When Al Gore told the Democratic Leadership Council to go ahead without him, his spokesman explained that the failed presidential candidate had a "prior commitment."
The real reason Gore spurned the DLC's New York conference, as the Prowler reported Monday, was that he was given no assurances he would headline the event and he didn't want be part of a cattle call of Democratic presidential hopefuls. He was particularly concerned about being lumped onto the same schedule with Sens. John Edwards and Joseph Lieberman.
A scheduling conflict can, of course, mean many things. It could mean that Gore had a hair appointment (for what's left of it). Or perhaps he had a master class to teach at his political-geek summer camp at Vanderbilt.
But Gore, in fact, had nothing on his schedule beyond a mid-week reunion in Washington, D.C. with a group of Clinton-Gore administration alumnae at George Washington University.
So perhaps that's why Gore might have looked at his Palm Pilot calendar, and thought it a good idea to spend some time fundraising for his PAC, or re-connecting with donors from the 2000 campaign. What wasn't a good idea was meeting said donors at a hotel in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday within walking distance of the DLC's meeting place.
Inside the midtown Hilton where the DLC had gathered -- and where Hillary Clinton and John Edwards teed off on President Bush and vowed to defend moderate Democratic values in the coming election cycles -- conference attendees yesterday were abuzz with rumors that Gore had been spotted dining at the nearby Regency Hotel.
"All I know is that he had conflicts with his schedule when he spoke to the DLC this spring about speaking," says a Gore associate. "If he was in New York, I'm sure it was important."
According to another Gore adviser, the man from Tennessee was considering a drop-by at the Hilton, a kind of "I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd come by to say hello." But two things stopped him.
First: his old pal Joe Lieberman's blistering comments to reporters last Sunday evening that Gore wouldn't be missed, because he wasn't really DLC material to begin with and had betrayed many of the DLC's tenets in the 2000 presidential race.
Second: "It was the kind of thing Bill Clinton would do," says one of the Gore advisers. "And even though they've patched things up, comparisons to Clinton are something Gore wants to avoid."
As for Lieberman, his comments didn't exactly catch the Gore camp by surprise. "We expected he'd be looking for a way to create some breathing room between himself and Mr. Gore," says the adviser. "I guess I'm surprised that it took him this long to do it. I hope Mr. Gore holds him to his promise up until the very last minute."
That "promise" refers to Lieberman's pledge to not seek the Democratic presidential nomination if Gore was seeking it as well. After his little on-the-record chat in New York, it's pretty clear that pledge isn't long for this earth.
Another enjoyable sidelight to the DLC's New York meeting, besides the "What did Al have for lunch?" guessing game, was the press conference held by Al Sharpton, who expressed hurt that the DLC excluded him from its panel of speakers.
"What the hell is he talking about?" asked a DLC staffer. "I don't even think he's on our mailing list."
But if nothing else, his little show gave the Democratic Party's site selection committee a snippet of what it can expect should the party hold its nominating convention in New York in 2004.
"He wants a seat at the table," says a DNC staffer. "Nothing wrong with that, but going after the Democratic Leadership Council and raining on its parade isn't a smart way to get what you want."
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