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Tuesday, 4 January, 2000, 13:35 GMT
Al Gore: Groomed for power

If anyone has been groomed for the White House, then it's Al Gore.

The son of a senator whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, Al Gore sat in the lap of vice-president Richard Nixon as he presided over the Senate in the 1950s.

Educated at two of the nation's top schools and universities, Al Gore's life has been one geared towards duty. His mother even stopped his childhood violin lessons, saying: "Future world leaders do not play the violin".

But while he has been prepared for the highest of offices, his opponents regard the vice president's relationship with President Bill Clinton as his Achilles heel.

Privileged birth

Al Gore was born into Washington's elite. His family kept a penthouse apartment at the city's Fairfax Hotel where senior Democrats, such as the future president John F Kennedy, would often be seen making policy with Senator Albert Gore Sr.

And while his son now chooses to stress to the voters how much time he spent on the family's Tennessee farm, the would-be president's life has been dominated by preparation for this White House race.

Future world leaders do not play the violin

Al Gore's mother during his childhood
That duty to family became apparent when, on leaving university, he enlisted for Vietnam despite his opposition to the war, fearing that his actions would otherwise bring electoral defeat on his father.

Returning from serving as an army journalist, Gore entered newspapers before answering the call of high office.

And, aged only 28, he won his father's old House of Representatives seat in 1977 before moving up to the Senate eight years later.

Al Gore earned a reputation as a technology specialist, focusing on issues including arms control and funding for the then nascent internet.

He broke party ranks to support President Bush over waging war against Iraq and he argued forcefully for military intervention in the Bosnia conflict.

But in 1988 he made his ambitions clear when he audaciously launched a bid for the Democratic party's White House ticket at the tender age of 40.

The campaign flopped but the Senator picked up the pieces and earned respect with a best selling book advocating public policy change to avert environmental disaster.

He ruled himself out of the 1992 race after his son was nearly killed in a car accident. Instead, he chose to sign up as vice president candidate with Bill Clinton.

Commentators describe the Clinton-Gore partnership as far closer than many previous presidential teams as the vice president has taken on an unprecedented number of responsibilities, including seeking to "reinvent government" by slimming down the federal bureaucracy.

Personal life

Al Gore has a spotless personal life. Married in 1970, his wife Tipper became most well known for campaigns against the corrupting influence of rock music lyrics. They have four children.

Al Gore's famous sense of duty came to the fore during the Monica Lewinsky crisis when he stood by the president despite the obvious risks."

The only whiff of scandal came when he faced possible independent counsel investigation into alleged illegal phone calls from the White House amid a complicated scandal concerning fund raising for the Clinton 1996 re-election campaign.

Al Gore's famous sense of duty came to the fore during the Monica Lewinsky crisis when he stood by the president, despite the obvious risks to his own future.

Commentators say that this close association, regardless of Mr Gore's policy-making credentials, will be a key factor in the White House race.

The vice president appears to have listened to his advisors and is seeking to distance himself from Washington - including moving his campaign headquarters to Tennessee.

Launching that campaign he said that he would take his "own values of faith and family to the Presidency", emphasising the differences with previous administrations.

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