THE choice of Albert Gore as his vice president was seminal in Bill Clinton's campaign. The choice - bold, imaginative - of a peer with stature and credentials provided a contrast with the Republican ticket and caused many Americans to take Mr. Clinton seriously for the first time. After a brutal and somewhat sleazy primary race, Mr. Gore gave immediate and sharp definition to the Clinton campaign. The two men got along famously during the convention, the epic bus rides, the joint press conferences. They
appeared able to work with each other, and that was reassuring.
That close relationship should now continue. In the Clinton administration, Gore's role should not be relegated to that of formal functionary. His potential contribution is not only signifiant, but as the world and its manifold problems and demands begin rushing in on Clinton, it may be critical.
Clinton needs an independent thinker familiar with Washington's ways, and Gore fills that bill. The veep will shape environmental policy, certainly. The Bush administration's Clean Air Act was a giant leap forward. But it was undercut almost immediately by Dan Quayle's Competitiveness Council. Gore can help close some gaping loopholes.
Yet it is in the area of foreign policy that Gore may most need to use his inside track to Clinton and step forward. The early bashing of Clinton's choice of the lawerly Warren Christopher as secretary of state may be just that - too early. But given the radical dangers in the post-cold-war era - the reversal of the euphoria of 1989, the leering nationalisms in East Europe and elsewhere, the uncompleted arms- control agreements, the roiling frictions in Europe, the Mideast, and Asia - tough new policies and sensibilities are needed.
In the current global clashings, a dovish managerial approach by the world's top power is as inadequate as the heavy handed post-war pax Americana is inappropriate. In an era that has brought intervention in the Gulf, a humanitarian use of force in Somalia, and talk of intervention in Bosnia, a new policy is needed. Gore's experience on the Armed Services committee, his arms-control savvy, and his rationale for the Gulf war may make his voice unique, and again, needed, in Clinton's Cabinet.