(Iowa City, IA) Vice President Al Gore strode in the room at the University of Iowa Memorial Union as the Shania Twain tune, “Come On, let’s get something started” blasted on the speakers. What Gore was starting, formally, was his second bid for the presidency. Gore used the first day of his crusade to begin distancing himself from the man he’s served the past seven years: President Clinton.
“I make you this pledge. If you entrust me with the presidency, I will marshall its authority, its resources and its moral leadership to fight for America’s families,” Gore said, to applause.
While mentioning Clinton by name just once, when he declared President Clinton’s policies to be “right” in Kosovo, Gore walked the tight rope of calling Clinton’s personal conduct wrong, but his policies right.
“With your help, I will take my own values of faith and family to the presidency to build an America that is not just better off, but better,” Gore said.
Gore’s wife, Tipper, had been silenced by laryngitis at Gore’s first stop of the day in Carthage, Tennessee, his hometown. In Iowa City, Mrs. Gore sounded the first notes of the “he’s no Bill Clinton” refrain.
“I have know him for 34 years. I can tell you, unequivocally, that I know what he’s made of and it’s very strong character, strong heart, strong spirit, exactly the kind of leadership that we need,” she said.
Gore also began distinguishing his political philosophy from that of George W. Bush, the “compassionate conservative” who is the front-runner for the Republican party’s presidential nomination.
“I know how to keep our prosperity going,” Gore said. “By making those choices in the right way, not by letting people fend for themselves or hoping for crumbs of compassion but rather giving them the skills and job training and education to do it in their own right for themselves.”
A crowd of about 1,000 was on hand for Gore’s speech and staged discussion about education initiatives. Before the event began, the crowd saw a tape of Gore’s announcement speech in Tennessee. Applause came in Iowa City after references to abortion rights and gun control. A few boos and hisses came when Gore said he supports the death penalty.
“The vision is there and the energy seems to be there,” said Perry Ramirez of Davenport, a Gore supporter. “But how bad do the American people want to see those changes? It comes right down to that.” Marilyn Steincamp of Winthrope, Iowa is “real concerned about the democratic party staying in office. We have some good times, and I’d like to see it continue.”
Others in the audience were roped into the event, like the piano accompanist for a children’s choir which sang before Gore arrived.
“What’s the quickest way out of here?” he asked two reporters as he closed his music and rose from the piano bench — just before Gore was introduced to the crowd.