Subtext Of Gore's Endorsement: Gotcha Back, Kitz!

Les AuCoin

Oregonians with short memories may think Gore’s endorsement of Bradbury in Oregon’s Democratic gubernatorial primary is a singular act of political love for Oregon’s ex-secretary of state.

But that misses an intriguing subplot.

Gore’s move is one at least one respect the continuation of a decades long feud with Oregon ex-governor Kitzhaber, Bradbury’s leading primary opponent, dating back to Gore’s bitter battle against Kitz’ innovative Oregon Health Plan when Gore was a U.S. Senate.

John K. won that fight, but he never forgot his nemesis from Tennessee; when Gore ran as the presumptive favorite for president in 2000, Kitz backed Bill Bradley early and conspicuously. Twisting the knife, the Guv criticized the Clinton Administration — and implicitly Gore, the “green” VP — for inept handling of the NW salmon crisis. I'm not saying it was Kitz's sole rationale, but it was one.

After 20 years, the Bradbury candidacy gave Gore the opening to stick the knife back. Here, too, it may not be Gore's only rationale, but it is one.

As I write these words, I can already hear howls of protests about them from my friend Bill’s gubernatorial supporters. It’s true their man made common cause with Gore on climate change in the last several years. It’s true that he took “Inconvenient Truth” training at Gore’s ranch in Tennessee and has proselytized effectively about the issue. It’s also true that his green credentials are a factor in Gore’s endorsement.

But it’s equally true that Gore and Kitzhaber can barely stand each other. It’s also true that Kitz is one of the strongest environmentalists in any of the states; on NW salmon, alone, he went far beyond Gore in advocating the breaching of the Columbia River’s fish-killing dams. It’s also true that on green issues generally, differences between Kitzhaber and Bradbury are negligible.

I’ve known and liked each of these guys for years. I Just think informed consumers should know the subtext of a political event. This one’s a lulu.

Please join me over at The Les AuCoin Blog

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    Fascinating post, thanks for the context. I wish there was more of this on Blue Oregon. The truth behind the charade. Etceterarrrrrr.

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    So let's see if I get this straight... because Al Gore had a policy disagreement with Kitzhaber in 1990, this is taken as prima facie evidence that "Gore and Kitzhaber can barely stand each other"?

    Les, the only thing that's a "lulu" here, is how far you seem to be willing to go to stretch the facts to fit around your preferred narrative. I mean we're talking "FOX News" caliber distortion here. You clearly prefer to attribute to Al Gore, a senior Democratic national statesman and Nobel Prize winner, the most pejorative motivation you can think of for his appearance.

    Clearly, it must be petty personal grievance, rather than what seems blatantly obvious to everyone else - the collection, on Secretary Bradbury's part, of a favor owed. If it wasn't that, if Gore wasn't working working his way down a revenge list, why then, he wouldn't be a scumbag! (And we can't have anyone thinking that? Can we? - "over to you... up next on Glenn Beck...")

    I'm not going to the event. I've got to work. But it is hardly only Bradbury supporters who will likely see this article as unworthy of you.

  • LT (unverified)

    Yes, but what does this tell us about what either would do as Gov.?

    Or doesn't intelligent debate mean as much to some politicians as "gotcha"?

    And is there really ice in a room where Bill and John are on stage together? Or is this just inside baseball?

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)

    Still haven't forgiven him for Willie Horton. Things like the Swift Boat Vets couldn't have happened without that pioneering jab below the belt.

    That said, it's odd how Dems condemn failed Pres candidates to wander the political wilderness. They really pander to the culture's "want something new, now" demand. How does an individual go from being your best shot to not worthy of consideration in a matter of months? It really makes the election year hype look even shallower than it probably is.

    Since his failed run, I've been more impressed with the choices he's made than the party has made. And that leads one to think he's OK, until things like this come around to remind one that he only looked OK because the party's ethical standards have sunk so low.

    Bottom line would be, "So? He's a pol". And what do you expect when you allow as endemic that the motivation for pursuing office is power and ego over service? But then, I suppose you want us to keep our head down, squinting at the fine print, and not draw any conclusions about the landscape.

    I'll give BO the benefit of the doubt that the motivation is supporting Kitz. That's fair. Of course, if one was equally magnanimous with Gore, one would say he's just supporting Bradbury.

    Matt, name one performer on the US political stage that couldn't be described as a "charade". Anyone that chooses to be real immediately has that used against him/her. Look at Shields. Yeah, now tell me Shields is a charade because he's an outsider. You know things like climate change wouldn't be such a bugger if anyone had the slightest concept what a falsifiable hypothesis was. As Pat Ryan has noted, it's always, every last time, about who yells the loudest. I guess a corollary is that the name recognition of the person doing the yelling is important too. One of the biggest factors separating progressives from mere liberals, imho.

  • Peri Brown (unverified)

    Posted by: Carla Axtman | Nov 6, 2009 10:23:22 AM

    Pass the popcorn....

    Illustrates the difference between "political junkies" and proggies. We're reaching for the barf bag.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    "Matt, name one performer on the US political stage that couldn't be described as a "charade"."

    Bernie Sanders looks like he would qualify.

    But to get back to the subject, Gore's campaign for president was classic DC charade. (Remember who his choice for V-P was?) Having said that, I'll still consider Bill Bradbury (and Kitzhaber and Shields) as a candidate for governor. And, if the Republicans don't scrape the bottom of their barrel and give us another Mannix or Saxton I might consider the GOP candidate. At least the Democrats will be showing a marked upgrade from Kulongoski.

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    Oh c'mon Peri...political theatre is AWESOME. You hafta learn to enjoy it. :)

  • Charlie Burr (unverified)

    As someone who's endorsed neither, it's interesting to me to see Kitzhaber supporters overreact and work so hard to try to take the luster off this event.

    Les, you support Kitzhaber. Your facts are wrong about the 2000 campaign -- but I'll work up a brief post on that following this comment -- but I'd like to hear more about your take on Kitzhaber's endorsement of Bradley back in the 2000 primary.

    Kitzhaber said at the time it was because Bradley was a stronger champion of the environment. One, do you agree with Kitzhaber's reasoning at the time and two, do you think Bill Bradley of New Jersey has done more for the environment than Gore over the last ten years?

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    Charlie - I'm not for or against anyone in the governor's race, but what makes you say that anyone is "working so hard to take luster off of the event"?

    I haven't seen it.

    Les has made reasonable case that there is some bad blood between Kitz and Gore. Other than forcing people to confront the possibility that one of their heroes may occasionally be motivated by something other than all that is good and light, I don't see what the big deal is.

    Is it true that Gore opposed the Oregon Health Plan? If so, why?

  • Klamath Angler (unverified)

    In 2000, Al Gore was running away from his environmental credentials and coming off a Clinton administration who's environmental actions could be described as lackluster only if one was being charitable. Clinton was the guy who signed the salvage logging rider in 1995, who refused to use his administrative powers to raise CAFE standards to combat global warming pollution, who allowed the R's in the Senate to run wild on the Kyoto Treaty and global warming without ever offering any real political defense of taking action. It was only in the very last year of his term that he was willing to exercise executive powers to protect wild areas from development through the antiquities act, and even then, he only did it for a handful of places.

    Gore and the Clinton administration's environmental record in the 1990's may look great through the lens of 8 years of George W. Bush, but to environmental voters in 2000 it looked pretty crappy. Gore has certainly gone on to become a tremendous advocate on global warming, and deserves enormous praise for it. But when he was Vice President and actually had the power to do something about it, he to back the the Clinton administrations approach to the problem. And in his 2000 campaign, he tried to avoid the subject of environmental protection all together for fear of alienating union voters.

    Anyway, fast-forwarding to today... I have no idea why Gore endorses Bradbury over Kitzhaber. Both Bradbury and Kitzhaber have very strong environmental records. Both where critical of the Clinton administration. If I had to guess, I'd say it probably has more to do with Bradbury's leadership on climate change issues, and in particular his role in the Focus the Nation effort and his barnstorming the state with Al Gore's slide show calling for real action on global warming.

    I have no problem with that, in fact, I applaud it (while at the same time applauding Kitzhaber for his outspokenness on rivers and salmon conservation). I do, however, have a problem with revisionist history that paints the Clinton administration as a time of great strides forward in environmental protection. For environmental activists, it is remembered more as 8 wasted years rather than as a great leap forward.

  • LT (unverified)

    "As someone who's endorsed neither, it's interesting to me to see Kitzhaber supporters overreact and work so hard to try to take the luster off this event."

    Charlie, I hope you are not saying I am trying to take luster away just because I said this sounds like inside baseball and does nothing to discuss issues of 2009 -10.

    I have told both candidates I am part of the "spectator caucus" and will support the candidate I believe adds the most intellectual debate to the campaign (which is why I am sorry Frank Morse won't run for Gov.) For all I know, if DeFazio ran for Gov. I might support him.

    There have been Democratic primaries where inside baseball and gotcha dominated to the point of driving out intelligent debate. No matter what anyone calls me this time, I will protest anyone dumbing down the debate with inside baseball, gotcha, name calling, etc. Period.

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    Les, the story I heard was that Gore was upset for Kitz stealing his mustache idea and that's what really started this three decade long feud.

  • Cafe Today (unverified)

    fight! fight! fight! let's tear each other to pieces! hey, it worked last year with novick/merkley.

  • Brian Collins (unverified)

    If this is the kind of thing we're talking about, being stuck in the past with petty personal squabbles, we're going to lose the Governor's race.

    I could not care less who Al Gore prefers for Governor of Oregon; he doesn't live here and doesn't have to live with the result. I, for one, would like to hear about what these candidates are going to do to make Oregon's future better.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    I agree with LT. Who gives a rip about a former national pol and his thoughts on OUR governor's race? When will we get substantive debate and really learn something about what Kitz, shileds and Bradbury will do?

    I heard bradbury earlier this week on KPOJ addressing some audience. What a snooze fest. nothing but cliches and slogans. Nothing of substance.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    I don't really see much to this fight. I was at a public meeting at the Convention Center in the 1996 election where Al Gore was warmly introduced and endorsed by Kitzhaber. Trying to make up fights where there isn't one, with nothing to sell except Bradbury doesn't really cut it for me.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    I should like to add that there were many liberal defenders of Medicaid who thought the Oregon Health Plan was a dangerous precedent, diluting Medicaid coverage to create a wider basement for all. Then Sen. Gore can't really be faulted for taking that position.

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    Whoa! My post doesn't take sides in this race. It doesn't opine on whether Kitz, Bill or Al is the best environmentalist. It doesn't attempt, Mr. Burr, to take the "luster" off the Bradbury fundraiser. It isn't (sorry, Mr. Mauer) a "Fox News" distortion or a "stretching" of the facts around my "preferred narrative."

    It is a direct observation from the political trenches dating back 20 years (Were you there at the time, Mr. Mauer?) and intended to reveal an historical dimension of the news event. Period.

    In my political life, I've been fascinated with how a political development often contains multiple layers of meaning. Those who can't handle such complexity, or the truth that an event can have more than one meaning (and I did not say bad blood was the only meaning in this one!), are being callow or disingenuous, or both.

    Providing such context used to be welcome at BO. Matt Davis and Sal Peralta seem to still get it.

  • Garage Wine (unverified)

    Now this is the sort of story I enjoy reading!

  • DanOregon (unverified)

    Nice to know Dems can be as petty and spiteful as Republicans.

  • Gayle (unverified)

    I have to agree with Klamath Angler re: the Clinton administration's environmental record. I voted for Clinton only because I had heard Al Gore speak about protecting the environment and was looking forward to seeing his ideas put into practice. Boy, was I disappointed! Having met with both Kitzhaber and Bradbury and listened to both speak about salmon, I have to say my vote would go to Bradbury simply because he recognizes the threat that LNG presents to the State and the Columbia River. I always thought Kitz was a salmon guy until I heard him refer to LNG as a bridge fuel until we get to renewables. How many smolt have to die to convince him that Bradwood Landing is a bad idea?

  • Old Ducker (unverified)

    You've just made me a fan of Kitzhaber.

    Al may become the first man to rip-off a cool billion through government carbon tyranny. When a man becomes rich in the market, it is because he has been highly successful in serving consumers. When a hereditary member of the power elite like Gore becomes even richer through the state, it means he has been very successful in pushing the faces of consumers into the mud. He promotes climate lies and then poverty-producing state intervention because of the lies, and then makes big bucks from special deals with companies he helped enrich through the state.

    What a monster.

  • Mike Butler (unverified)

    To my recollection, AuCoin's story is right. But it's not about the environment. It's about health care.

    When Dr. Kitzhaber first advanced his plan, journalists dubbed him Dr. Death. They ferreted out patients who would lose some type of high-tech care and made headlines out of them. Far-off politicians joined in. Al Gore, then a senator, called Oregon's proposed reforms an assault on 'fundamental fairness and decency.'

    That's from the Economist magazine.

    Gore might still honestly think - on a policy basis - that Kitzhaber was wrong about health care. That's not personal dislike. It's a policy disagreement.

    Gore was wrong, of course. The Oregon Health Plan, when it was fully funded, provided more and better health care to more people in Oregon than traditional Medicaid would have.

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    Nice research...I think this is what Mr. AuCoin clearly forgot to do before writing his piece.

  • (Show?)

    Owch...I take back the last comment. I see his link now to the old article.

  • nulwee (unverified)

    This isn't the first comment from Kurt Chapman--is he even a progressive?

    At this point in time Bradbury seems like the best candidate.

    And I don't see a lot of people criticizing the president for trying to save the failing USS Corzine or Deeds. If BO came here for Kitz, I bet this would be a different tune.

    I suspect most of the people commenting this are 15 or 20 years older than me, and yet significantly more childish. If my fellow Ashlander Les AuCoin supports Kitzhaber, that's his business. But he wrote a reasonable diary IMO.

  • Paul Cox (unverified)

    In the last 100 years, 90% of all life on earth has died, while mankind's numbers have grown five times. 99% of everyone that has lived since monkeys left the trees have lived in the last 80 years.

    You've already lost. Why make everyone suffer for the last 10%? I say it's some kind of medieval hair shirt. Feel guilty? Find Jesus. Stop taxing us for your guilt.

    Want to make me feel bad? Eat the last salmon! Yeah, prolly misplaced, here. Doubt they'll be white. Talk about a jaundiced view of the world! Call it the "Mandarin Principle", re: the hereditary power elite.

  • Greg Haz (unverified)

    Al Gore opposed our health plan.

    Al Gore picked right wing Joe Lieberman as a running mate.

    <h2>Why would any decent Democrat even want his endorsement?</h2>

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