forward to hearing what Mr. Gore has to say.

“Whatever Al Gore has to tell us will be relevant,” Miss Brazile said. “He has extraordinary foreign policy credentials and experience.”

The speech is bound to draw attention from the Democratic nominees for president, if only for a day, but Miss Brazile said she didn’t think it mattered.

“That’s comparing apples and oranges,” she said. “He’s a statesman.”

Miss Brazile refused to speculate whether this speech signaled a re-testing of the waters for Mr. Gore, who declared in December that he wouldn’t run for president again.

“I haven’t talked to him so I don’t know what’s blazing in his saddle,” Miss Brazile said. “But I do think he will give a very thoughtful, forward-thinking speech.”

Repeated phone calls to Mr. Gore’s office were not returned.

In the Sept. 23 speech, Mr. Gore foreshadowed the criticisms of Mr. Bush that have been championed of late by three front-runners for the Democratic nomination for president — Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

Mr. Gore said then that the war in Iraq would distract from tracking down “those who attacked us on September 11 and have thus far gotten away with it.”

The president’s doctrine to “pre-emptively attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat” was unwise, he said, and would alienate international allies that the United States needs to fight global terrorism.

Mr. Gore also blasted the Bush administration for failing to “clarify its idea of what is to follow regime change” in Iraq, a theme echoed most strongly by Mr. Kerry.

While insisting that Mr. Bush get additional international “permission” to invade Iraq, Mr. Gore, nonetheless, conceded that Saddam “does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf” because “we know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”

Mr. Dean and Mr. Kerry have criticized Mr. Bush for the failure to uncover evidence of any weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq.

Brian Lunde, former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, characterized Mr. Gore’s speech last year as a “sucker punch and run away.” And while Mr. Gore might “get his shots in” on Thursday, Mr. Lunde said he doesn’t expect Mr. Gore to match the volume of Mr. Dean’s antiwar rhetoric.

Rather, the speech might be part of a plan to “provide cover for the mainstream Democratic candidates” and “help be a Dean slayer” by trying to move the momentum of the party away from the far left.

“He will warn the party,” Mr. Lunde said. “I think there’s growing concern that Howard Dean might not just be a flavor of the month, but be a real political movement.”

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