Every serving vice president since Alben Barkley in 1952 who has wanted his party's presidential nomination has gotten it. Al Gore wants his party's, so it is not too soon to be depressed. And inquisitive. Herewith some questions for him.

You say that abortions should be "safe, legal and rare." Why do you care if they are rare? In Roe vs. Wade, which you adore, the Supreme Court said a fetus is, unlike crab grass, only "potential" life. That makes it easy for you to defend even partial-birth abortions. No one says appendectomies should be rare. Unless a fetus has a moral standing superior to an appendix - if it does, how superior? - why is it important for abortions to be rare?In a 1984 letter to a constituent you expressed your "deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong" and said you voted to amend the Civil Rights Act to define the protection of a "person" to "include unborn children from the moment of conception." Could you explain the, well, evolution of your thinking from that position to support for partial-birth abortion?

Last year you said, "People in Grand Forks, N.D., who had to move out of their homes because of the flooding don't think global climate change is such an abstraction anymore." What is the scientific basis for the assertion that the flooding was caused by "global climate change"?

In a Dec. 22, 1997, news conference about homelessness you said, "Speaking from my own religious tradition in this Christmas season, 2,000 years ago a homeless woman gave birth to a homeless child in a manger because the inn was full." Homeless? Can you document for biblical scholars this astonishing news that Joseph provided so poorly for his family?

You say, "It makes little sense for each of us to burn up all the energy necessary to travel with several thousand pounds of metal wherever we go." Will you say that to a United Auto Workers convention? What policies would a Gore administration adopt to implement your conviction that automobiles make "little sense"?

You say "race is a pervasive if often unacknowledged part of every issue, controversy, indeed, conversation in the United States of America." Really? How does that work in conversations about Jane Austen or Greg Maddux or the possible collision of Earth with an asteroid or the (if you will pardon the thought) delights of sport-utility vehicles?

As a general moral principle, do you think that anything goes when there is "no controlling legal authority" forbidding it?

Referring to people "who are simply not getting enough to eat" because they cannot "figure out how to make ends meet, how to get food on the table," you say: "We cannot stand by and let people in this nation starve." Well. Diagnosable malnutrition (as distinct from episodes of incidental hunger) is rare and almost always associated not "simply" with poverty but with alcoholism, drug addiction, child abuse and other pathologies. What is your understanding of America's starvation problem?

A Clinton-Gore administration report says that among the American households living with "resource-constrained hunger" are 185,000 households with annual incomes exceeding $40,000. Can you explain this?

You welcomed Ellen DeGeneres' televised lesbianism because "Americans were forced to look at sexual orientation in a more open light." What else should Americans be "forced" to face? Should state laws acknowledge gay marriages? Given that gays and supporters of the gay-rights agenda (especially Hollywood) are important sources of Democratic campaign contributions, what part of that agenda do you not support?

Addressing the 1996 Democratic Convention, you said about tobacco, "When I was a child, my family was attacked by an invisible force that was then considered harmless." Was smoking really considered harmless in this country in which cigarettes had for generations been called "coffin nails"? Are tobacco farmers immoral?

You say, "There are those at the extremes of both parties who take a dim view of the future." Are you taking a cheery view when you say our civilization is a "dysfunctional family" in need of "wrenching transformation" and new "central organizing principles"? What are the "central organizing principles" that are outmoded?

Political scientist Larry Sabato and journalist Glenn Simpson say "modern opposition research truly came into its own in 1988" when you, seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, raised the Willie Horton case against Michael Dukakis. Did Republicans do anything wrong in using that issue, too?

Would repeal of the designated-hitter rule (25 years old this year) constitute illegal discrimination because repeal would have a disparate impact on elderly players?