So why pick as a pet project a prickly subject so often swept under the rug? The conference, says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan, "was an attempt by her to forge an image of herself" early in the presidential sweepstakes. Gore, a longtime -- albeit low-key -- advocate for the mentally ill, has recently acknowledged having suffered from depression. With the possible stigma of that ordeal very much in mind, says Branegan, the gathering "was also one way to get out in front of her battle" before it could become an issue for her husbandís campaign.
Every First Lady has a favorite cause. Nancy Reagan just said no to drugs, Barbara Bush tried to improve literacy, and Hillary Clinton has been pressing for childrenís rights. Now would-be First Lady Tipper Gore has decided to stump for her cause: the mentally ill. On Monday, Mrs. Gore took the lead in convening the first White House conference on mental illness, at which the President announced a $7.3 million study and pressed for better insurance coverage.