With all the government shutdown talk, former Vice President Al Gore remembered a time he got a little payback on the Republican largely responsible for the '90s debacle -- Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Gore told his tale Friday morning at the Brookings Institution.
After the government shutdown in 1996, the veep enlisted an aide to seek out a very specific person for him. "No. 1, this person must have been inside the Murrah building when the bomb went off," Gore said, referring to the federal building destroyed in the Oklahoma City bombing. "No. 2, [this person] must have been a hero in the aftermath of that tragedy, many were. No. 3, this person must have been relocated to another temporary government building, which was itself shut down by the congressionally mandated shutdown."
The gentleman found was federal worker Richard Dean, a Vietnam vet who saved three women from the burning building and brought out the body of a dead colleague. "So I told President Clinton this would be great for your State of the Union and we could put Richard Dean right next to the first lady," Gore recalled. At first the president's speechwriters weren't game, instead wanting to seat Olympic torch holders next to the first lady. "I said please, please you don't understand this needs to be done," Gore implored, finally getting Clinton on board.
Cut to the dais on State of the Union day. "And I'm sitting there and to my left is Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich," Gore said. Clinton starts telling the story of Dean, which triggers a standing ovation. "We're standing there clapping and I look over at Newt and I said, 'Newt, wait for it,'" Gore said.
"And we sat back down and the president said, basically, 'unfortunately that was not the only time that Richard Dean was forced out of his office,' and..`on behalf of Richard Dean and all of these other heroic [workers]...let us pledge that we will never shut down this government again.'" Gore said. "I leaped to my feet and I looked over and I said, 'I told you to wait.'"