Should he be called upon to complete President Clinton's term in office, Vice President Albert Gore will not be able to restore political tranquility the same way Gerald R. Ford did 24 years ago.
Twenty-four years ago, Gerald R. Ford assumed the presidency after Richard M. Nixon resigned in disgrace. In his pardon of the former President, Ford said, "the tranquility to which this nation has been restored by the events of recent weeks could be irreparably lost by the prospects of bringing to trial a former President of the United States. The prospects of such a trial will cause prolonged and divisive debate" Most Americans believe President Ford was right. By pardoning Nixon, Ford was able to quickly put an end to a national crisis and rebuild public faith in our constitutional system.
But no matter how Gore behaves in the wake of a Clinton resignation, a prolonged and divisive debate will occur. Not only is Albert Gore more closely associated with Clinton than Ford was to Nixon, but Gore faces serious ethics charges of his own.
Under a congressional threat of her own impeachment, and because the law says she must, Attorney General Janet Reno may soon appoint an independent counsel to investigate possible fundraising improprieties by the Clinton-Gore '96 campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Both Charles LaBella, the prosecutor hand-picked by Reno to lead a Justice Department inquiry into the fundraising matter, and FBI Director Louis Freeh have called for the appointment of an independent counsel, with Freeh going as far as to say that his initial investigative inquiries have already led his agents to "the highest levels of the White House, including the Vice President and the President."
Vice President Gore, readers may recall, made dozens of fundraising calls from the White House in 1995 and 1996, a number of which appear to be in violation of a federal law prohibiting fundraising solicitations on federal property. Gore was also the main attraction at fundraiser hosted by a tax-exempt Buddhist Temple in violation of federal law. The chief organizer of that fundraiser was Maria Lynn Hsia, believed to be an agent of communist China.
These issues will continue to preoccupy Washington whether Bill Clinton is President or not.
But the campaign finance investigation would not be Gore's only obstacle to restoring political calm. Indeed, the Vice President has some political baggage that President Clinton doesn't.
For one thing, Gore's views on the environment are far outside the mainstream. This will become very apparent should he become President, free of Bill Clinton's "moderating" influence.
Gore is not nearly as shrewd a politician as Bill Clinton. He apparently does not see the political problem, for example, with blatant hypocrisy. While this self-professed defender of the environment lectures the American people on the need for self-sacrifice and self-discipline to protect the environment, Gore clearly has difficulty practicing what he preaches.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, for example, Nashville television station WTVF obtained footage proving the existence of a dump -- a dump Gore insisted did not exist -- on property owned by Gore's father. The footage showed that the dump was filled with aluminum cans, old tires, filters full of waste oil and containers for a pesticide called MH-30. The close proximity to a river suggested that it was a significant environmental hazard. More recently, in 1993, Gore had a verandah made of old-growth redwood and Douglas Fir added to the Vice President's residence, despite his long-standing opposition to logging old-growth forests. Then, just two years ago, the Denver Water Department released an extra 96 million gallons of water -- enough for 300 families for a year -- to improve the backdrop for a Gore photo-op in front of the South Platte River.
Should Gore be called upon to fill out
the President's term in office, an end to political turmoil is
unlikely. Gore would, however, ensure that the bull market for
political pundits and late-night television talk show hosts continues.
David Ridenour is vice president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. Comments may be sent to [email protected]