Old Wives' Tales
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Toxin du jour
Claim: Al Gore offered to sell his Senate vote on a 1991 Gulf War resolution to whichever side would give him more publicity.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2000]
Origins: Former Senators Alan Simpson and Bob Dole have been charging since 1992 that then-Senator Al Gore broke with his party (one of only ten Democrats to do so) and voted for a resolution supporting the Gulf War in 1991 because siding with the Republicans gave him more publicity. Gore, of course, has maintained that his vote was an "example of his independence of mind and principled approach to governing" and the claims of Simpson and Dole are politically-motivated fabrications, so the issue essentially boils down to a "He said, he said" argument about which side one finds more credible.
Is there any evidence that comes from someone other than the three principals involved? Sure, but it too is contradictory. The Boston Globe reported that others remembered hearing second-hand of Gore's maneuvering at the time:
Two of Simpson's former aides said this week that they did not witness the conversation between Gore and the GOP leaders, but remember Dole and Simpson talking about it soon thereafter.However, the same article also reported that Marla Romash, an adviser to Gore who was on his Senate staff at the time of the Gulf War, said:
I was with him at midnight when he walked out the door of the office, after a long conversation, and he still had not made up his mind. It was routine in the Senate at that time to notify the leader of which side you were going to speak to request time. He notified Dole and [Senator George] Mitchell, knowing he might come down on either side.and a Democratic aide who was present maintained that Gore would have received the same amount of time to speak no matter which side he supported:
A Democratic floor aide at the time, however, said Simpson's charges were ludicrous. Not only was there no Senate flap about Gore's vote, the aide said, but "it is transparently obvious that Senator Mitchell would have given Senator Gore any time he wanted. It was a close vote. If Senator Gore had asked forThe Boston Globe also noted that Gore's two biographers, Bob Zelnick and Bill Turque, "both of whom have dug up material that is critical of the vice president on other matters, said Simpson's charges are not supported by the facts. Indeed, both conclude that Gore's vote should be viewed as an act of moral and political courage":
Gore's two biographers, however, side with the vice president. Former ABC reporter Bob Zelnick, now a professor of journalism at Boston University, said that he looked into the episode when researching his biography of Gore, which is otherwise critical of the candidate.A letter to the editor Denver Rocky Mountain News made what is perhaps a telling point:
Zelnick's sources in the Senate, whom he would not reveal, shot down the "shopping" story and told him that Gore acted out of principle, not expediency, in the Persian Gulf debate. With just a few hours to go, Zelnick said, Gore was still consulting with Martin Peretz, a friend who publishes The New Republic magazine, and then-Representative Steve Solarz of New York, about the wisdom of war in the gulf.
In the end, Zelnick writes in his book that Gore's vote "deserves to be recognized as an act of conscience and moral courage."
And Bill Turque, a Newsweek reporter whose forthcoming book on Gore contains embarrassing material about the candidate's use of marijuana, said he thought Simpson and Sununu were engaged in "a bunch of election season spin." Turque said he "found nothing" to substantiate Simpson's allegation and agreed with Zelnick that Gore's vote on the Gulf War was "probably the most courageous vote he ever cast."
I am no big fan of Al Gore, but Simpson's entire piece was riddled with innuendo: "He seemed," "I thought," "I believe," which if presented in a court of law would have been dismissed as hearsay. Not one allegation in this article can be proved either way, and Simpson knows it.Except for Gore's question about how much time he would get if he supported the Republicans (which is certainly subject to interpretation), most of Simpson's accusation is his supposition about Gore's motivations for asking the question, not hard evidence. A more substantial piece of evidence is Simpson's claim that Gore called Howard Greene, the Republican Senate secretary, and exclaimed "Damn it, Howard! If I don't get
The Boston Globe took a similar tack in their article:
According to Dole and Simpson, Gore approached the two GOP leaders and asked, "How much time will you give me?"It seems Gore asked a question, and Dole and Simpson drew some inferences from it. Their inferences may have been correct, but there doesn't appear to be sufficient evidence to support that conclusion for now.
"How much time did you get from the other side?" Dole asked.
"Seven minutes," Gore replied.
"I'll give you 15 minutes," Dole said, and Simpson then offered Gore an additional five minutes of his time.
"Let me think about it," Gore said.
From that brief conversation, recounted this week by Simpson, he and Dole drew the conclusion that Gore was looking to trade his vote for a prime speaking opportunity.
Last updated: 30 November 2007
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