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Clinton waits, but will Gore ever telephone?

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Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2000 10:00 pm

The word from the White House is the Bill Clinton is chomping at the bit.

Clinton is waiting for Gore's 911 call - the president can't believe that his boy has botched things so badly.

How is it possible, Clinton wonders, that Gore has frittered away the amazing advantages that he's inherited: The best economy in world history, a massive surplus, declining crime rates and microscopic levels of unemployment and inflation?

Actually, according to Washington insiders, Clinton is more than wondering. He's rumored to be furious that Gore won't pick up the phone.Joe Guzzardi

As Clinton watches from the sidelines, his vice president is falling behind in an election he should have locked up months ago.

Clinton made mincemeat of George H. eight years ago. He doesn't understand why Gore hasn't put George W. away.

Clinton's opinion of young Bush is that he's a rich little daddy's boy who has been governor of a state where governors have no power. On top of that, Clinton perceives George W. as a slacker who can't talk, won't think and is on the wrong side of the issues.

Do you remember Clinton's parody of Bush? Clinton said, "Hey, I'm governor of Texas, I used to own a baseball team and my daddy was president. How bad can I be?"

Clinton along with dozens of other Democrats, are befuddled that Gore has let Bush slide by proclaiming change as his main theme. Bush proposes "change" and "reform" to a country that is happy as can be with the way things are.

On the CNN show, "Today in Politics," state democratic chairmen from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan were unanimous in agreement that if Clinton stumped for Gore in their states, the vice president's chances would improve.

But Gore remains steadfast. After Clinton and Gore attended Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan's funeral, Gore's spokesman Mark Fabiani said that the president and the vice president would not be appearing together at any campaign rallies.

According to the New York Times, there is more to Gore's reluctance to call Clinton than meets the eye.

In their Oct. 20 story, "Once close to Clinton, Gore keeps a distance," reporters Don Van Natta Jr. and Melinda Hennenberger reveal that the two men are estranged. Hillary and Tipper are, at best, cool to each other. Their college-age daughters do not speak. According to Van Natta and Hennenberger, the last thing Gore is likely to do is ask Clinton for advice.

Gore has painted himself into a box. At the Democratic convention, he announced to the free world that he "stands before you as his own man." He is reluctant to go back on that.

If I were advising Gore, here's what I'd tell him: You've still got a good shot, I'd say. Forget about your past differences, real or imagined, with Clinton.

Set him free. Send Clinton to places where he'll get out the Democratic votes you need so badly.

Stop worrying about Clinton's image. The fact remains that even during the darkest days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton's popularity nationwide was high.

In states where your lead is vulnerable, like California and Pennsylvania, Clinton can only help you. In states in the balance, like Michigan and Florida, Clinton's presence would give your campaign a shot in the arm.

You don't need to go very far to see the impact your boss can have. Look to the northeast where Hillary, who has a lot bigger ax to grind than you do, has relied heavily on Clinton. She knows how effective he is.

With Clinton's support, Hillary's raised big money and has pulled away from Rick Lazio.

Think about that.

Hillary, a universally disliked figure, is going to the U.S. Senate because of the hand she got from her husband, still one of the most popular politicians in America.

This is a man whose help you don't want?

In summary, I'd say to Gore: "You've run a pretty pathetic campaign. Like other vice presidents who seek the presidency, you've had your troubles."

Other vice presidents, Richard Nixon and George H. Bush, served with two popular presidents, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Nixon lost; Bush won.

Hubert Humphrey couldn't get out from under the shadow of the enormously unpopular Lyndon Johnson. He narrowly lost.

To win, you've got to play all the cards in your hand. More shifting in the polls in the next two weeks is inevitable. Clinton could give the voters a nudge in your direction.

Let the big dog hunt.

Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly opinion column since 1988. He can be reached via e-mail.

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