Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore bring very different versions of the politician's wife to the Democratic campaign

CONSIDER THE LADIES

July 10, 1992|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

Tipper Gore once baked a batch of sugar cookies while being interviewed for The New York Times, something we all know Hillary Clinton wouldn't attempt in her wildest dreams.

And while Ms. Clinton says she is not the kind of woman portrayed in Tammy Wynette's classic song, "Stand By Your Man," Ms. Gore is. She gave up plans to become a child psychologist to be a mother of four and the kind of wife who combs her hair and touches up her lipstick before her husband returns home in the evening.

Since Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton announced yesterday that Sen. Al Gore, D-Tenn., would be his running mate, the idea of Tipper Gore and Hillary Clinton working together has intrigued more than a few observers. While both women are veteran campaigners, the flip side of the Democratic ticket holds opposing views of blond ambition. Ms. Gore formed the Parents' Music Resource Center in 1985 and crusaded to get record companies to place warning labels on hard rock songs with off-color lyrics.

By contrast, Ms. Clinton is a career woman, avowed feminist and, some might say, co-candidate, often seen as a tireless, roll-up-the-sleeves campaigner for her husband.

The odd couple may attract voters to the ticket or turn them away, depending on whom you talk to.

"It makes a fascinating combination in that they demonstrate the diversity of women today who can work together even though they differ," said Harriett Woods, president of the National Women's Political Caucus.

"I'm sure they have far more in common than are their differences. I think that these are two women who are people in their own right. Women will respond to that whether they are at home or at the office."

"It remains to be seen which of the two will get the most ink," said Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying group in Washington. "I don't think they can get away with sending both messages.

"I think the Clintons and the Gores will differ on issues like condoms in the schools and the whole 'Murphy Brown' issue. Hillary Clinton is very assertive and I would think that she would be a little uncomfortable with things that Tipper Gore stands for. It could produce some great leaks that take place in a campaign where people are behind doors yelling at each other. There could be conflicts there."

(Though they'll undoubtedly get much better acquainted in the months ahead, Ms. Clinton and Ms. Gore are virtual strangers to each other. According to Liza McClenaghan, an assistant to Ms. Gore,"Tipper said they met once, years ago." She said Ms. Gore did not tell her the circumstances.)

Ms. Woods and Mr. Bauer said it will be interesting to see how female voters respond to each of the candidates, and whether voters will identify with the new trend of the wife factor -- the spouse as "modern woman" who has claimed a place in public life, too.

"They represent a new generation of women who want to be players," Ms. Woods said. "Voters will respect the fact that they want to be people in their own right. They have been supportive of their husbands, but have something they care for."

Published reports indicate Ms. Gore's warning-label crusade hurt her husband's unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1988, particularly in California, where representatives of the music industry said his campaign was surrounded by a "giant smoke screen" created by her protest. But now her work in that area may not be a factor.

"This November is not about lyrics, it's about America's future in the economy," said Bob Mulholland, political director of the California Democratic Party.

"Some of the furor of the stickering of albums has died down. More people know what Al Gore is about now than in '88," said Robert Merlis, a Warner Bros. Records vice president. It was Mr. Merlis who in 1988 said of Mr. Gore: "I don't know if he can overcome the view people have of her."

Ms. Gore, 43, and Susan Baker, wife of Secretary of State James Baker, launched their campaign against off-color lyrics in 1985. That move generated "Just Say No to Tipper Gore" protests in record stores, as well as allegations of censorship.

Appearing before a Senate committee, Mrs. Gore testified against explicit lyrics and was called a "cultural terrorist" by rock star Frank Zappa.

She also wrote a book in 1987, "Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society," plugged as "a practical guide for parents and consumers concerned with increasingly explicit material in today's entertainment for children." She wrote: "Something has happened since the days of 'Twist and Shout' and 'I Love Lucy.' "

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