Campaign Video Stars a Grass-Roots Gore
By Ceci Connolly
"The Al Gore Story," which debuted in Iowa on Friday, attempts to reintroduce a man who has been on the national stage for two decades. Relying heavily on folksy footage from years earlier, the 11-minute video portrays Gore as a man shaped first by his humble farm upbringing and later by service in the Vietnam War.
"His values came from right here," says boyhood friend Steve Armistead. "He got his values out of the hills of Tennessee."
Produced by Democratic consultant Robert Squier, the film gives short shrift to the Washington part of Gore's life, neglecting to mention the hotel where he grew up, his schooling at the prestigious St. Albans School and Harvard University, and his 1988 presidential run.
Gore's 16 years in Congress receive minor attention and even his late father's U.S. Senate career is described by the family doctor in a roundabout way: "His father happened to be employed in Washington."
Aides say the video will be shown at campaign events and several thousand copies will be sent to supporters. "This is a tool to help in sharing more of Al Gore's history and life story with people around the country," said campaign consultant Kiki Moore.
She said Gore's interview time is limited to one brief sound bite because "this is a chance to hear from people who know him well."
The film opens with gauzy footage from the Tennessee hills, then moves quickly to quaint snapshots of Carthage, including the red brick courthouse and Charlie's Barber Shop.
"His father wanted to make sure he had a knowledge of the dirt and grass roots of what life was all about," friend Jerry Futrell says in an interview from Gore's farm on the Caney Fork River.
Tipper Gore introduces her husband's service in Vietnam, describing how he went off to war just months after the two were married. Five separate snapshots of Gore in uniform flash across the screen before he explains his work as a military journalist. "I carried an M-16 and a pencil," the vice president, clad in a pressed denim shirt, says.
After scenes from the heady 1992 campaign bus trip, Clinton appears in footage shot by Squier for the last presidential campaign.
"He had the two things I wanted most in a vice president," Clinton says. "I thought that he would be a very good president, and the second reason I picked him was because he knew a lot about things I didn't know much about."
The video, described as the "biographical opening chapter," aims to give an "intimate" portrait of a man few Americans know well, Squier said. "I'm trying to tell a warm personal story about the guy," Squier said. "This is a man I would trust to safeguard the needs and hopes of my family because he is such a family man himself."
To drive home that point, Gore's mother, wife and eldest daughter all offer testimonials. "He takes the values he's taught us and that are important to him and tries to put them to work for everyone," says Karenna Gore Schiff.
With an old clip from the David Letterman show, the video attempts to show Gore's lesser-known humorous side. It also captures the vice president, again dressed casually, recounting for a group of Iowans a letter he received from an 8-year-old fan who says Gore is "the greatest vice president of my time."
© 1999 The Washington Post Company