Florida loser Al Gore had a busy time in Washington last week. Not only did he meet with the former colleagues and staffers at a Clinton-Gore administration reunion, he also held a reunion of a different kind with the leaders of organized labor.
Most of those in attendance at the Hay-Adams hotel last week were the tried and true union leaders who have stood by the Democratic Party regardless of candidate for decades. But this wasn't a friendly get together as far as the labor folks were concerned. The luncheon had been set up by Gore backers, and included the pol's longtime labor policy guru Bill Samuel, and according to a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO, their leadership wasn't that thrilled to have to sit down with their former pal.
"There was a lot of resentment toward him," says the lobbyist. "This was a guy who never really thanked us for all the hard work we did for him during the campaign. Organized labor also pumped a lot of money and manpower into Florida during the recount, and we never heard a peep of gratitude for that."
So Gore walked into a room where several senior AFL-CIO officials sat, as well as Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, Country, and Municipal Employees; Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, among others -- though not AFL-CIO boss John Sweeney. He was invited but chose instead to focus on his organization's Wall Street protests in New York City. Several backers of Joseph Lieberman and Tom Daschle duly noticed Sweeney's absence.
Gore spoke as if assuming labor would continue to back him regardless. According to the AFL-CIO lobbyist, who learned of the meeting from attendees, "Gore basically said this was a belated thank you. He didn't apologize for anything, but he made it clear to everyone there that his message of defending the little guy was going to continue, regardless of what other people said."
The meeting with his union pals occurred several days after Gore's 2000 running mate, Joe Lieberman, lambasted him for that very message, saying he believed it was a contributing factor to their loss. The meeting between Gore and his union backers was followed up on Sunday with his op-ed in the New York Times, in which he seemingly insisted that his class-warfare message worked then and would work now.
"If he's all ready to kiss and make up with organized labor, it shows he's serious about running again," says a DNC staffer. "That meeting has been a long time in coming. It probably isn't coincidental that it was held just as the Democratic Leadership Council meeting was ending in New York. Gore was sending a message."
A year ago, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was telling anyone who would listen that he believed in free trade. But presidential politics have clearly turned him around. Edwards last week voted against giving the Bush Administration fast-track authority to cut trade treaties. He cited the fact that several protectionist amendments that would have helped his state's textile industry were dropped as his rationale for voting against the trade bill. But those amendments were present this spring when he voted for the Senate version of fast-track. In fact only one other member of the North Carolina delegation, Republican Rep. Robin Hayes, voted against the fast track bill.
"Everything Edward is doing now is seen through the prism of a presidential run," says a Senate Democratic staffer. "You see these guys on the floor, Daschle looking at Edwards, who's looking at Lieberman. Without a presidential candidacy, Edwards probably votes for the final version of the bill."
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