Sad Sack Gore Still Floundering; Is a Fake Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer Coming Up?
When Al Gore lugged his three chins and pasty white face before a group of black mayors in Dallas on April 28, he undoubtedly had more than fitness and phonics on his mind. True, Gore's lost that earth-toned, Naomi Wolf glow that dovetailed with his comeback against Bill Bradley last fall, and probably should lay off the Cheetos. And his new education package, which mimics George W. Bush's in its emphasis on (limited) local accountability, is a transparent switcheroo from the traditional Democratic approach of throwing federal dollars at public schools and hoping that'll successfully bribe the teachers' unions. Gore showed his usual woodheaded brass, criticizing Bush's detailed plan, even though he knows the Texas governor has claimed the issue as his own. He told the lukewarm crowd: "Instead of meaningful public school choice and competition, [Bush] proposes private school vouchers, draining away precious public dollars from our public schools, giving them to private schools that are not accountable."
But that's the least of the Vice President's problems. I still have no reason to doubt the election in November will be a squeaker?it's inevitable that Bush will slip on a banana sooner or later, ending his extraordinary postprimary surge?but Gore's advisers must be dirtying their drawers.
One factor that hasn't been discussed at all in the media is the potential for a low Democratic turnout this fall: Gore, carrying so much of Bill Clinton's baggage, isn't doing much to inspire even his base support. He may have swamped Bradley in the primaries, but it wasn't because of a populist rush to the polls; the unions delivered the rank-and-file vote. Just last Friday, at a meeting of professors and grad students in Chicago, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was bashing the Veep for his failure to support the Clinton-Reno raid in Miami. Jackson: "To call this merely a local or state custody decision is short-sighted, it is wrong. [Gore] could not find a way to say he would uphold federal law and that is a problem."
Jackson's a jerk, but he's one of Gore's vote-mobilizing jerk, and so Tennessee Al can't mouth off. At that same Chicago meeting, Jackson ridiculed Americans who were disgusted by the government's ham-handed snatch of Elian Gonzalez. "I see them [law enforcement agents] knocking down doors every day. I've never seen African-American people more excited... Miami has the right to secede on the question of Elian Gonzalez, if they wish." Normally, a Democratic presidential candidate would disassociate himself from a troublemaker like Jackson, but Gore can't afford to; a low minority turnout would kill him in November.
But the Gore campaign has so many serious problems that Jackson doesn't even place in the Top 10. Where to begin? How about the perception that he's a liar who'll say anything to occupy the White House? The sins of Clinton are visited upon the Vice President by the voters: even the ill-informed who don't know that Gore is a liar automatically assume he is. In this case, the guilt-by-association is absolutely appropriate. After all, instead of distancing himself from the narcissist who's made a mockery of the presidency these past seven years, Gore, inextricably tied to the Clinton money machine, lavishes praise on his boss.
At a recent Manhattan fundraiser, Gore was particularly smarmy. According to the April 26 Washington Post, "In praising Clinton, Gore made a comparison to the Bible passage asserting that 'where there is no vision the people will perish.' He said Clinton's tenure illustrated that 'where there is a clear and compelling vision, the people shall prosper.'" He also threw in this lulu: "Everything flowing from the vision of Bill Clinton is instantly at risk if the other party is put in charge of economic policy." And then, finally telling the truth, at least subconsciously, Gore said that Clinton's "legacy will endure."
But it gets worse. At the same Sheraton Towers affair, which raised $2 million for the Democratic National Committee, Clinton told the affluent crowd: "All I have done for seven years and three months was try to get the country I love in a position to build the future of our dreams for our children. Now it's up to you to decide whether we do that or not." The children. I can withstand most hypocrisy?working in an industry that's rife with backstabbing, status-driven mediocrities hardens the soul?but Clinton's bald-faced hooey makes me cringe. After seven years and three months, any American with an IQ of over 100 knows that Bill Clinton is the most unethical, immoral and selfish president of this century. By now, Republicans no longer have to say that Clinton's the worst chief executive since Richard Nixon: at least Nixon, whose heart wasn't as black as Clinton's, began the process of ending the Cold War. He was far too liberal on economics, paranoid to the extreme and wrong about continuing the JFK-LBJ Vietnam War, but his record isn't barren of accomplishments.
If Gore had any guts at all (and wanted to win the presidency), he'd slam Clinton hard and often, and apologize for sucking up to and defending such a deceitful individual. But he won't, and that's one of the reasons that the Democrats are unlikely to embrace his candidacy with enthusiasm. For example, California, a state that Gore must win to offset Bush's electoral advantages, isn't a gimme this year. It's been assumed that the Texas governor is putting up a facade in the country's most populous state, just as Bob Dole and his father did in the past two elections, only to skedaddle just after Labor Day. In fact, Bush is running very close to Gore in California polls; and, if Ralph Nader makes good on his promise to stump actively this year, he could win up to four or five percent of the vote in that state, which might be Bush's margin of victory.
Gore's campaign is floundering. He roams the country like a 3 a.m. drunk, attacking Bush for Houston's air pollution, using the word "risky" to describe every single one of his rival's programs, and taking credit for a solid economy that he had little to do with. In fact, the Clinton-Gore administration drew an inside straight when it came to the fiscal health of the country. Consider this: in 1993, after passing a devastating tax hike, the Clintons and Gore then tried to enact a healthcare scam that would've put one-seventh of the economy under federal jurisdiction. Talk about risky. It was the Republican takeover of Congress in '94, as well as the expansion of the communications industry, that's kept the country out of recession, despite the Clinton-Gore policies, which if left unchallenged would've resulted in no surplus at all.
In an April 27 editorial, The Wall Street Journal nailed Gore on his claim?read lie?that he's a fiscal conservative. The paper said: "With tax rates at the high level established by Messrs. Clinton and Gore, and with the economy growing as it has since the GOP closed off any possibility of new entitlement expansion, a gusher of tax payments, especially payroll taxes and capital gains levies from the soaring stock market, has been pouring into Washington. There's no deficit now because tax payments have outstripped federal spending. Instead of crowing about that, Mr. Gore should be hiding in shame. Fat taxes have created fat surpluses. Any chance Mr. Gore would give some of this back with a tax cut? Fat chance. Too 'risky.'"
I don't care what the polls say: tax cuts are sound policy, and even Bush is too timid with his promise to trim marginal rates. The Texas governor hasn't addressed the necessity for a slash in capital gains taxes or the abolition of ruinous estate levies.
And after issuing a courageous statement about the government's kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez, Bush has gone mute on the issue. He should be encouraging GOP hearings on the raid, despite the reticence of cowards like Sen. Orrin Hatch. Yes, today's polls show that Americans agree that Elian should be with his father, no questions asked. It's also true that Republicans have botched investigations of Clinton's scandalous administration ever since they took power in January of '95. But that shouldn't deter Bush: it's the right thing to do, and would set an example for his party.
The Gonzalez case is a pivotal moment in U.S. foreign policy, and won't disappear. My friend Chris Caldwell, who's written a number of eloquent editorials for The Weekly Standard on the controversy, told me the other day: "I think 10 years from now, the issue will be like the Kennedy/Nixon election. If you poll people about how they voted in 1960, the vote comes out 78-22, not 50.1-49.9. When Castro dies and the story of this whole episode comes out, 80 percent of the population will say they 'had real reservations about' sending Elian back to Cuba, and 90 percent will say they were 'firmly against' the raid."
Nevertheless, this year's race is no repeat of '92 or '96, a simple fact that Gore's staff doesn't seem to comprehend. In the former election, President Bush was complacent, figuring that his Gulf War popularity would trump a temporary recession, and underestimating the breathtaking political skill of Clinton. Throw in the kooky Ross Perot and a lazy and above-it-all James Baker, and you've got a Bush loss.
Bob Dole was much worse: bankrupt for months before the GOP convention, while Clinton used soft-money to run a blistering series of attacks against him, Dole was simply not in the same league. He mumbled, stumbled, spoke in arcane phrases that were familiar only within the Beltway and never articulated a coherent message about why he should be president.
Fortunately, Clinton can't run for a third term. It seems impossible, given his paucity of achievements and scandal-ridden administration, but he'd be an infinitely more formidable candidate than Gore. Bush has several advantages that his father and Dole didn't. One, take the punditocracy myth that this year's GOP primary battle so scarred Bush that it left him in bad shape for the general election. In reality, the ugliness lasted only about six weeks and it made Bush a better candidate.
Because of his unparalleled fundraising ability, and the early endorsements of so many elected Republican officials, Bush was lazy and didn't prepare for the early debates. He was arrogant and poorly prepared. His garbled syntax provided funny copy for word-processors who were biased against him. And then there was the John McCain phenomenon, which allowed Gore to pummel Bradley while no one was watching, and forced Bush to deplete his stacks of cash. Until his drubbing in New Hampshire, the overconfident Bush ran a gentleman's campaign, devoid of much content. Ultimately, McCain self-destructed, and even the media's disgraceful infatuation with him couldn't save the day. Still, his appearance at Bob Jones University, a dumb mistake, was exaggerated; his hardball tactics in South Carolina, certainly equaled by McCain in Michigan, were magnified to the extent that dumb reporters claimed that Bush had, in the words of hundreds, won the battle but perhaps lost the war.
It's now May and McCain said on last Sunday's Face the Nation that he'll endorse Bush, with almost no strings attached. Not to be churlish, but the Arizona senator's "victory lap" is growing more tedious by the day, especially since it was my understanding that in order to take a "victory lap," you first had to win. His Fourth Estate retinue on the NBC-funded junket to Vietnam was stomach-turning. One can forgive Salon's young Jake Tapper, whose devoted sycophancy to McCain can be ascribed either to simple naivete or a desire to write a book about his mentor's brief campaign.
But one would expect less hero worship from Newsweek's Howard Fineman, who's covered more than one presidential race. In his May 8 dispatch, Fineman reports on the "feud" between the McCain and Bush camps over the Governor's strictly-for-appearances statement that he'd consider the former POW for his runningmate. Of course that'll never happen. McCain, contrary to starry-eyed magazine and newspaper writers, can't compare to Pennsylvania's governor Tom Ridge as a number two. Fineman must've been shocked to find out on Sunday that not only would McCain endorse Bush?which wasn't expected?but also wouldn't press his First Amendment-busting campaign finance reform issue.
The Bob Jones flap, which desperate Democrats bragged would be Bush's undoing in the fall, is barely remembered, and won't compare to Gore's Buddhist nun brunch or steadfast loyalty to an impeached president. And while Gore attacks Bush's record in Texas, the Governor is chugging along, introducing new proposals every week, presenting Texan Democrats who attest to his bipartisan approach to government, and raising even more money. Instead of presenting a unique vision of what his presidency would offer Americans, Gore carps about Bush and repeats the same old liberal ideas about taxes, foreign policy, the surplus and Social Security.
And this is where Bush has, finally, taken on a sacred cow that no Republican since Barry Goldwater has dared touch. Within the next month, Bush aides say, their candidate will unveil an overhaul of the Social Security entitlement, advocating the privatization of approximately 2 percent of the 12.4 percent payroll taxes that currently fund SS. According to Gore, this is one more "risky" scheme that Bush has up his sleeve; "casino economics," he calls it.
In fact, the centerpiece of the Vice President's economic platform is the elimination of the country's debt, a goal that he claims would keep Social Security in the black until the year 2050. Think about that. How in the world can Gore, or any of the Democratic sheep, bleat out rhetoric about the year 2050, when almost all of them will be dead? We have no idea what problems will face the United States 50 years from now; it's a scam to scare voters by confusing them with numbers.
History is on Bush's side. As The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot, among others, has pointed out, the "investor class" in this country has grown dramatically in the past 20 years. When Ronald Reagan took office in '81, just 16 percent of citizens had a stake in the stock market. Today, about 50 percent do, a number that will only increase in years to come. Bill Clinton famously claimed several years ago that the era of Big Government was over, but that was simply a poll-tested flourish to curry favor with voters; he forgot about it the next day.
Gigot's colleague Gerald Seib, a political centrist, applauded the Bush plan in his April 26 column. After describing the political disadvantages that the GOP candidate faces, the inevitable hoots from labor leaders and special-interest groups, Seib makes a point that sensible Democrats will have a difficult time attacking. He writes: "Yet there also are excellent reasons to talk about Social Security. Good times now aren't enough to hold back the demographic tidal wave still rolling toward the system. To deal with that reality, two quite different approaches are emerging from the two presidential contenders. In brief, Mr. Bush is willing to run the risk of changing the system, and Vice President Al Gore is willing to run the risk of not changing the system. Far better to argue this out now, rather than in a time of economic distress. Which is what Mr. Bush, as the Republican standard-bearer, intends to do."
Karl Rove, Bush's chief strategist, can be justly accused of many mistakes in the campaign so far: relying on an almost all-Austin team, dismissing outside opinion from experienced Republican analysts, is just one of them. But Rove's right on the button when he told Gigot last week: "Throw out the old paradigm. The way you win now is to take risks. People want more than anything else to elect a leader. Candidates who are cautious lose."
And Al Gore, who's in such an identity crisis that he's been criticized by sympathetic journalists like Joe Conason and Jacob Weisberg, better wake up soon from his Rip van Winkle snooze and realize that the calendar says 2000, not 1950.
When Rudy Drops Out, Even a Dogcatcher Will Defeat Hillary I'll have more to say about New York's Senate race this coming Friday, May 5, with a Web-exclusive column at nypress.com. In the meantime, it's been disgusting to witness the crocodile tears shed by Democrats after Rudy Giuliani's surprise announcement last week that he has prostate cancer. The Mayor insists the disease is in its very early stages, and that it's likely he'll continue his race against Hillary Clinton, but I have my doubts. One, who really knows what Giuliani's medical report is: his doctors certainly won't release that to the public. More importantly, even if it's true that the cancer isn't life-threatening, this isn't a hangnail we're talking about. Giuliani will have to devote the next six months to treatments and therapy; it doesn't make sense to endure a bitter political campaign under these circumstances. Besides, when he recovers he'll still be Mayor and will be the prohibitive favorite for the New York gubernatorial race in 2002. Giuliani would far prefer being governor to serving in the Senate.
Meanwhile, it's dispiriting, but not unexpected, to read the almost unanimous reaction from pundits and elected officials alike that this unwelcome news has "humanized" Giuliani. A Daily News editorial on April 28 ratcheted up the hyperbole even further by saying: "The Rudy we have come to know and love?or otherwise, as the case may be?is one tough guy. Be afraid, cancer. Be very, very afraid."
A stupid and patronizing sentiment like this adds nothing to the story. One, cancer is a disease, a killer, that isn't "afraid" of anyone. Two, Giuliani is one of the most unlikable politicians in the country and it'll take more than a brush with mortality to "humanize" him.
Finally, I think the grandstanding mayor, an odious demagogue who happened to achieve remarkable quality-of-life improvements in New York City during his tenure, would agree.
Send comments to MUG1988@aol.com or fax to 244-9864.