Clinton Compared Gore to Mussolini?


As I noted yesterday, the new book on Bill Clinton, based on taped conversations he had throughout his presidency with Taylor Branch, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and FOB, is loaded with intriguing and juicy passages about the Clinton years (like Hillary Clinton dumping on Sally Quinn because Quinn was spreading the rumor the First Lady had been caught trysting with a female veterinarian in a White House bedroom). But perhaps the most fascinating subplot of the 707-page tome is the relationship between Clinton and Al Gore. The book details the now-famous conversation the two had after the 2000 election, an encounter that was both heated and weird, with each man caught in a different view of reality about that election and other matters.

Now that I’ve had more time to peruse the book, I’ve come across other passages that illuminate the tensions and affections these pols shared.

* Describing one interview in which Clinton was evaluating Gore’s campaigning during the 2000 election, Branch writes, “Gore lacked confidence in a light touch. Whenever he tried to be aggressive, said Clinton, Gore could come off ponderous and harsh, like Mussolini.” Mussolini? That’s harsh.

* During a “stressful consultation” between the two men when Gore was running for president, Gore, as Clinton recalled to Branch, told Clinton that “he, Gore, was a good politician, elaborating that he meant good on the policy, and also good on the politics, but admitted that he did not instinctively blend the two. Gore said he had to think about it, and Clinton thought this was pretty close to the bone. As a policy person, and a government person, Gore would make wise choices. He had the stuff to be a great president.”

So Clinton compared his veep to a fascist Italian dictator, but believed he could be a great president, and Gore realized that his major deficit was integrating the policy wonk and the politician within him. What I’d like now is to see Gore’s side of the tale. Or perhaps a book just on what went on between these two guys. Mr. Vice President, where are your memoirs of the Clinton years?

You can follow David Corn’s postings and media appearances via Twitter.

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