Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 23:18 GMT 00:18 UK
Clinton's three little words
Al Gore: Promising to resurrect the treaty
By Washington correspondent Philippa Thomas
The three key words of Bill Clinton's news conference were those he used to condemn Republican Congressional leaders - "the new isolationists".
It's a phrase the Democrats will be picking up fast.
On Friday, vice-president Al Gore will launch the first television advert of his own run for the White House, and he's promising to make the arms control vote a key campaign issue.
"If elected president, I will send this treaty back to the Senate with your demand that they ratify it."
The Democrats are confident they have public opinion on their side.
The international outcry at US rejection of the treaty has been reflected by newspaper editorials in Washington castigating the "destructive abdication of American leadership".
Most important to aspiring presidential candidates, opinion polls show majority backing for a ban on further nuclear testing.
Most important to Democrats, the man who's charging ahead in the race for the White House, Texas Republican George W. Bush, opposes it.
So Bill Clinton in the White House and Al Gore on the campaign trail intend to make heavy weather of the Republicans' refusal to countenance ratification.
The president warned that the party's hard-line right wingers, while not a majority, "are a very very potent minority". Al Gore described Wednesday's vote as "breathtakingly irresponsible".
Preaching to the converted
In other words, Mr Gore is aiming to impress an audience of Democratic loyalists with his internationalist fervour, to claim the issue as his own, even though rival Bill Bradley also supports the treaty.
Come the final vote in November 2000, it's hard to see regular voters fired up by the issue of America's global leadership.
If it proves to be a time of international crisis, questions of the superpower's moral obligations will return to the fore.
But if it's business as usual, Al Gore knows only too well that the vote-winning formula consists of moderate positions on issues close to home: education, health and taxes.