So much for Al Gore being his own man. On Monday, Gore will speak in San Francisco before the Commonwealth Club of California, in a speech his people are touting as the former vice president's take on Iraq and other foreign policy issues.
But again Gore's timing couldn't be worse. Already every major Democratic presidential candidate has laid down his take on what President Bush and the U.S. should do with Iraq, and almost all of them, from Lieberman to Edwards to Gephardt (let's forget the milquetoast Daschle and peacenik Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont), have taken a more hawkish stand than Gore himself took earlier this year in a speech before the Council of Foreign Relations.
At that point Gore indicated that his approach to Iraq would be very different from Bush's, even though Bush's team had to lay out a clear plan to take out Saddam. Now that Bush has, Gore's problems have only multiplied. Not only will he have to clarify his own muddled record on Iraq going back to eight feckless years under Clinton-Gore. He'll also have to say something that the American people haven't already heard on at least four other occasions in the past two weeks. And he'll have to make those points better than Edwards and Lieberman, both of whom spoke more eloquently than Gore ever can.
This is where being his own man comes into it the equation. Whereas in the past few months Gore has been drafting speeches with his own, let's call it, "unique" take on issues, for the Commonwealth Club address Gore has been huddling with his old foreign policy guru Leon Fuerth, who served as his national security adviser in the White House.
The fact that Fuerth is apparently so involved would indicate that Gore, while generally being supportive of action against Iraq, will take Fuerth's position: that quick, unilateral action would be potentially difficult for the U.S., thus putting American lives in harm's way, and that the administration should instead use U.N. inspections and internal Iraqi political operatives to press the issue of a government overthrow.
"He's in a real spot," says a former Gore adviser. "Most of his competitors in 2004 have already come out in, at the least, general support of the President's position. If he does simply that, he looks like a follower, not a leader. But I can't believe he'll stray so far into Fuerth's orbit that he looks like he doesn't support his country's position at all. He knows that his putting full faith in the U.N. won't wash with the American public."
Word out of Texas is that Fred Baron, who was a key adviser and fundraiser for both Bill Clinton and Al Gore in their presidential campaigns is signing on with Sen. John Edwards' PAC and loosely confederated presidential exploratory committee.
"Gore wanted him back real bad," says a former Gore 2000 campaign staffer. "He was lobbying Baron hard to stay out of the race until things firmed up, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen."
It shouldn't come as a big surprise that Edwards won out. After all, Edwards is practically family to Baron. They are both trial lawyers.
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