Like the Boy Scouts, a vice president must always be prepared.
That's why Vice President Al Gore's top advisors have prepared a "for your eyes only" memo laying out a blueprint for what he should do when he's called upon, as I believe he eventually will be, to finish Bill Clinton's scandal-scarred second term.
How do I know this? Not because Gore or any of his tight-lipped advisors have confided in me--Bob Squier and former Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.) practically ran from me when I broached the subject with them on Tuesday. I know it because it would be an unconscionable dereliction of duty on the part of Gore's advisors if they haven't got such a memo sitting in Gore's in-box.
I figure the odds are now about 50-50 that Clinton will be forced to resign when he and the rest of the country conclude that he can no longer effectively govern.
I know something about the mind-set of vice presidents, having worked for one--Walter Mondale--and written the biography of another--Hubert H. Humphrey. They wake up every morning knowing that fate could shorten their title at any moment. Mondale knew exactly what he would have done had Jimmy Carter died in office or been incapacitated. Ditto for Humphrey, for whom John F. Kennedy's assassination and Lyndon Johnson's cardiac history were ever-present realities.
So let's take a look at what Gore's advisors are telling him to say when he becomes the beneficiary of only the second forced resignation of a president in American history. I think it goes something like this:
"First and foremost, you must appeal for national unity, reassuring the nation and the world that the American government is in good hands and making clear to both our allies and our enemies that Clinton's abrupt resignation will not affect our national security interests.
"Second, you must emphasize in the strongest possible terms that you and your administration will continue to pursue the goals of President Clinton's domestic and foreign policy agenda. At the same time, you must break with Clinton by rejecting the moral relativism and indefensible behavior that led to his resignation.
"Third, you must reassure Wall Street and the global financial community that there will be no change in your economic policies, by announcing that you have already asked for, and received, assurances from Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan that they will remain in office through the next presidential election.
"Fourth, you must announce that all other Cabinet officials, especially the secretaries of state and defense, have agreed to remain in office through 2000. At the same time, as part of your goal of establishing your own identity, you should announce that you are replacing the entire White House staff with your own handpicked people.
"Fifth, because of your vulnerability on the campaign-finance issue, and the possibility that an independent counsel will be named to investigate your role in 1996 campaign fund-raising, you must announce that Atty. Gen. Janet Reno has agreed to your request to remain in office and that you will fully cooperate with any independent counsel she might appoint.
"Sixth, while it's essential that you reach out to Republican congressional leaders by promising to seek their advice and counsel during this time of national crisis, you must reassure members of your own party by promising to campaign for them. At the same time, you must also announce that, in order to devote all your time and energy to being president, you will not actively pursue the Democratic presidential nomination for yourself at this time. The latter assumes, of course, that you become president well before the end of 1999.
"Finally, you must announce your intention to nominate, and ask the House and the Senate to confirm, a person of unquestioned and proved experience as your vice president. As we've discussed and you've agreed, that person is former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia."