Vice President Al Gore ran up the flag Wednesday and the Democratic Party faithful saluted.
In a campaign appearance at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City for Rep. Karen Shepherd, D-Utah, Gore pounded away at Clinton administration themes: the improving economy, the reduction in the deficit, the attempt to change the health-care system, the drive to take assault weapons off the streets, the effort to reform government and the need to protect the environment."But make no mistakes about it," Gore said. "When you make changes like these, you create enemies, you build opposition, because those who didn't want the changes haven't given up. They're just getting meaner."
An estimated 700 Democrats at the $125-a-plate breakfast applauded wildly. Meanwhile, a dozen members of the Utah Shooting Sports Council demonstrated outside the hotel with banners and placards, drawing honks of support from passing cars.
Sometimes joking and often gesturing, Gore seemed to make a conscious effort to belie his image as the administration's stiff man. While he spoke in ringing terms, most of his speech was generalities.
At the start of his talk, Gore led a moment of silence to honor the late President Ezra Taft Benson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I would like to begin this morning by extending my deepest sorrow and the president's deepest sorrow," he said.
"Ezra Taft Benson loved his country, he loved his church and he deeply loved his wife and children. He was a man of warmth and grace who dedicated his life to good works."
The rest of his speech was nearly entirely political, with occasional potshots at Republicans of earlier administrations. He accused them of quadrupling the national debt in a dozen years while posing as fiscal conservatives.
By comparison, he called Shepherd a "fresh breeze from Salt Lake City," and said he works with her in many areas, including trimming the federal bureaucracy, controlling lobbyists and improving the environment.
As "the principal champion of reform in the House of Representatives," Shepherd is making a difference, he said. He noted that Shepherd is co-chairwoman of the House's Freshman Task Force on Reform and is leading the charge of first-term members in the work to change campaign finance law.
"She came there and she said, `Listen, we've got to shake this place up, break down the old habits and start emphasizing reform and doing things the right way for a change,' and she is getting her message through - thanks to you," Gore said.
Gore gave the Democrats high marks on the economy.
Sixteen months ago, when the Clinton administration took over, the national economy was losing 10,000 jobs a week, he said. "We are now seeing the creation of 60,000 jobs per week. That's a turnaround. That's a change for the better."
"Hope is up and despair is down," he declared.
"Our task as citizens of this country and as human beings . . . is to create a future in which our children and grandchildren can patiently explain to their children and grandchildren how good things were brought; how unusually positive developments came to pass - and not condemn them to the fate of having to explain how things went wrong."
It is the task of Utahns to support people like Shepherd and "to stand up for what we believe in, to say no to those hate-mongers and those cynics, and patiently build the kind of future that we believe in and that we know this country deserves," he said.
Gore used the occasion to speak about environmental protection.
Referring to Shepherd, he said, "She loves the land, she cares about the environment, she loves our country, she loves the people of Utah."
Shepherd hit the heart of the environmental issue when she said jobs and the environment go together, he said.
"We have an obligation to our children and our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and it's not fair and it's not ethical for us to strip-mine their future and leave them with a diminished set of opportunities, just to try to gain instant gratification in our own time," he said.
Gore had been scheduled to meet with Gov. Mike Leavitt at 10 a.m. Thursday but canceled the meeting in favor of meeting with LDS Church general authorities. "It was a logistics thing, it just didn't work out," said a governor's spokesman, Tim Sheehan.
The meeting with LDS leaders later was canceled as well. Evette Reiss, assistant press secretary for Shepherd, said she understood it could not be arranged because of scheduling conflicts on the part of both parties.
Leavitt did greet Gore at the Salt Lake airport when the vice president arrived Wednesday night.
Protesters outside Little America said they were opposed to the positions of both Shepherd and Gore on gun control.
Signs read, "Terminate Karen," "Gun-Grabbing," and a child carried one saying "Boo Gore."
Jim Foley, a Salt Lake man who is a member of the group said, "We're going to be out this year. We're going to be out. We're going to vote."
He said they are protesting both politicians for "the agendas they are proposing . . . the erosion of the Second Amendment rights that have been taken away, the expansion of the welfare state. These are the problems that we see."