Al Gore’s decision to endorse Howard Dean for president may be the final bit of evidence that our Al isn’t a Southern Democrat anymorein case anyone needed more proof.
Much was made after Gore’s failed presidential bid in 2000 of his failure to carry his home state. While many conservatives pointed to it as proof that “the people who knew him best” held him in low regard, the reality is that Gore largely got caught up in the natural drift of being a national Democrat.
While an officeholder in Tennessee, Gore was able to craft positions that played safely within the state’s mainstream but that also stayed in touch with where Democrats stood nationally. As a result, he was a very popular office holder in Tennessee, winning overwhelming reelection in 1990. When he became vice president, he cast aside his artful straddles and moved into the moderate part of the national party mainstream. Since then, he’s drifted further leftward toward what many have suspected were his repressed sentiments anyway.
In backing Dean for the presidency, and by pushing former president Bill Clinton further into irrelevance, he is subtly settling an old score. Coming when Dean was already starting to break free of the pack, Gore’s endorsement just underscores how it’s time for the party to move beyond the era of the Clinton cult.
Gore, of course, probably feels that Clinton’s fecklessnessand the loyal-soldier things he felt he had to do to prop up the Clinton presidencywere responsible for his failure to become president. Elbowing Clinton a little further off the national stage has to be satisfyingespecially since he got to do it just a few blocks from Clinton’s office in Harlem.
Lamar: annoying to the right people
Sen. Bill Frist has always said that he won’t run for a third term in the Senate, and if he’s having second thoughts about that, the lurking presence of his junior colleague, Lamar Alexander, ought to reassure him that he’s making the right decision.
In his first year in the Senate, Alexander has been moderate and respectful, but there’s plenty of evidence that he’s not fully in step with the White Houseand is going to turn into a major pain in the neck just as soon as he can do it without embarrassing Frist.
Consider his posture on recent developments:
On President Bush’s repeal of the steel tariffs, Alexander sayswith manifestly repressed ironythat the trade barriers are an “honest effort” to help steelworkers. But the barriers are also “shipping our auto jobs overseas” from Tennessee, he says. On the Bush clean air initiatives, Alexander offers some faint praise before noting that the new regulations don’t go far enough to clean up the air in Tennessee.
Nobody ever really expected Alexander to be an administration pushover. But, presumably, he’s only getting warmed up.
Names from the past
A couple of interesting names showed up last week in a list of Gov. Phil Bredesen’s board and commission appointments.
The governor named former Metro Council member Roy Dalenever a particularly close ally of Bredesen’s during his time as Nashville mayorto the Conservation Commission. Dale tried to resurrect himself politically this summer, in a bid for Metro Council, with a strategy of outspoken homophobia and over-the-top digs at incumbents who supported a local gay rights measure. But the voters soundly rejected him for an at-large council seat.
Just why Bredesen would appoint him is a mysteryeven to many close to the governor. While no one’s sure, either, precisely what the Conservation Commission does, look for Dale to advocate tagging gay mallards.
Another curious gubernatorial appointment was J.W. Luna, a Bredesen backer and cabinet commissioner under former Gov. Ned McWherter, for the Committee on Compensation, which makes recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly on salaries for the governor, cabinet commissioners, constitutional officers and legislators.
As a registered lobbyist for several business interests, Luna may be in an awkward position seeking votes from lawmakers while also making salary recommendations for them.
Bredesen press secretary Lydia Lenker says the governor appointed Luna based on his strong experience in government as a former personnel commissioner. She says that the governor expects Luna to recuse himself if any conflicts arise. With all respect to everyone involved, the conflicts already exist.
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