CLEVELAND — Vice President Al Gore, at the very moment he is trying to emerge from President Clinton's shadow, said Sunday he would not hesitate to seek Clinton's counsel if he succeeds him.
"Why would I rule that out?" Gore said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The vice president, battling Republican attempts to shackle him to Clinton's personal scandals, also said he would serve his own term in the Oval Office "according to the highest values."
Asked if that tenure would include asking Clinton for advice, Gore lumped Clinton with former President Carter.
"If there's a subject where he can contribute advice, of course — along with President Carter who I talked with just the other day," Gore said.
"I don't anticipate that being a regular occurrence, but why would I rule that out?"
Gore spoke on the eve of Clinton's valedictory on Monday night to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. The next day, Clinton appears with Gore in Michigan. That symbolic transfer of the political baton illustrates the dilemma that has dogged Gore since Clinton's impeachment trial darkened the vice president's own ambitions: How to shine beside Clinton's white-hot charisma, elude the taint of scandal and embrace Clinton's economic record.
Gore said separating from his political partner of eight years "is a natural process that evolved over the course of the final year. It reaches a crescendo at the time of the convention and after the convention."
Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush has made personal conduct his centerpiece campaign issue with a pledge to restore
honor and integrity to the Oval Office."
Relaxing in a sitting room at Cleveland's Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, where he earlier held a health-policy forum, Gore was reluctant to validate Bush's pledge. But he did say:
"I will uphold the oath that I hope to take on January 20th. Every job I have ever had I have given my whole heart to and I have. And I think the record will show I have done it well. I have done it according to the highest values and I will continue to do that."
Looking ahead to his acceptance of the presidential nomination on Thursday, Gore said he will pack his speech with details of his $500-billion package of targeted tax cuts and his proposal for helping families build a retirement nest egg in addition to Social Security.
"In both of those cases, I will draw a sharp contrast between my proposals and those of Governor Bush," Gore said.
He acknowledged that he risked reinforcing the stereotype of him as a policy wonk. "It is a gamble but it doesn't worry me because I think, in the final analysis, the people of the country want the facts. They deserve to know what the specifics are."
"The presidency is not just about show. It's about building a better country. It's about the hard choices we have to make. And I'm going to lay them out point-by-point."
He said that he's writing the speech with minimal help from aides because "I want it to be from my heart."
Gore had used the days immediately after Bush wrapped up the Republican convention to lambaste Bush and running mate Dick Cheney as mere showmen.
And, the emphasis on substance over splash has been reflected in Gore's downsized, sober campaign appearances as he winds his way toward Los Angeles.
Instead of noisy rallies, Gore has spoken to small groups — a few dozen working women in a Philadelphia doll factory, just 50 or so health professionals and parents at the hospital here.
As president, he said, he would continue his studious town-hall meetings, where he's been known to spend four hours taking questions from just 100 people.
Asked about Bush's personal charm and what part of his own personality he hopes will shine through at the convention, Gore peered at his interviewer, playfully arched his eyebrows in two quick flashes and asked to hear the question again.
Finally, he answered with a recitation of his family rsum: husband of 30 years, father of four, grandfather of one.
Asked if there was any stereotype that he hoped his convention appearance would shatter, Gore replied with an exaggerated straight face: "I think I'm going to join the Stiff-Guy Liberation Movement."