• U.S.

‘We’re Not Measuring the Drapes

6 minute read
S.C. Gwynne and Elizabeth Taylor, Al Gore

Q. Dan Quayle has been quoted as saying that your environmental views are detached from reality and devoid of common sense. In the face of these criticisms, have you deliberately moderated your views?

A. No, not at all. I have emphasized the environment more than any other issue in this campaign. I have designed my schedule in a way that helps me highlight the environment at as many stops as I possibly can. I have emphasized some of the same points I make in my book about the economic opportunity that inheres in facing the crisis and dealing with it aggressively, and I will continue doing that.

I believe that the extremist view is held by those who are willing to tolerate the doubling of carbon dioxide in a single generation, the loss in a single lifetime of more than half the living species God put on earth, the destruction of a large percentage of the protective ozone shield in only a few decades, the loss of more than an acre of tropical rain forest every second, the addition of an entire China’s worth of people every decade, the poisoning of our air and water resources, the serious erosion of our cropland. Those of us who are attempting to rally this nation to lead a worldwide response to this crisis are responding in a common-sense way.

Q. We hear that you and Governor Clinton have a 100-day agenda for the country if you’re elected and that you’ll be the legislative point man for the plan.

A. Well, we’re not counting our chickens before they hatch. We’re not measuring the drapes. We are being a little close-mouthed about everything in the agenda we proposed for the country that will be included in that first 100-day plan. You can get a pretty good sense of it if you look at the position papers we’ve put out on the various issues we’ve discussed in the campaign. If we do win, we will change the psychology of how this country views the future and how we work together as a nation toward common goals in far less than 100 days. We will start doing that on Day One, and you will see a burst of productive activity throughout that 100-day period.

Q. You voted in support of the Gulf War, and yet today you’ve become highly critical of George Bush’s handling of the war . . .

A. Not the war. I haven’t been critical of his handling of the war at all. I’ve been very critical of the period leading up to the war, starting in his term as Vice President and most prominently in his term as President during ! the period preceding the war. And I’ve been critical of his handling of the aftermath of the war, starting on the final day of the war. I said in my speech a couple of weeks ago that he deserves credit for calling the fire department, but we should understand it was he who started the blaze. Once the fire has started, you don’t say, Wait a minute, we shouldn’t put it out because this fire shouldn’t have been set in the first place. I would cast that vote all over again. I started making speeches against his Iraq policy back in 1988. I think it was an extremely serious mistake by Bush, and one for which he ought to be held accountable.

Q. You have written about what you call a spiritual crisis in this country.

A. The deeper crisis in the country is a crisis of meaning. Many people feel that their lives no longer have a sense of purpose. And part of the reason for that is this culture of distraction that we have which constantly falls in 15- and 30-second bursts of commercial activity toward this, that, or the other extraneous matter. Many people come home at night and just flip on the television, and that’s it. The discussion of all these side issues in the campaign, about the draft, for example, represent the same phenomenon. And a lot of people are, in a way, relieved to be pulled into something of that kind because it seems easier than thinking about how we’re doing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and how we’re going to reduce the budget deficit, how we’re going to put people back to work, how we’re going to solve the crime problem, how we’re going to give people access to affordable health care, how we’re going to improve our schools.

But we’re at a turning point in the history of civilization. What has changed the terms of debate in this election is that people have begun to realize how painful and unsustainable the current way of doing things is. We can’t borrow a billion dollars every 24 hours. We can’t tolerate 40 million working Americans with no health insurance whatsoever. We can’t tolerate a 29% dropout rate, an epidemic of violence and drugs and AIDS. We have to respond to these realities, and people are now willing to consider the changes that our nation must go through.

Q. Why should it matter to voters whether they elect you or Dan Quayle as Vice President?

A. Number one, there have been many, many times in our nation’s history when the Vice President has suddenly been thrust into the presidency owing to an unanticipated death or tragedy. Secondly, Bill Clinton and I have a shared understanding of what the words partnership and teamwork are all about.

Q. What do you say to people who say, “We wish Al Gore were at the top of the ticket”?

A. This ticket is the way it should be. Bill Clinton is the best-prepared candidate for President I’ve ever seen, and he has earned the right to be exactly where he is. I have never had a single second thought about not running for President myself this time around. I made that decision for the right reasons. I am not only comfortable with it, I am extremely happy about it.

Q. Is there anything good you can say about Dan Quayle?

A. He’s raised some great kids. They seem to be really wonderful kids.

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