Gore campaign makes blunder hiring crony

On Friday, Vice President Al Gore made a mistake by hiring Tony Coelho to serve as his campaign manager.
Gore was searching for a way to inject some energy into his faltering campaign. It is not quite campaign season yet, but the widespread perception is that whatever Gore was doing, it was not helping his cause. There was the misstep over the Internet, when the vice president’s claims of inventing it generated glee from his opponents across the political spectrum. Gore was also having trouble loosening up, a problem President Bill Clinton brought to the attention of The New York Times.
Clearly Gore’s campaign was in need of at least a public relations director. Instead he went out and hired the veteran insider Coelho, not exactly a public relations coup. When Election Day arrives in November 2000, assuming he manages to capture the gift-wrapped nomination, Gore will not lose the presidency because Americans are outraged at the hiring of Coelho. Most people will go about their lives and probably be better off that they never knew Coelho’s name. But if Gore is denied his lifelong ambition, it might be because of the type of thinking that led to the hiring of Coelho.
Coelho comes to Gore’s campaign after spending the 1990s raising a fortune on Wall Street. In the 1980s, as a congressman from California, he was chief fund-raiser for the House Democratic caucus and eventually rose to the position of majority whip. In 1989 though, under suspicion of having violated House ethics, Coelho abruptly resigned, ostensibly to avoid what he felt would have been a painful look into his personal finances. Later writings have alleged that as chief Democratic fund-raiser, Coelho operated a strong-arm regime and argued in favor of keeping the current campaign finance system in place.
One must wonder what kind of thinking is going on in the mother ship of Gore 2000. They have a vice president, already tainted by allegations of campaign finance wrongdoing, going out and hiring a Washington crony to run his campaign. This decision is negligent at best. Why would Gore, who has a clean record by Washington standards, bring aboard a man who brings so much political baggage?
The calculation inside Gore’s campaign appears to be this: We already have a candidate tarnished by fund raising, and he certainly is an insider — well, with the exception of the time Gore spent raising tobacco in the south — so there is no controlling legal authority preventing us from retaining a campaign chairman cut from the same cloth. Coelho is one of us, and if our methods got us this far, we are going to ride them to White House.
The hiring of Coelho is not going to seriously damage Gore’s campaign, even in the short-run. It does, however, represent a Beltway attitude about how to run a campaign. Surely the Gore campaign could have gotten Coelho’s strategic advice without making him chairman. By making Tony Coelho the front man for the 2000 campaign, the vice president has shown that perhaps his years spent in power have clouded his judgment and thereby weakened his claim to the presidency.