Campaign 2000: Gore's Secret Guru

So what accounts for the aggressive new Al? It's partly the expensive advice of feminist author Naomi Wolf

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Wolf, 37, is apparently counseling the Veep on more than just style points. Democratic Party sources say it's Wolf who, more than anyone else, has urged Gore to bare his teeth at the President he has served loyally for more than seven years. Wolf has argued internally that Gore is a "Beta male" who needs to take on the "Alpha male" in the Oval Office before the public will see him as the top dog. In private, sources say, Gore expresses an almost primal bitterness about his relationship with Clinton, contending that while he was crucial to getting the President elected in 1992, the public's disgust with Clinton now threatens his own ambitions. At last week's forum with rival Bill Bradley, Gore startled his audience by seizing upon the first question that was thrown to him--a broad one about the questionable behavior of politicians in Washington--to talk about "the disappointment and anger that you feel toward President Clinton, and I felt it myself."

Gore and his wife Tipper have always had a fondness for writers, bookstore gurus and outside-the-Beltway thinkers. The Veep kept a psychologist on his White House payroll as a management consultant for years. Wolf, campaign sources say, has also bonded with Gore's eldest daughter Karenna Gore Schiff, with whom she is working on efforts to involve younger voters--particularly women--in the campaign. Indeed, it is the women's vote, so crucial to Clinton's success, that has been one of the biggest puzzles for Gore this year. Why is it that a man who espouses all of Clinton's female-friendly policies, without carrying the Big Creep's personal baggage, has so consistently trailed George W. Bush among women voters?

The importance of taking back that vote has been underscored by recent polls, which show that Gore's slight rebound against Bush comes largely from women who are giving him another look. And that is where Wolf comes in. Raised partly in San Francisco during what she called a "decade-long Summer of Love," Wolf went to Yale and then to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. She was still in her 20s when she made her name as a social critic, with the best-selling The Beauty Myth, in which she argued that the male-dominated society has replaced "virtuous domesticity" with an impossible standard of "virtuous beauty"--meant to keep women internally inadequate and off balance.

Many of the activists who applauded her first book, however, took issue with her second one, Fire with Fire, in which she urged women to give up "victim feminism" and take up "power feminism." She argued that women should turn away from women-vs.-men feminism, avoid fault lines like abortion and lesbian rights, and start looking for bipartisan women's issues like violence, pay discrimination and harassment. The 1997 book, Promiscuities, recounts her sexual coming of age and denounces masculine attempts to muffle female sexuality by ostracizing the sexually adventurous girl.

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