Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A 'New' Gore? Remember the 'New' Nixon

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A 'New' Gore? Remember the 'New' Nixon

Article excerpt

After a recent column I wrote about the possibility of Al Gore running again for president, I received an angry e-mail accusing me of "building up" Mr. Gore because I knew he wouldn't have a chance of winning. Since then, I've had two letters that expressed the same mistrust of my intentions in writing that Gore, by "being himself," just might make it next time around.

Well, it is arguable that if Bush remains the formidable wartime president he is today there is no chance that anyone - Gore or any other Democrat - will be able to unseat him. And it is further arguable that should Gore run the same old race he ran in 2000 he would probably be a very weak opponent of Mr. Bush.

But I think a "new" Al Gore - even if that newness is nothing more than a return to an old, uncontrived, personable Gore - could become an attractive and, perhaps, winning candidate in 2004.

Why am I saying this? Because I'm remembering how a former vice president, Richard Nixon, lost in 1960 but repackaged himself as a "new" Nixon and won in 1968. Nixon had to somehow sell the idea that he was no longer the "Tricky Dick" who smeared his foes with false accusations and that he had become a more mature, reasonable, and even affable fellow who dealt fairly with his adversaries. A ridiculous, unsalable idea to put across? Sounds like it.

But Nixon and his aides sold the "new Nixon" to a lot of people, including that savvy reporter and great political historian, Theodore H. White. And it was this allegedly restructured Nixon who won the presidency in his second try - only to remind the voters after election that he hadn't really buried the old Nixon.

Gore wouldn't have the tremendous sales job that Nixon had in selling a different image of himself if he makes another try for president. In my many contacts with Gore, as a newsman, I found him a straight-shooting, warm guy. He was not the know-it-all, always- on-stage, often-less-than-likable Gore he was during his battle with Bush.

Now Gore is talking about running again and promising his supporters, "If I had to do it all over again, I'd just let it rip. …

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