"First in the Nation" special: Al Gore transcript
February 3, 1999
Steve Forbes | Al Gore | John McCain | Dan Quayle
( Editor's note: This interview with Al Gore appeared in a joint CNN-WMUR special, "First in the Nation: The New Hampshire Primary," which aired February 2, 1999. WMUR's Karen Brown spoke with Gore in Washington.)
BROWN (voice-over): What do you think voters are looking for in the next president in 2000?
GORE: Well I think that what we as Americans always look for in a president is someone who can lead this country well according to it's values and toward it's goals. And that means a strong economy; that means strong communities; that means strong families; that means steady progress and fixing the problems that arise in every generation. And persistent attention to those who are more vulnerable: the elderly, the young, those with disabilities, those who have faced discrimination. All of these goals have to be met and I think that's what people look for in a president.
BROWN: In December, you took aim at Texas Governor George Bush and his definition of "compassionate conservatism," and you aren't the only one that's taking aim. Lamar Alexander has called those "weasel words." Do you question whether conservative Republicans are capable of implementing policy that is compassionate? What is it that you don't like about that term?
GORE: I never mentioned the name of any other potential candidate. I've heard several use that phrase. John Ashcroft, for example was one who also used that phrase. I've heard a number of them do it. And I did kind of make light of it a little bit, but more importantly to me I offered the kind of approach that I think does make sense. Having just a pie in the sky approach that sounds good rhetorically with no actual path to get there that doesn't do anybody any good. At the same time it doesn't do anybody any good to be totally confident in pursuit of the status quo. The balance is the key. Set high goals, and then achieve those goals in a very practical way. That's what I have been a part of during this administration and I think that approach is what the American people support.
BROWN: Are you concerned that the presidency has been demeaned by Mr. Clinton's conduct while in office?
GORE: I think the American people feel that Bill Clinton is an outstanding president who's done an excellent job for the people of this country. And if you ask people out on the street, that is exactly what they'll tell you.
BROWN: When history measures the Clinton/Gore tenure, what do you think they'll list as it's shortcomings?
GORE: Well, I don't have a crystal ball. I mean, it's hard to look over the horizon of history and anticipate what those in the future will say. But I can tell you what I hope they'll say. I hope they'll say that Bill Clinton and Al Gore did better than anybody ever had in helping middle income American families, and concentrating improvements in the quality of life, in family incomes, on those needed it the most; those who work hard and really make up the backbone of this country.
BROWN: You and your family are used to being in the public eye. Should you become president, are you and your family ready for life in the bigger fish bowl of the White House?
GORE: Well, I have a very simple philosophy: I concentrate on doing my very best, doing the best job that I'm capable of doing, and then leaving the rest to others. And that philosophy's worked very well for me. I believe in what I'm doing, I care a lot about trying to do an excellent job, and I think we have a very bright future. I enjoy what I'm doing and I look forward to continuing it.
BROWN: What would you say is your strongest character trait?
GORE: Well, I would say, persistence, and a commitment to seeing things through, and doing them the right way according to the right values.
BROWN: What would you say is your weakest trait?
GORE: Well, my -- Tipper would probably say getting caught up in my work to the point where I'll miss dinner, or stay at the office too long. But, I think balancing work and family is something I've learned to handle a lot better.
BROWN: You often joke about your own personality, about how people sometimes perceive you as, perhaps,being a little stiff. But friends, close friends, describe you as a very warm and empathetic person. My question is, are you learning how to share more of that side while in the public eye?
GORE: I think so. I think so. I mean, I think that there are -- I think there's some things that you pick up when you're very young, that are persistent parts of who you are, and I think that I learned from my parents when I was very young, a certain formality, and I certainly approach to presenting my ideas on things when I'm in public. But I think that as I have gotten older I've learned more how to integrate the more informal side that my friends, you're right, are always saying, gee whiz, you know that's the way you really are, don't be so formal in public. And I think I've learned how do that better. Although, I know enough to realize that there's a long way to go.
Steve Forbes | Al Gore | John McCain | Dan Quayle
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