Gore’s conspicuous silence on primary

Even as the rest of the Democratic Party around him takes sides in the epic struggle of Clinton against Obama, Al Gore remains inscrutable, silent, above the battle. His gigantic but unspoken presence is raising rumors and fueling speculation. Joe Klein, writing in Time magazine, even suggested a scenario that has a deadlocked convention turning its lonely eyes to Al.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) comes out for Obama, and so do Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and ex-Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.). Govs. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Jon Corzine of New Jersey back Hillary. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), while avoiding an endorsement, speaks out to ask superdelegates to respect the will of the voters. But Big Al says nothing.

What’s his game?

A source close to him confirms that he does not plan to make any endorsement until after the primaries are over on June 3. But then? All they’ll say is “stay tuned.”

For what? The guess here is that Al is keeping his powder dry to lead the superdelegates in accepting the will of the voters. Perhaps in concert with a Gang of Five that might include former president Jimmy Carter, Pelosi, party Chairman Howard Dean and former candidate John Edwards, Gore may act as the elder statesman in the party, stepping in after all the voters have spoken, asking the Clintons to accept the will of the people and give way. He might quell the credentials battles, giving Florida and Michigan some representation in return for a recognition that Obama should be the nominee.

He could be the one who brings closure to what could be an open-ended summer bloodbath.

What about the chances that Al would go the other way and urge a Hillary nomination? Seeing himself as the victim of one stolen election, Gore won’t be anxious to switch sides and help the Clintons steal this one.

He knows that all hell would break lose if the nomination goes to Hillary after the voters give Obama a lead of over 100 votes among elected delegates and he realizes that the Democratic Party might never recover from the resulting bitterness. Anyone who was around and politically conscious in 1968 remembers Lafayette Park and the discord that sundered the Democrats and gave Nixon the White House. We all vividly recall, and still harbor, the distrust of the Democratic Party’s leadership that stole the nomination and gave it to a man who never entered a single primary and supported a war we all hated. No one wants to relive this particular piece of history.

But if Al keeps his powder dry and acts as the honest broker at the end game, he can have a great influence and earn the everlasting gratitude of his party for leading the way in avoiding a civil war.

What does Al really think of the Clintons? He probably likes them. Of course, there have been frictions and abrasions. Each has cause to feel rubbed the wrong way by the other. He sure has reason to feel that Bill’s personal conduct derailed his shot at the presidency. And Bill likely feels that he was left hanging out to dry as Gore ignored him during the 2000 campaign. But Gore knows that he owes his political revival in 1992, after the near-death experience of massive defeat in 1988, to Bill and Hillary Clinton. So he is not willing to be the hand that smites them, but he may be the guy that declares her candidacy dead and pulls the covers over her face.

Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Outrage. To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to www.dickmorris.com .