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Greenfield: Gore sheds insider image

CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield
CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield

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Al Gore endorses Howard Dean as the Democratic candidate for president.
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Howard Dean has built his presidential campaign around being a political outsider, but the ultimate insider -- former Vice President Al Gore -- gave him establishment backing Tuesday with an endorsement as the 2004 Democratic nominee.

CNN Anchor Daryn Kagan spoke Tuesday to CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield about why Gore is supporting Dean and the impact on the former Vermont governor's candidacy.

GREENFIELD: Well, if we listen to the former vice president, he gave two fundamental reasons why he decided to back Howard Dean. The first -- and it's interesting coming from the guy who in 2000 was ... the ultimate insider -- was about the nature of the campaign and Howard Dean's support. ...

... You have a guy who when he ran was supported by virtually the entire Democratic Party establishment saying not only did Howard Dean get a grass-roots campaign going, but we have to remake the Democratic Party. That's kind of an outsider message.

The second point Gore made -- and here I think the use of his language, the force of it, the tone of it ... was the very fact Howard Dean did not support the war in Iraq, which all the other major Democratic Party candidates did. ...

So in this case, what you have is the vice president -- who, by the way, was one of the more hawkish voices in the Clinton administration, who was one of the only 10 Democratic senators in 1991 to back the first Gulf War, along with Joe Lieberman, his running mate -- saying, in effect -- taking a kind of swipe at the other candidates, saying, "Yes, they were all in the Senate or House; they all had more experience. But he was the only guy to get it right."

So I think, Ms. Kagan, you find here an Al Gore who seems to be remaking himself as much less of an insider than the Al Gore we saw in 2000.

KAGAN: Let's talk about loyalty for a moment here, Mr. Greenfield. What about the dis on Joe Lieberman, the man who said he wasn't going even to announce his candidacy ... until the former vice president decided what his political plans were.

GREENFIELD: That point is exactly the point that a clearly wounded Sen. Lieberman made in his statement responding to the endorsement. He said, "You know, I have great respect for Al Gore," and then he added, "And that's why I decided to defer my decision until I found out what Al Gore was going to do."

Yes, the fact that Al Gore did not even bother to call his one-time running mate and say, "Joe, I appreciate all the support, your help when ... making up my mind. But I decided to go for another guy."

This to be candid with you is a problem Al Gore has had in the past in his relations with other politicians. There is a kind of reputation that he has earned over the years for not necessarily being the most graceful of diplomats in dealing with his fellow Democrats.

KAGAN: And then finally getting to the point of insider vs. outsider politics. In the end, does this really help Howard Dean, a man, as we pointed out, [who] has built his popularity, at least nationwide, on being the outsider? Do you want to be associated with a guy who's the inside guy?

GREENFIELD: Well, you know, I went on Howard Dean's Web site [Monday] to see what the comments were of the Dean supporters or the Deaniacs, as they call themselves, and there was a great party going on on his Web site. But there was one person who wrote in and said, "Gee, I'm not sure I really like this."

Look, it is a primary in which one of Howard Dean's biggest challenges has been to convince part of the Democratic base that doesn't know him, that sees him as the governor of a rural, small state that he is a real Democrat. He understands African-Americans, trade-union movements, big cities.

And the fact that Al Gore, who did, after all, get more votes for president than anybody else in American history except Ronald Reagan, and who Democrats will keep reminding did win the popular vote last time, the fact he has thrown his arm around Howard Dean, I think is a help. And I think the insider thing doesn't really hurt him at all in this race. ...


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