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Thursday, February 8, 2001

Clinton and Gore have it out

'Very blunt' session occurred after loss

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Shortly after his defeat, Al Gore confronted Bill Clinton in what one aide described as a "cathartic" confrontation in which he bitterly blamed President Clinton's personal problems for his own loss of the presidency, according to a published report.
   During the one-on-one meeting at the White House, which lasted more than an hour, Gore used uncommonly blunt language to tell Clinton that his sex scandal and low personal approval ratings were a hurdle he could not surmount in his campaign, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing unidentified sources close to both men.
   Clinton responded with equal force that Gore's loss was caused by his failure to run on the Clinton-Gore administration's economic record, the Post said.
   Clinton's aides said he was mystified, and at times angered, by Gore's refusal to run on the strong economy and other issues in which Clinton felt both he and his vice president deserved credit. Just as voters made a distinction between Clinton's personal conduct and his job performance, Clinton believed Gore could campaign on the record without being tied to the president's scandals.
   Clinton, Democrats said, never fully appreciated the degree of Gore's resentments, and how they colored his political calculations. "Gore came in all knotted up, and it surprised him," one aide told the Post.
   By the time the two met, the relationship between Clinton and Gore apparently had already deteriorated badly; they had barely spoken in a year, the Post said.
   One Clinton aide described the showdown as "tense," while a Democrat who has worked closely with both called the session "very, very blunt," the newspaper said. Gore, said one Democrat, "seemed eager to get things off his chest."
   However, other aides familiar with the session said it was helpful in clearing the air between them, one calling it a "very constructive meeting."
   "He felt it was a very good conversation," said one adviser to the former vice president.
   The core of the dispute was Clinton's lies to Gore and the nation about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the sources said.
   Jake Siewert, a spokesman for Clinton, and Kiki McLean, a spokeswoman for Gore, said their bosses would not comment on a private conversation.
   Although there were periodic reports of their tension during the campaign, a Democrat close to both men told the newspaper, "It was far worse than anyone knew."
   Many Clinton supporters said they believe the president was less of a political issue than an emotional hurdle for Gore. By this account, family members, especially Tipper Gore, virulently disliked Clinton.
   The two camps have also become estranged. Some senior Clinton advisers said they were once close to many top Gore advisers, but friendships ruptured during the campaign.
   One Democratic strategist said that whether Gore works toward healing the relationship with Clinton will be one sign of whether he wants to make another presidential run. "If he does, he's going to have to be large enough to move off the last campaign and at least get some closure."
  





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