For Gore, a Blast From the Past

As Al Gore tries to polish off Bill Bradley, he'd like to forget everything about his first disastrous presidential campaign in 1988. NEWSWEEK has obtained a document from that era which shows why Gore doesn't want anyone to look too closely at the past. It's an eight-page internal memo for an early campaign debate that portrays a candidate whose priority was to discredit his Democratic rivals and who wanted to run to the right but fretted about offending the party's liberal base.

The first piece of advice in the memo was not to tout his own vision or accomplishments but to turn the debate into a "confrontation" with his chief foe at the time, Rep. Richard Gephardt, now a leading Gore backer. Under "talking points," Gore is reminded of a score of lines of attack to use against his competitors. To toughen up the candidate, the final segment is devoted to "AG vulnerabilities." It points to weaknesses his opponents might try to exploit against him: his lack of a liberal record (support for defense spending, failure to support national health insurance), his "cowardly" approach to the deficit ("no taxes, no defense cuts, no specific domestic cuts") and his flip-flop on the Gramm-Rudman bill. "AG" could be hit for not being "a leader" on economic reform "while others have done the tough work," the memo warns. It also sheds light on a number of conservative positions Gore has since tried to explain away: opposition to gun control, gay rights and federal funding for poor women seeking abortions.

Such a memo is a staple of campaign debate prep. The Gore campaign declined to comment on it. "Our [current] issues expert was 12 years old back then," said a Gore spokeswoman.