WASHINGTON -- At the moment of President Clinton's deepest peril in office, Al Gore was where he has always been these past six years: by the president's side.
"I've stood with him as he has led this nation, and on a personal note, I would like to tell you he is not only a great president, he has been a great friend," the vice president said yesterday morning, introducing Clinton at the White House annual prayer breakfast.
Later in the day, Gore appeared again with the president at a memorial service for victims of the bombings last month at U.S. embassies in Africa and at a White House ceremony to honor Americans who played a role in the peace accord in Northern Ireland.
And after Congress made public the 445-page report that argues an independent counsel's case for impeachment of Clinton, based on his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, aides to Gore said they could not imagine the vice president taking even one step back from his boss even with the gravity of the day and the seriousness of the charges.
No response to report
While Gore did not issue any immediate public response to the report, Lawrence Haas, his communications director, said: "Recent controversies have had no effect on the vice president's day-to-day business activities or behavior. He continues to do the same thing he's done for the last six years, serve the country by helping the president implement the policies that have done so much to move this country forward. He will continue to do so."
Throughout the scandal that has riveted the nation for more than seven months, Clinton has had no stauncher ally than Gore, a certain presidential contender in 2000 whose Boy Scout image has provided the administration a vital means to convey policy initiatives at a time when many voters are distracted by the president's personal life, often at the expense of his political message.
Consistently describing Clinton as "my friend," even through the frenzy of the report's release, Gore has steadily pounded away at rallies and town-hall style meetings, imploring Democrats of their need, more than ever, to organize and vote. While he never mentions the president's problems -- and did not yesterday -- often implicit in his message is the expectation that Republicans will use the Lewinsky matter to galvanize their support at the state and local levels to get out the vote.
In remarks Thursday to the Democratic Business Council, a group of party donors, he hailed Clinton as his friend and "the one person who stands at the heart" of the country's economic gains. He closed with what has become his standard conclusion: "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and organize."
A valuable campaigner
The mix of unvarnished loyalty to a wounded president and strong support for his policies is helping make Gore a valuable campaigner for Democratic Party ideals and candidates. Not even his role in campaign fund raising, which is under investigation by the Justice Department for possible illegalities, has doused eagerness of Democratic candidates around the country to have him appear with them -- even as some, like Gov. Parris N. Glendening, have snubbed Clinton.
With elections two months away and the chances for Democratic gains in the House and Senate diminishing, aides to Gore say he is in growing demand, especially by House members locked in tight races. They say he had always intended to spend two or three days a week on the road campaigning but fallout from the report could prompt him to increase that.
The next of these campaign trips begins today, when Gore leaves for Oregon and Washington state before before joining Clinton next week at a Democratic Party rally in New York City.
Between campaign trips, aides say, Gore has been calling Democratic candidates and party officials across the country, urging them to support the president's policies and to whip up voter enthusiasm -- irrespective of their views of Clinton's personal behavior. Through the elections, they said, that nTC strategy was not likely to change.
Pub Date: 9/12/98