Gore Plays It Warm, Fuzzy on ‘Oprah’
He used all his best lines, the ones about faith and family. He called on the entertainment industry to police itself. He talked about helping his wife over depression, and, of course, about The Kiss.
In short, Vice President Al Gore played it warm and fuzzy Monday, as he turned “The Oprah Winfrey Show” into a video chat room for politicians and soccer moms.
On a day when Washington and the political world were focused on the Federal Trade Commission’s report on the impact on children of violence in the entertainment world, Gore asked the industry to accept an immediate “cease-fire” in its alleged effort to sell adult material to children.
He also said that the industry--producers of videos, movies, television shows, pop music and computer games--should, within six months, adopt voluntary standards and that he would support tougher measures if the industry did not take care of itself.
With poll after poll showing the presidential race between Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush virtually a dead heat eight weeks before election day, Gore is going all out to make sure he has the support of women.
And what better place to look for it than the Winfrey show? It claims to attract 22 million viewers each week--perhaps four or five million each day--76% of whom are women. It is the highest-rated talk show among women in the 25-to-54 age group. All of which is not lost on Bush; he’s planning to appear on the show next Tuesday.
Later, the vice president spent an hour talking about education, his theme of the week, at a meeting with parents and other local residents at an elementary school in this downstate Illinois community.
Within minutes of his arrival on the Winfrey set in Chicago, Gore plunged into his message: “What we’re calling for . . . is industry self-restraint and self-regulation.
“It’s not about censorship. It’s about citizenship, and that includes corporate citizenship,” the vice president said, adding that he and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, his running mate, “have talked about trying to give parents more help in protecting their kids from entertainment that they think is inappropriate.”
That said, Gore and Winfrey blithely walked down the path of talk-show chitchat.
Some of Gore’s Favorite Things
She sprang a pop quiz:
Favorite movie? “Local Hero,” a story about the rescue of a Scottish village from the grip of an oil company.
Favorite school subject? Science.
Favorite book? “The Red and the Black,” by Henri Stendhal. It is a 19th century character study, says the Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, of “an ambitious young man who uses seduction as a tool for advancement.”
Former President John F. Kennedy listed the same book as one of his favorites in 1961.
Gore’s list of favorites overlapped another former Democratic president--Jimmy Carter--when he was asked about quotations. Gore said his favorite was: “Those who are not busy being born are busy dying,” a paraphrased lyric from a Bob Dylan song that Carter referenced in his 1976 acceptance speech.
And favorite childhood memory? “Playing baseball with my dad.”
(For the record, there were others: His favorite meal is Chinese, his favorite music group is the Beatles, his favorite cereal, eaten rarely, is Wheaties, he said, and his favorite indulgence is “going to the lake near our home in Tennessee on a houseboat, water-skiing with the kids, floating and swimming.”)
Asked by a member of the audience what he fears most, he paused, seemingly stumped. But he recovered and said: “The fear of forgetting the most important things in life when you get rushed or hurried. You can forget what is the most important thing--faith and family.”
Along the same line, he said that if the presidency became “toxic” (Winfrey’s word) to his family life, “I would change the job--I would change the nature of the job.”
He said his first reaction to the diagnosis that his wife was suffering from depression, at just such a moment, was “to feel the love and nurture the healing.”
And he teased his multimedia host: Yes, he has a Web site. But, he said, “I don’t have a magazine or publishing house.”
As Winfrey laughed, leaned back and revealed her footwear, he added: “I don’t have red boots.”
“Touche,” she said, and they exchanged a high-five.
After the show, he was asked by an audience member “about George W. Bush’s admitted alcoholism problems”--a phrase Bush has not used.
Gore said, “First of all, I don’t know him, and I don’t make any judgments on him. I take at face value what he has said that he wasn’t, that he’s had a personal transformation and a period of growth, and that’s common in all of our lives. . . . Whatever else you say about it, he certainly hasn’t given any reason for that question to be a matter of concern to people, I don’t think.”
As for the lengthy kiss and hug he and his wife exchanged on the podium just before he spoke at the Democratic National Convention last month--Winfrey showed the videotape twice--the vice president said: “This is a partnership and she is my soul mate.”
He said he had been asked whether he was trying to “send a message” to his audience.
“I was trying to send a message to Tipper,” he said.
Lieberman Takes on Texas
Lieberman campaigned in Texas Monday, appealing to Democrats and raising money from Bush’s home state.
The Democratic vice presidential nominee collected about $1.75 million for the Democratic National Committee Monday at four fund-raisers in Austin and Dallas. “I feel I’m in Gore/Lieberman country,” he told about 100 donors gathered at an arts complex in the hills of Austin.
The Democrats have no illusion that they will win Bush’s state, where polls show him with a wide lead. But Lieberman, upbeat after the momentum of the last five weeks, couldn’t resist challenging his opponent.
“It feels as if the wind is at our backs,” he told the gathering at the One Theater in Austin. “Even here, the polls are getting closer. Maybe there’ll be a little bit of a November surprise!”
Times staff writer Matea Gold in Texas contributed to this story.
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