A group of panelists showed Tuesday that it's possible to hold a forum on the subject of how Al Gore would govern as President while barely making reference to the effort he has led over the past seven years to reinvent the executive branch of the federal government.
A group of former Gore aides, ex-colleagues in Congress and journalists discussed Gore's approach to health care, foreign policy, welfare reform and several other subjects, but talked little about his effort to overhaul the federal bureaucracy.
The forum, sponsored by the Transition to Governing Project, a joint project of the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution and the Hoover Institution, was the third in a series looking at the governing styles and approaches of the leading presidential candidates.
Much of the discussion centered on whether Gore is the kind of centrist "New Democrat" that he has positioned himself to be in his campaign. Former Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D., said he thought Gore "would govern as a traditional liberal Democrat, perhaps more than any other candidate." On subjects in Congress such as telecommunications, Pressler said, Gore was "very much for more government involvement."
Elaine Kamarck, Gore's former senior policy adviser, responded that Gore "is a believer in activist government. But he is not a bureaucracy builder. All of his work in reinventing government goes in exactly the opposite direction."
Washington Post White House reporter John Harris characterized Gore as the "most active" Vice President in American history, saying his involvement on a broad array of issues stemmed from his close relationship with President Clinton.
Kamarck, who is now serving as an adviser to the Gore campaign, said Gore's experience in handling diverse policy issues in the Clinton administration has made him the most-qualified contender for the presidency. "I don't think he will have any trouble being totally in charge of the government," she said. "He has a depth of experience in the federal government that is really unprecedented."
Asked to predict how Gore would run the executive branch, Scripps Howard reporter James Brosnan cited the Vice President's love of technology.
"We would probably be as sick of the term e-government as we now are of e-commerce," Brosnan said.