As Clinton's Point Man for Congress, Gore Would Fill Familiar Role With PM-Political Rdp, Bjt
Jul. 11, 1992
NEW YORK (AP) _ By naming Sen. Albert Gore as his point man on Capitol Hill, Bill Clinton is betting that a balky Congress will best respond to one of its own.
He's also relying on a tried and sometimes true formula: picking a running mate from the legislative branch.
''I want him to break the logjam in Washington, to give us a government that works for all the people again, and I believe he can,'' Clinton said Friday.
Gore, D-Tenn., was born into the congressional scene - his father was a three-term senator - and has served 16 years in Congress himself, half in the House and half in the Senate.
He's been a leader on certain issues, including the environment and arms control. But he has shown little interest in climbing into the leadership positions that control the flow of legislation and move the agenda forward.
''He's figured out an unconventional way to be effective. He's not playing an inside game,'' said Carter Eskew, a political consultant and longtime friend. ''He has used the authority of the Senate and his own imagination and creativity.''
Every successful Democratic nominee since Franklin Roosevelt, whose first 100 days Clinton seeks to recall, has chosen someone from Congress as a running mate.
Pushing a legislative program through in 100 days, as Clinton says he wants, could take a brand of lobbying not seen in Gore's repertoire: arm- twisting. He'd probably have to succeed in another way.
''Gore is no Lyndon Baines Johnson,'' said James Thurber, an analyst at American University. ''He's a wheeler-dealer, but he knows how the place works and he knows how to make coalitions.''
Republicans were less generous.
''Gore, to the best of my knowledge, has not passed a single major piece of legislation,'' said House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. ''I don't remember a single one where Gore was a primary legislator.''
Gingrich said he would work with Gore or whoever the vice president is next year. ''But the objective fact is that an effective president has to deal directly with the (House) speaker and the majority leader in the House and the Senate.''
Vice President Dan Quayle is often on Capitol Hill, regularly meeting with GOP lawmakers to promote the president's program. But with Republicans in the minority in both chambers, his effectiveness is limited.
''Most vice presidents are touted as being legislative point men or women, but it usually doesn't work out that way,'' said Walt Riker, spokesman for Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas.
''Certainly the vice president can help the president on Capitol Hill with lobbying and attending functions,'' he said. ''But when it comes to the day- to-day trench warfare, it's going to be the majority leader and the members themselves who have to do the fighting.''
Johnson, who was Senate majority leader when he was picked by John Kennedy, was frustrated by the job.
''All vice presidents are frustrated, but he did pull in some chits and he did help,'' said Thurber. ''He had more power as majority leader, yet he was an excellent vice president for pushing through programs.''
Walter Mondale, although like Gore a popular figure on Capitol Hill, was less successful as Jimmy Carter's vice president.
Gridlock in Congress is a bigger issue now than it has been in many years, and Gore is being touted as part of the cure.
''I think that Americans are concerned about the deadlock that has occurred on Capitol Hill,'' said Thurber. ''It's a good strategy.''