-- Gore's hypocrisy on tobacco, from a beneficiary of tobacco money to a vocal anti-tobacco politician
-- The true costs of Gore's "cosmic" environmentalism, and is it scientifically sound?
-- His intimate connection with the Chinese campaign contribution scandal
-- His flip-flopping of key issues, such as abortion, to gain party support and PAC money.
Gore: A Political Life is sure to generate nationwide media attention -- especially when Gore heats up his campaign for the 2000 presidential election.
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THE MAN FROM
When Al Gore's father, Albert Gore, Sr., first ran for the Senate from Tennessee in 1952 after fourteen years in the House, his supporters bragged, "The twang of Smith County is still in his voice and the steel of hard work is still in his muscles." When, in his 1988 quest for the presidency, Al Gore, Jr., sought to pile up primary states in the South, many saw him as a computer-age preppie programmed as a virtual Tennessean. They joked that in prep school and at Harvard he had taken "Southern" as a foreign language. Albert Gore Sr., who had never lost his roots in the yeoman hill country of Middle Tennessee, and who had tried to make sure his son didn't either, was not amused.
The ancestors came from England. A plaque in Jamestown, Virginia, lists one of the colony's original settlers as "Thomas Gore, Gentleman." When the thirteen-year-old Al, Jr., first saw the plaque on a visit with his father, he remarked, "Dad, we've slipped a little, haven't we?"
To reward their military service in the Revolutionary War, the government granted two of the Gore brothers, both privates, parcels of land in what is now Overton County, Tennessee. Middle Tennessee is a hundred-and-forty-mile-wide basin that stretches from the middle of the Cumberland Plateau to the western loop of the Tennessee River. The area's small farmers have long grown strawberries, cantaloupes, and tobacco. According to the senior Gore, "[I]t was a rather rough terrain characterized by marginal clay soil, steep hills, shaded coves, and clear creeks. There was no river transportation; `bottom land' was scarce." Albert Gore, Sr., has written that his search of the family history revealed not a single slave-owning Gore, a claim that could be made by many if not most of the hill country's small farm families. By the Civil War, the state was bitterly divided between the loyal Republican East and the planter-dominated pro-slavery West, a far cry from the unity of purpose of Mexican War days when the statewide call for 2,600 "volunteers" had been answered by 30,000 young men.
Sympathies in central Tennessee ran mainly toward the Confederacy, despite the paucity of slave owners, and the Gores were no exception. A grandfather of Albert, Sr., served in uniform, and Al, Jr., has told at least one friend of a Gore who peacefully worked his farm during the war until he was robbed, shot, and left for dead by two Yankee deserters. According to the tale, for which there is no documentation, a family servant nursed the wounded Gore back to health. He then set out after his attackers, found them both, and killed them.
While distant Mississippi cousins of the Tennessee Gores became part of their state's landed gentry, the fortunes of the Tennessee Gores were never great. Albert, Sr.'s, parents, Allen and Maggie Denny Gore, grew tobacco, feed, and vegetables, and raised cattle, hogs, and chickens on modest acreage near the town of Possum Hollow. One of Allen's boyhood chums, Cordell Hull, would later serve in Congress and, at the time Albert, Sr., was elected, had become Franklin Delano Roosevelt's secretary of state. The two young men would sometimes "run the river" together, rafting down the Cumberland as far as Nashville, returning via steamboat.
In many ways Albert Gore, Sr., loved the farm and rural life, yet both he and his dad always assumed that he would be the one to break the hold of the land over successive generations of Gores. He knew that "to get out, you had to get up." He attended a one-room schoolhouse, which also served as a social center. It was there that he became acquainted with some of the area's best fiddlers and became an accomplished fiddler himself. It was an avocation his father disparaged as a short-cut to a life of poverty.
Equally disparaging was Pauline LaFon Gore, Albert, Sr.'s, future bride, who viewed his playing at campaign events as both undignified and leaving him open to the charge of fiddling while Rome (or at least Carthage, Tennessee) burned. Years later, Pauline Gore, whose abundant virtues do not include a sense of humor, would halt her son Al's music lessons with the admonition, "Future world leaders do not play the violin."
Albert Gore, Sr., took a course out of high school in teacher training and soon secured a teaching certificate and a job. He earned enough money to enroll at Murfreesboro State, but was never able to afford more than two consecutive semesters in college. Still, he became principal of a three-teacher school before he graduated. Before long he campaigned for superintendent of Smith County schools. He lost that first political contest, but later won appointment to the job, after the man who beat him died. He followed that up with election to the full four-year term. He also found enough spare time to study law, and enrolled at an evening law school run by the Nashville YMCA.
The drive to Nashville was just under sixty miles on a serviceable two-lane highway. Gore negotiated the round trip three nights each week during the academic year and won his law degree after three years. After class, he would stop for coffee at the ornate Andrew Jackson Hotel. There he met Pauline LaFon. Tall, raven-haired, of Huguenot background, she was the daughter of a merchant whose business had failed in the Depression. Her soft-spoken manner and stoic appearance masked an inner drive that to this day has yet to stall. Pauline was attending Vanderbilt Law Schoolthe second woman to do sowhile waiting on tables at the coffee shop during the evening. "Pretty soon," Gore recalled, "there was but one girl whose coffee tasted just right." His consumption "increased dramatically." They courted, married, and passed the bar together. "By the slimmest, thinnest of margins, she made a grade of 84 on hers and I made 84 1/2. By that narrow position, I maintained a position as head of the household." Many who have known the family over the years argue that it would have taken considerable effort for Pauline LaFon to finish behind Albert Gore, Sr.,or nearly anyone elsein a competitive academic exam. Pauline would be an extraordinary political partner throughout her husband's career and later a valued political confidant of her son. Frequent visitors to the Gore home recall that during the family's many political discussions, the elder Senator Gore would invariably focus on matters of policy while Pauline LaFon Gore would talk about constituencies and interest groups. "Albert Gore, Sr.," one noted, "had firm ideas on what should be done; Pauline always seemed to know what could be done." Their daughter, Nancy Gore Hunger, once said of her parents: "He just doesn't know how to gossip, how to make small talk. He doesn't like to pull off shoes, drink beer and shoot the bull. Mother will talk 45 minutes to a person, where Daddy will talk 10."
The senior Gore glided easily toward politics. He was appointed commissioner of labor in the state after backing the winning gubernatorial candidate, Tom Browning. In 1938, when the congressional seat in his home district became vacant, he ran for it and won, thanks in part to some inspired fiddle playing along the campaign trail, and a $40,000 contribution from cousin Grady Gore, a wealthy Washington, D.C., landlord. He moved to Washington with his wife and their infant daughter Nancy. He would never again play the fiddle in public.
Gore, Sr., always self-conscious about his teachers college undergraduate study and YMCA law degree, worked hard to polish his prose and speaking style. Ultimately, Gore's southern hill country twang would subside in "respectable" company as he became one of the better public orators in the nation's capital, only to reappear miraculously on the stump in Tennessee. As time went by, he favored the imported knits and tweeds of the British aristocracy. Here the contrast with Tennessee's most famous political figure of the 1950s, Senator Estes Kefauver, was profound. Kefauver, the son of a prosperous hardware merchant and twenty-year mayor of Madisonville, was educated at Yale Law School and seemed always, in the words of David Halberstam, a former Nashville Tennessean reporter, "surrounded by an emotional moat." As he rose to national prominence, he affected a coonskin cap, and built a fair portion of Tennessee slang into his informal speeches. Comparing the two men, one political observer saw in Gore a self-made highbrow, and in Kefauver a self-made lowbrow. In later years, Al Gore, Sr., would take particular pride in the bearing and erudition of his son. "When Al, Jr., speaks, you can practically see the commas falling into place," he would brag to a member of the press.
Shortly after his election to Congress, Albert Gore, Sr., sought advice from the party's elder statesmen. Vice President John Nance Garner told him, "Young man, I never saw a congressman defeated for something he didn't say and didn't do." Cordell Hull told him to "stay on the floor and learn the rules," advice Gore took to heart. He was later designated by Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn as one of six Democratic "watchdogs" rotating on the floor to respond to any GOP assault.
Today, of course, a contemporary Cordell Hull would probably tell a young Gore that, other than ceremonial occasions, there are only three possible excuses for being on the floor: if you are speaking, if you are voting, or if you happen to have died there. And as for "learning the rules," the Albert Gore, Jr., method is much to be preferred. When he sought to learn legislative rules and procedures following his 1976 election to the House, young Gore sent for the best parliamentarian the Library of Congress could offer and received a series of briefings and written outlines on the subject.
The senior Gore enjoyed life in Washington and reveled in his duties as a member of Congress. He sat on the Banking and Currency Committee and held the chairmanship of a subcommittee overseeing the development of atomic energy. His wife Pauline LaFon Gore "retired" from law practice because the family regarded it as unseemly for her to be hawking clients in Washington while hubby passed laws a few blocks away. But, as was widely practiced during the period, neither spouse saw any conflict with Mrs. Gore accepting a position on the congressman's staff. Later she would serve as a delegate to the United Nations.
Nor did Gore chafe at participating in one of the crudest fictions of the World War II period. He ostentatiously waived his draft deferment as a congressman and "volunteered" for the armed forces, declaring his wife, Pauline, would run the office in his absence. That was the public story. But in fact President Franklin Roosevelt would, in the "national interest," summon Gore back to his civilian duties as soon as he was sworn in as a soldier. Years later, when Al Gore, Jr., decided to enlist during the Vietnam era, principally to spare his father political embarrassment during a tough reelection campaign, he engaged in no similar chicanery, signing on as an army journalist and serving seven months working out of an air base near Saigon.
After the war, politics in Tennessee underwent a dramatic change. In 1948 Estes Kefauver campaigned for the Senate against a candidate backed by the most powerful political machine in the state, run by "Boss" Edward Hull Crump of Memphis. Lacking Crump's professional organization, Kefauver campaigned relentlessly in most of the state's ninety-five counties. He employed radio and, for the first time, television to reach the mass electorate. He mobilized groups that had never before been politicized in Tennessee: women, veterans, and young people, as well as the more traditional constituencies of blacks and organized labor. As chronicled by historian James B. Gardner, Kefauver's female supporters "enlisted a wide range of previously inactive voters in the Kefauver cause, including housewives, teachers, businesswomen, clerks, and factory workers." These constituencies would be a mighty factor in Tennessee politics in the years to come.
The year 1948 also saw the third party presidential campaign of South Carolina Governor J. Strom Thurmond, leader of the anti-civil rights "Dixiecrat" challenge to President Harry S. Truman. Thurmond was endorsed by Crump and ran a strong but losing race in the state. Still, the local effect of Thurmond's campaign was to pry an important segment of the state's Democratic constituency loose from its moorings, opening the door for its eventual shift to the GOP. Al Gore, Jr.'s, Tennessee would be a state with a heated two-party competition in nearly every region and at nearly every level of government.
In 1952 Al Gore, Sr., moved to the Senate, employing Kefauver's organization to defeat an octogenarian ally of the Crump machine, Senator Kenneth McKellar. That same year, Kefauver made the first of his two unsuccessful runs for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Tennessee gained a new governor in Frank G. Clementa Bible-toting, mandolin-picking World War II veteran and former FBI agent, who would embellish many a political stump appearance with a chorus or two from his theme song, "Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me on, lead me on."
Kefauver, Gore, Sr., and Clement would dominate Tennessee politics for more than a decade, competing with one another, but holding together on key issues like civil rights and support for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) energy monopoly. While none of the three pushed the envelope on desegregation, each counseled adherence to federal court decisions. When, for example, a mob of white segregationists in Clinton, Tennessee, sought to prevent fifteen black students from entering a high school ordered integrated by the courts, Clementlike other southern governorssent national guard troops to the school, but unlike the others, he sent them to enforce the court decree.
Albert Gore, Sr., tried to concentrate on other issues. As a member of the Public Works Committee, he was a sponsor of the $50 billion National Highway Defense Act of 1956, the largest public works undertaking in the history of the world. The system included 40,000 miles of limited access, toll-free roads29,000 of which had to be built from scratchthat linked 90 percent of all American cities with populations of 50,000 or more.
Gore was also a reflexive, unwavering champion of the TVA. Created by special act of Congress in 1933, the TVA's basic mission was to enhance the navigability of the Tennessee River, improve flood control, help farmers with fertilizer and land use techniques, and develop an impoverished economy. The TVA was propelled by the vision and drive of David Lilienthal, an early director, into a taxpayer-subsidized, regional, monopolistic provider of cheap hydroelectric power, as well as coal, and eventually nuclear-powered energy. Despite its abysmal environmental record and its anachronistic state-subsidized monopoly power, Al Gore, Jr., the champion of environmentalism and of "reinventing government," has been as staunch and unquestioning in his support of the TVA as was his father.
But unlike his son, Albert Gore, Sr., was frequently at odds with environmentalists. In words that seem squarely contrary to the values his son came to represent, the elder Gore wrote:
"`Ecology is now a household word, but many of those who use it do not seem aware of the fact that by definition ecology is tied to economics, that man's well-being is tied to his being; that although preservation of an unsullied crystal stream, a purer atmosphere, a virgin tract of forest, or an unblemished landscape are noble goals, they are not the noblest: the noblest is to provide man with the basic stuff of his existencefood and housing, and meaningful work. Before we can recreate we must create."
But if Albert Gore, Sr., was on the side of economic growth, some of his business acquaintances were less than savory. One of them was Armand Hammer, an entrepreneur extraordinaire with a particular talent for buying or otherwise ingratiating himself to those who could help him befriend top government decision-makers. During the early part of his career, Hammer also served as an agent of the infant Soviet Union. In his extraordinary account, Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer, Edward Jay Epstein documents how, during the 1920s and 1930s, Hammerwho lived in Moscow for many yearstook his orders from the regimes of Lenin and Stalin. During a period when the Soviets had few diplomatic missions in the West, Hammer began by serving as a courier for the Soviets under the cover of normal business travels to and from Moscow. Hammer then graduated to more sophisticated assignments. He used his Allied American Corporation to launder Soviet funds, helped recruit Soviet spies and position them in the U.S. government, and became a key link in operations that financed Soviet espionage in London and New York. In what was perhaps his shabbiest venture, Hammerworking closely with Stalin's young aide Anastas Mikoyanhelped the Soviets sell communist-confiscated art and jewelry to the West by falsely proclaiming the items were "Romanoff treasure." In perhaps his ugliest venture, Hammer used his firm to provide a cover for the shipment of machine tools to the Soviet Union, which were then employed to help Germany circumvent Treaty of Versailles restrictions on military aircraft and weapons manufacture.
All of this was well known to the FBI, whose director, J. Edgar Hoover, had kept track of Hammer for decades. But Hoover had some of Washington's most sensitive political antenna and was wary of moving publicly against Hammer so long as he appeared "protected" by powerful members of the executive or legislative branches. Hammer had enjoyed easy access to the Roosevelt Administration, but the Truman Administration, viewing him as a possible Soviet agent, kept him at arm's length, as did the Eisenhower Administration. So he developed a core of Capitol Hill allies led by Gore, Representative James Roosevelt, and Senator Styles Bridges, a conservative New Hampshire Republican. Thus insulated from FBI interference, he went about building his economic empire.
Through the 1950s and well into the following decade, Hammer counted on Gore as his principal link to the Democratic congressional leadership, and to defend his economic interests. In the early 1950s, for example, when Hammer's United Distilleries sought to lease the Army's ordnance works in Morgantown, West Virginia, in order to develop a fertilizer manufacturing operation, Hammer relied on Senator Bridges to run interference for him. When the magazine Reporter exposed Bridges' intervention, noting the irony of his alliance with a former Soviet booster, Gore took the Senate floor to defend both Hammer and Bridges. "This private citizen has had aspersions cast upon his character and his patriotism," he declared. "I could see no reason for that except as a means of attacking the senior senator from New Hampshire."
In the late 1950s Gore introduced Hammer to Senator John F. Kennedy. Hammer contributed to Kennedy's 1960 campaign and attended his inauguration as Gore's guest. During the following weeks, Kennedy discussed with Gore a report that the Soviets were employing slave labor to produce crabmeat for export. Kennedy felt he had no choice but to ban the commodity, and the controversy had become a minor irritant to already troubled U.S.-Soviet relations. Gore suggested Kennedy send Hammer to the Soviet Union to investigate the claim, which, given Hammer's background, was rather like dispatching a fox to investigate the disappearance of chickens. Nonetheless, less than a month after he took office, Kennedy had Commerce Secretary Luther Hodges name Hammer a roving economic emissary and organize an itinerary that included stops in the United Kingdom, France, West Germany, Italy, Libya, India, Japan, and the Soviet Union.
Gore wrote a letter "introducing" Hammer to Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev's deputy, Anastas Mikoyan, who had been Hammer's handler on the Romanoff art and jewelry scam three decades earlier. Mikoyan set up a February 17, 1961, meeting between Hammer and Khruschev, at which Khruschev quickly moved beyond the crabmeat issue to the general desirability of expanding trade between the two countries.
Upon his return to Washington, Hammer held meetings with both Senator Gore and Secretary Hodges. To no one's surprise, he reported finding no evidence that slave labor was used in the production of Soviet crabmeat. Even hardline Secretary of State Dean Rusk supported lifting the ban as a "tangible demonstration of our desire to improve United States-Soviet relations." Kennedy accepted the advice. In a March 17, 1961, letter to Hammer informing him of the action, Gore stated, "In the broad spectrum of the struggle to find a way for the East and the West to live in peace on one planet, this may not appear to some as a major item, but when one considers the dangers to mankind involved in war today, any step that moves toward better understanding and peaceful relations is important." By then, however, Hammer had all but forgotten the crabmeat controversy amid plans to export to the Soviet Union the machinery and know-how to begin production of massive amounts of phosphate fertilizer.
Al Gore, Sr., profited handsomely from his association with Hammer, even while still in office. By 1950 Hammer had ingratiated himself to Gore by taking him as a partner in his cattle-breeding business. He also supplied Gore with Christmas gifts of expensive silver. During the years that followed, Gore's herd of Aberdeen-Angus cattle was enriched by several bulls and heifers produced by Hammer's stock.
There is in Middle Tennessee much folklore about Albert Gore, Sr.'s, cattle business and its relationship to his political dealings. Residents will tell the inquiring visitor of how lobbyists and others with an interest in Gore's work would parade to Carthage during the fall auction period, bid outrageously high prices for Gore's stock, and sometimes not even bother to pick up what they had purchased. Proof of such de facto bribery is lacking. But what is not lacking are local press reports from the era which chronicle the many distinguished folks who came to buy Albert Gore's cattle. In the 1957-58 period, for example, the Carthage Courier reported that cattle purchasers included Senator Robert Kerr, the Oklahoma Democrat and oil industry point man, who owned a large herd of his own; Gordon Dean, a former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, some of whose Wall Street dealings now fell under Gore's legislative jurisdiction; and, most peculiarly, legendary baseball great Joe DiMaggio. In 1958 the "Yankee Clipper" showed up in Carthage and purchased ten calves from Gore on behalf of clients whose identities he declined to disclose.
Payoffs? Or good faith, arms-length business transactions? Even good friends of the Gore family retain their suspicions. Says former Governor Ned McWherter, one of Al Gore, Jr.'s, staunchest Tennessee allies, and the man who delivered the clinching arguments to Bill Clinton for putting Gore on the '92 ticket, "I've sold some Angus in my time too, but I never got the kind of prices for my cattle that the Gores got for theirs."
In the political world that Al Gore, Jr., would inherit, padding one's political war chest through the sale of black Angus cattle would seem a trifle quaint. Al Gore, Sr., tried to educate his son about the world of politics, hoping he would find it exciting and rise to the top. But when it came to political fundraising, the time would come when the younger man would have been able to teach his father a thing or two.
What People are Saying About This
It is always better to know all we can about a presidential candidate before he is elected rather than find out afterward, as the Clinton troubles demonstrate so clearly. Mr. Gore has been on the political scene in Washington for most of his life, most recently an eight years of staged-managed events at the White House. We need to know more, much more. Bob Selnick starts that examination...
!51; Ken Bode, Moderator, PBS' Washington Week in Review