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Jewish World Review Nov. 9, 1999 /28 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez
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Presidential (comic book) character -- WHAT IS IT ABOUT running for public office that makes otherwise intelligent men and women behave like fools? Look at Al Gore.

For going on eight years, he has been the picture of sober rectitude, the serious, if stiff, second in command who could be counted on to uphold the dignity of the executive office. While Bill Clinton was cavorting with interns in the Oval Office, Al Gore was burning the midnight oil in the vice president's mansion drafting global warming treaties. He might not be exciting, but he was loyal, dependable and serious, qualities most people welcome in a political leader. But ever since he decided to run for president himself, Gore's begun acting -- well, goofy.

Look at his latest antics. Apparently, the handsome Gore doesn't think he knows how to attract women (voters, that is), so he's hired a woman to advise him on what he should do to make himself more appealing. Nothing terribly weird here, I suppose, even though Gore might have turned to his wife and three daughters for free counsel.

Instead, Gore picked Naomi Wolf, a feminist author, whose books "The Beauty Myth" and "Promiscuities" would seem unlikely sources of political campaign advice. And what has Wolf told Gore to do? Become an 'alpha' male. Now, that's wolf-talk (the species, not the author) for becoming top dog.

It seems Gore has been playing the subservient 'beta' to Bill Clinton's 'alpha' for so long, women voters won't respect him, much less vote for him.

For insights like this, the Gore campaign has been shelling out $15,000 a month to Wolf until just recently (the sum has now been cut to $5,000 a month in a belt-tightening effort by Gore's new campaign manager).

Oh, yes, Wolf also told Gore to wear earth tones, browns and greens, to reassure women. Why, that wisdom alone must have been worth a few thousand dollars, especially coming from a woman whose previous claim to fame was decrying the fashion industry as a male-dominated instrument of women's oppression.

What could Gore be thinking? The last thing he needs is some wacky feminist trying to teach him how to be a real man, while keeping in touch with his earthy, feminine side. If Gore himself didn't realize how ridiculous this might make him look, someone in the campaign surely did. The campaign hid Wolf's hefty consulting fees by paying her indirectly through third parties.

Her role only came to light this week through some enterprising investigative reporting.

But what does all this say about Gore? His campaign has been faltering for months, in part because he's tried so hard to re-invent himself. Vice presidents always have a difficult time emerging from the shadow of the president they serve. Just ask George Bush, who had a much tougher act to follow than Al Gore does. But the trick is not to become someone you're not in order to try to fool the voters into liking you better.

Gore's best hope is to be himself. He's had a remarkably successful career in politics, despite a somewhat awkward, even pedantic, persona. So, why try to become someone he's not at this late stage? Gore still has to define the issues that will shape his campaign.

Voters want to know what his vision for America is, and they want to know how he will accomplish it. They want to know how it's going to affect their lives, and what they're going to have to pay for it. They also want to know if they can trust him. But paying a fortune for dumb advice from consultants with whom you don't want to be publicly associated is hardly the way to earn that trust. If Gore really wants to establish his dominance, he'll fire his consultants, and tell his campaign staff to let Gore be Gore.

It's gotten him this far, and if it can't carry him further, nothing will.

Linda Chavez Archives


©1999, Creators Syndicate