By Dick Morris
December 10, 2003
It's payback time for Al Gore.
Dissatisfied at how thoroughly forgotten he is among active Democrats and resentful of all the attention Sen. Hillary Clinton, his White House rival, is getting, Al has reportedly decided to flank the Clintons by backing Howard Dean for president.
Forget the November election. The fight we are witnessing is a battle for control of the Democratic Party.
In one corner stand the Clintons, sending contender after contender out to center ring in an effort to stop Dean from taking over their party. First Joe Lieberman came limping back. Then Wesley Clark ran away from the early primaries and forfeited the match. And now John Kerry is so far behind in New Hampshire that he is down for the count.
In the other corner is Dean, backed by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and now Gore, battling to take the party away from Hillary and craft a new Democratic left. Rejecting Clintonian, Democratic Leadership Council-style moderation, Dean and Gore are letting their liberalism hang out as they garner popularity on the left.
The tail is taking over the dog. One-third of Americans are Democrats. One-third of the Democrats are liberal activists backing Dean. And now they are dictating policy to the entire party.
Dean has mobilized this new power to get power; now Gore is using it to get his relevance back.
Hillary, anxious to keep pace in the move to the left and stay the leader of the party, goes to Iraq and on the talk shows to bolster her image as a liberal, living down her vote for the war resolution. She sees the decade-long reign of sanity in the Democratic Party leadership coming to an end and is determined to make it in the brave new world.
Enter Al Gore. Robbed of the presidency (in his view), he has been sidetracked by the Clinton machine that once lifted him from the dustbin of history and made him vice president. Has anybody thought of Al Gore in the past six months? Apparently Dean has. Their common cause: independence from Hillary and Bill.
Gore likely knows that Dean won't win. But by backing him, he begins to carve out his own identity in the post-Bill Clinton, post-moderation post-sanity Democratic era.
Or maybe he just wants to be
vice president again?
Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. Morris is a political consultant, commentator and best selling author. Look for his newest book, "Power Plays" and his new book, "Off With Their Heads - Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists In American Politics".
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