Scientology Crime Syndicate

21 Jun 2000

Tipper Gore
The 'Second Lady' Rethinks
Her Crusades for Children and


WASHINGTON--She has been called the "second lady." And the "second first lady." Somebody once introduced her as "the second lady of vice." But after nearly seven years as wife of America's 45th vice president, such confusion no longer surprises Mary Elizabeth Aitcheson Gore, who prefers to go by her nickname: Tipper.

She occupies a post with "no job description, no pay, no career path--and limited opportunities for promotion," she says good-naturedly.

Tipper Gore is widely regarded as the vice president's greatest asset. Whereas he tends to appear wooden and aloof in public, she comes across as warm and effervescent, with a knack for quickly putting people at ease. Her husband may have a difficult time connecting with voters, but she does not--vulnerabilities and all.

Last summer, just as Tipper Gore was about to chair the first-ever White House conference on mental health, she went public with a personal connection to the issue. Ten years ago, she revealed, she was treated for depression after her son, Albert, almost died when he was struck by a car. During his prolonged recovery and rehabilitation, Gore stopped her regular running, "couldn't say no" to sweets and put on 25 pounds. Both she and her son have recovered, and Gore was widely praised for her candor.

In the music-recording industry, Gore is still remembered for organizing a crusade in the early 1980s for a voluntary rating system to warn parents about violent and obscene lyrics. Gore embarked on that drive after hearing a song on a record bought by her then 11-year-old daughter, Karenna, that contained sexually explicit lyrics. She co-founded Parents Music Resource Center to alert others to the danger she perceived. At the time, Gore and her allies were branded by many as prudes and repressed housewives.

The late Frank Zappa did not mince words, calling them "cultural terrorists." But by 1985, as a result of the consumer campaign led by Gore's group, the music industry issued voluntary warning labels.

Two years later, Gore published a book called "Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society." She was just starting a book tour when her husband decided to run for president, and she canceled her tour to help him campaign. He unabashedly calls her "my No. 1 advisor on all issues."

The Gores met at a high-school dance. In May they celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary. A month later, they became first-time grandparents.

An accomplished photographer, Tipper Gore, 51, grew up in suburban Arlington, Va., the only child of a broken home. She was raised by her grandparents, who gave her the nickname, which comes from a lullaby sung to her by her mother, who also had bouts of depression.

* * *

Question: Despite much progress, why is there still a stigma associated with mental-health counseling? How do you combat that?

Answer: There is a stigma still attached to mental-health illnesses. But it is getting much better. I hope it will soon go the way of the stigma that used to be attached to discussions of cancer. One in five American families will need to deal with a mental illness. So it is time that we learn to be compassionate and supportive.

Breakthroughs in science, research and medicine have taught us much more than ever before about the brain and the connections between mental health and physical well-being. We now know that depression and other mental illnesses are diagnosable, treatable and recoverable. People can continue to function and lead productive lives. As adults, we need to set a better example and let young people know that diseases of the brain are no more shameful than diseases centered in other parts of the body. Any disease is scary, but we as a society need to update our attitudes, recognize the mind-body connection and include mental health in our thinking about total health.

* * *

Q: You have strongly advocated that health-insurance coverage treat mental-health services on a parity with physical diseases. Do you see satisfactory progress?

A: I think progress is being made, and significant progress has been made in the last six and a half years at the federal level because of the emphasis of this administration, but also because the states have taken their own initiatives. . . . I would say that we are not where we need to be. But we have made significant progress and, no matter what the future holds, I will continue to work in this field because I think it's important.

* * *

Q: Is this one reason you decided to go public about your own mental-health needs?

A: My decision to talk about my treatment for depression was a very private and personal one, as it is for anyone who discusses any health issue. In preparing for the White House Mental Health Conference, I was traveling around the country listening to people talk about mental-health issues. In my meetings with teenagers, many of them said they know kids who are troubled, who are depressed, who are openly discussing violence or who had attempted suicide. And one student said to me recently, "My friends know they need help, and we know they need help, but they are ashamed to come forward because they fear being labeled." Suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents. I realized that I could be helpful in eradicating some of the stigma associated with mental-health illnesses. And when I was personally comfortable, I came forward.

* * *

Q: What's the next step after the White House conference?

A: The next step is the surgeon general's report on mental health--for the first time . . . there [is] an emphasis on suicide prevention. Do you know that there are about 32,000 suicides a year in this country? We need to get people into treatment so that we don't lose more people this way.

* * *

Q: Back in the '80s, you crusaded for voluntary restraints in music lyrics, for which you were roundly attacked by the entertainment industry.

A: The whole point was public education about the fact that lyrics have become very explicit. I mean, I didn't know it. My kids tuned me in. That was happening with parents all across the country. We were surprised and shocked. So public education. We asked the record companies to voluntarily put a label on that says "explicit lyrics/parental advisory." They've been voluntarily doing that since the late '80s. That's all we ever wanted.

It solves the problem. It's respectful of the 1st Amendment rights. It doesn't affect content. But it tells people that there is explicit content before they buy it. . . . We have consumer information on almost all the products that we buy. And certainly when we are making choices for children of different ages it's nice to have that kind of guidance in the marketplace.

* * *

Q: Some people blame many of the images and lyrics today for some of the violence we've seen in the schools. Does more now need to be done?

A: Well, let me be very careful how I phrase this, because people came to me--after the series of shootings--and said: "Ah, isn't this because of the violence in music lyrics and such?"

I believe, once again, I was able to be a voice of moderation and reason, in saying that that should be looked at, yes, with children at risk. But not alone. It should be looked at with the availability of guns, with unmet mental-health needs that so many kids are dealing with, [including] a lack of time from their parents.

Not because anybody chooses it, but because parents are working and often these kids are working--they're in junior high and in high school and they've got jobs! So there's not enough time spent in the family.

So I said, "We have to work at these different components. There's no one thing. Yes, it's a factor.". . .

For a kid at risk to repeatedly be involved in extremely violent entertainment on the Internet, video games, music, etc., that should be a warning sign to people that this child may be troubled. But in terms of the whole community, looking at what's causing this, no, you have to look at the availability of guns, you have to look at mental-health needs, you have to look at parental involvement.

So I'm not pointing my finger at any one place, because I honestly don't believe that's the correct thing to do. It's a cumulative thing. There are several components in a child's life that would drive them to violence.

* * *

Q: Back in '87, when your husband first sought to run for president, didn't some people criticize you guys for essentially going to the music industry and apologizing for that warning-label campaign?

A: Yes, we had a meeting with the music industry. We were very frank with them, and they were very frank with us. There were people there that came away not supporting him. And we came away not making an apology. . . .

The genesis of that [perception] might have been something I said time and time again. And that was: "Look, just because the Senate had hearings on this, that frightened people into thinking there was going to be government action. Looking at that, I could understand that you could see that as a mistake--because people took that as, Oh, the government's going to get involved; the next step is government censorship or something."

The hearing that was held, . . . and this is a very good point that cannot get lost in the argument--but did at the time, because people at the time had reason to have it be lost--it was an information hearing. No legislation was being considered. That was stated at the beginning of it by Chairman [Sen. John C.] Danforth. . . . It was stated time and time again--we just wanted to get information 'cause it's a big issue. That's what we said. We were not for legislation. That wasn't being considered.

People out here in the community, particularly on the West Coast, didn't understand and thought, "Ugh, this means they're getting government involved." So I said that was a mistaken conclusion. But that meeting was, um, quite frank--on both sides.

* * *

Q: Pay equity is an issue you and the vice president talk a lot about. Given all that is expected of the spouses of the president and vice president, and all that spouses do, shouldn't they be paid?

A: As parents of three daughters, my husband and I are keenly aware of the hurdles women face today, particularly in the work force, where, in 1999, women still earn 74 cents to a man's dollar. . . . That bothers me very, very much, and I will continue to work to focus on pay equity issues. I'm very interested in establishing a better climate for pension and retirement plans for women so that as homemakers . . . their contribution to society must be valued in terms of monetary compensation and in terms of respect. I will continue to work in that area.

* * *

Q: As the vice president's "No. 1 advisor," how should he go about "reintroducing" himself to the electorate? What is the one thing about him you want the American public to know?

A: I have known Al Gore for 34 years, as a college student, husband and father, as a man who offered himself up for military and public service and as the best vice president this nation has ever seen. He is a man who can lead this country proudly into the 21st century, a man who will spend every day working to see that hard-working families across this country get to live their American dream, a man who will ensure that America steps into a new millennium ready and able to build on the stunning strength and success of the last century.

* * *

Q: It's not a new Al Gore then?

A: It's not new. No. . . . He's a determined and very hard-working, scrappy fighter.

* * *

Q: Do you think we focus too much on personality?

A: Right. I think it's time to focus on ideas. . . . What you're going to hear us talking about in this campaign is the power of ideas and ideals and values, and I think that we need to focus people's attention on that so they can see what in their hearts they really care about, and also so we can inspire more citizen participation in our democracy . . . in voter turnout--and I don't care who you vote for, but become involved and vote! It distresses me when I see the lack of voter participation in our great democracy. And young people, and anybody who's alienated--we're going to be reaching out to them. We're not going to be doing it through a cult of personality, we're going to be doing it through the power of ideas, ideals and values.

* * *

Q: People always ask, how would Tipper be different from Hillary?

A: How are people different from each other? We're all unique individuals. Every person that comes into any role puts their own individual stamp on it. Hillary is a friend, and I admire her. And she's a reflection as a first lady of who she is. Whoever the next first lady is going to be is going to be a reflection of who they are as a person. *

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Edwin Chen Covers the White
House for The Times


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