Gore calls for `family crusade'

ROUNDING OFF the inaugural week of his campaign for the White House, Vice-President Al Gore yesterday called on Americans to create "a family lobby as powerful as the gun lobby is today".

Looking exhausted after a frenetic five days criss-crossing the country, Mr Gore and his wife, Tipper, had returned to Tennessee to chair their eighth annual conference on family issues at their alma mater, Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

"Family and Community", the theme of this year's conference, was a felicitous choice. With the American public still convulsed about the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, the Gores had the opportunity to show themselves attuned to public concerns, and ahead of the pack in what many anticipate could be a touchstone issue in next year's presidential election.

Both "family" and "community" - family values and social cohesion - are already figuring prominently in the campaign pitches of presidential hopefuls, and Al Gore, like his leading Republican rival, George W Bush, is exploiting to the full his own stable family life. For Mr Gore this not only plugs into a current preoccupation of the American public, but implicitly distances him from Bill Clinton and his marital problems.

Yesterday's opening of the two-day "Family Reunion 8" was also a chance for the notoriously awkward Gore to display his competence in a different milieu - the serious and concerned discussion - where he tends to be more comfortable than solo at the lectern or in the television studio.

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