Gore stands by his man through thick and thin

 

The Vice-President, Mr Al Gore, has given President Bill Clinton his unstinting loyalty throughout the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a personal choice that also appears to be his best - indeed his only - political option.

As Mr Clinton's devoted understudy who hopes one day to take over the stage, Mr Gore has bound his fortunes to the President's, and political analysts said there is simply no way he can put distance between himself and the President.

Nor, given Mr Clinton's popularity, is there much reason to.

"The Vice-President has tied his political fate to the President. They are linked inextricably," Mr Thomas Mann, of the Brookings Institution, said. "The President retains high approval ratings," Mr Mann added. "The country, including much of Washington as well, is aghast over this whole matter coming to a potential crisis when in reality it shouldn't be anywhere close to that."

Five days after the scandal broke on January 21st, Mr Clinton - with Mr Gore standing stolidly at his side - angrily denied having sexual relations with "that woman, Miss Lewinsky".

And when Mr Clinton made his first foray outside Washington after the scandal hit, Mr Gore went with him and left no doubts about where his loyalties lay.

"He is the President of the country; he is also my friend; and I want to ask you now, every single one of you, to join me in supporting him and standing by his side," Mr Gore told a crowd of more than 10,000 in Champaign, Illinois, to rising cheers.

One Gore aide said the Vice-President's office remained focused on policy, rather than the scandal, and said talking about its political implications for Mr Gore was irrelevant because he would support Mr Clinton to the hilt whatever the consequences.

"The Vice-President is 110 percent loyal to the President," said the Gore aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He will stick with him through thick and thin."

However, Mr Gore was not in Washington when Mr Clinton faced one of the toughest tests of his career - testifying before the grand jury yesterday in the Lewinsky case.

Mr Gore and his family are on holiday in Hawaii. A spokeswoman said the timing was coincidental.

By all appearances, the men remain extremely close.

Although they each have punishing travel schedules, they met this week for a fund-raising dinner in Chicago and gave each other a bear hug as they parted at the airport.

Since his re-election in 1996, Mr Clinton has done everything possible to advance Mr Gore's political prospects, allowing the Vice-President to announce good news such as federal aid to key states and praising him at every opportunity.

In what has become a staple of his political speeches, the President makes a point of thanking people around the country for "making it possible for Hillary and me and Al and Tipper Gore to serve our country".

In one irony, analysts said if Mr Clinton were driven from the White House because of the scandal, Mr Gore would be one of the biggest beneficiaries because he would have the huge advantage of running for the presidency in 2000 as an incumbent.

Mr Al Gore: unstinting loyalty to President Clinton