The following editorial appeared in Sunday's Los Angeles Times:
The candidate accepted his party's nomination in Los Angeles and squinted through the bright lights at the delegates and guests gathered for the final night of the 1960 Democratic National Convention. "It has been a long road from that first snowy day in New Hampshire to this crowded convention city," he said. "Now begins another long journey, taking me into your cities and homes all over America."
That was John F. Kennedy, at the first national political convention held in Los Angeles. Thursday night, Vice President Al Gore will look out on a far more diverse crowd of delegates and begin his own pursuit of the White House at the head of the Democratic ticket.
His prospects depend to a high degree on the conduct of the 2000 Democratic National Convention, which opens Monday in downtown Los Angeles. As the vice president for eight years, Gore needs no introduction to the American people, such as Texas Gov. George W. Bush did when he accepted the GOP nomination in Philadelphia Aug. 2. A relative newcomer to national politics, Bush gave a solid if nonspecific address and got his fall campaign off to a vigorous start. What the vice president needs to do this week is to show voters the real Al Gore, standing finally by himself on the top step of American leadership, not as the awkward sidekick of Bill Clinton. The Tennessee Democrat must appear presidential, comfortable and confident, toning down his primary campaign image of policy whiz and political slasher.
In 1960 Kennedy was the challenger, running against the GOP's Richard M. Nixon, the vice presidential incumbent of a party that had held the White House for the previous eight years. Those too were prosperous times, but clouded by the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Kennedy said a population explosion "has overcrowded the schools, cluttered up our suburbs and increased the squalor of our slums." Automation was putting people out of traditional jobs. The young nominee decried "a slippage in our intellectual and moral strength ... the confusion between what is legal and what is right. Too many Americans have lost their way, their will and their sense of historic purpose."
Today, it's the Republicans who lash the Democrats with the issue of morals, especially by linking Gore to the Clinton White House and its scandals. But Gore should not be held to account for Clinton's personal failings.
Kennedy said his times demanded "new invention, innovation, imagination, decision." This is a different age, some will say. The Cold War is over. We are even more prosperous. But these complex, changing times demand leadership more than ever. It was Bush's turn two weeks ago; now it's Gore's opportunity to begin to show Americans how he could provide that leadership in the coming four years.
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