Democrats Dismiss Clinton-Gore Rift

Wednesday, February 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats dismiss the importance of a postelection rift between former President Clinton and the party's presidential nominee, Al Gore, saying now is not the time to fix blame on why Democrats lost the White House.

``I don't think finger pointing does us much good right now,'' said Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, the Democratic Leadership Council's new chairman. The way to regain the White House ``is to focus upon the things that will create better lives for the American people, not a bunch of criticizing about what happened last year.''

Bayh told several hundred members of the centrist council Wednesday that Democrats in Congress will work with President Bush on issues like education, welfare reforms and tax cuts.

``We stand ready to work with (the new president) to improve the country,'' said Bayh. ``We also stand ready to hold President Bush to his campaign promises ... to be a uniter and not a divider, to be compassionate as well as conservative.''

Referring to a recent debate over the Gore campaign's strategy, Bayh said Democrats shouldn't choose between attracting base supporters — women, minorities and labor — or going after independents and suburbanites.

``You have to both energize the base and reach out to independent and undecided voters,'' said Bayh, the first-term Indiana senator who was mentioned last summer as a possible Gore running mate.

Bayh played down the significance of a report that former President Clinton and Gore clashed in a private meeting over the causes of Gore's election defeat in November. Gore was reportedly unhappy over the public displeasure with Clinton after his sex scandal, The Washington Post reported, and Clinton countered that Gore should have run more aggressively on the administration's record.

Gore aides say there were clearly tensions between Gore and Clinton, though they were more professional than personal.

As for whether Clinton should have been given a bigger role in the campaign, the Gore campaign's research indicated that would have been helpful in some states but not in others.

Several Democrats questioned Wednesday said they knew nothing of the Clinton-Gore meeting.

``They talked from time to time, but I don't know anything about this meeting,'' said Clinton spokesman Jake Siewert. ``Their meetings are private and always were private and I don't think anything would be served by us discussing it today. Clinton's just on vacation. He's not president anymore.''

DLC founder and CEO Al From, a friend of both Clinton and Gore, said: ``Time will heal wounds, personal feelings will fade and the way to unify our party is around new ideas. The way you supersede personal conflict is by rallying people around a set of ideas.''

Bayh said the party should focus on its ideas and principles such as improving schools, where he said Democrats can agree with the president on some reforms, but not on using vouchers — public money funneled to private schools. He also said he personally would support some tax cuts, as long as they are fairly distributed.

``But we don't want to return to a borrow-and-spend economy,'' he said. ``We need to learn from experience.''

Bayh took the chair position Tuesday from Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who was Gore's running mate and has led the centrist group for the past six years. Past chairmen have included former President Clinton, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri and former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn.

Bayh discounted speculation the new post would help him run for the White House in four years.


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