Former President Bill Clinton and his vice president Al Gore are now so estranged that they are no longer on speaking terms as of the end of May, according to an article in Vanity Fair magazine released Monday.
Contrary to conventional wisdom that their rift was sparked by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the chill between Clinton and his vice president dates to much earlier days in their political partnership, sources in both camps said in the latest issue of the magazine.
According to Vanity Fair contributing editor Marjorie Williams, the popular image of the two men as good friends and confidants who enjoyed one of the closest working relationships ever between a president and vice president was never more than media hype that began during their first campaign together in 1992.
‘Clinton Drove Gore Nuts’
The schism between the two men has widely been attributed to Gore's bitterness over Clinton's affair with Lewinsky, the impeachment that followed and Gore's view that the scandal cost him the 2000 election.
But strains that burst into the open following Gore's razor-thin loss to George W. Bush had existed under the surface for a long time, Vanity Fair reported.
"Clinton drove Gore nuts," a former Gore aide told the magazine. "Gore's much more disciplined in terms of how he makes decisions and the way he demands things to happen. There's nothing more irritating as vice president than to be waiting around for a Clinton meeting that starts 45 minutes late."
A former White House official adds, "The idea that this relationship just went off the skids when Monica came along ... is wrong. It was all there, in a deep and profound way, long before Monica Lewinsky ever showed up."
Blaming Each Other?
According to another source with ties to both camps, the irreparable break came on June 16, 1999, the day Gore announced his candidacy. Appearing the same day in a Diane Sawyer interview, Gore said three times that the president's behavior had been "inexcusable."
"From then on, the antipathy was much more public," that source said. "It was a match on the huge pool of gasoline that had been accumulated."
For his part, Clinton rejected the assertion by Gore loyalists that Clinton-era scandals ultimately derailed Gore's White House ambitions. One Clinton confidant quoted the former president as saying, "[Hillary] was able to figure out how to deal with her relationship with me and win by 10 points [in her Senate race]. He should have been able to as well."