Jewish World Review Oct. 20, 2000/ 21 Tishrei, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THANK G-D, Allah, Buddha and your Family Witch Doctor that the debates are finally over.
The 2000 presidential campaign is winding down with a low buzz: Al Gore, alleged forensics champ, failed to ruffle George W. Bush sufficiently in St. Louis on Tuesday night, and so his lifelong quest for the White House faces long odds. With less than three weeks before Election Day, I suspect Bush's lead will expand slightly, as the "battleground states" independents move into his column. Given a possible record low voter turnout, the Texas Governor will become the next president.
After eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration, that's a long-awaited tonic.
A few notes about the third debate. First, moderator Jim Lehrer was a wishy-washy disaster; he should be embalmed and put on display in the lobby of Columbia's journalism school. NBC's Tim Russert, the toughest interviewer on television today, would've been the smart choice to conduct the three presidential debates. He wouldn't have let Gore get away with his bullying and rude tactics, not to mention outright lies, and there's no doubt Russert would demand that Bush decipher his many cryptic (to be charitable) answers.
It's exhilarating that Americans will no longer have to hear Bush say about 25 times, in the space of 90 minutes, "Should I be fortunate enough to become your president..." Even better, the arrogant, reptilian creature that is Al Gore seems destined for a lecture circuit on which he'll mostly be ignored, except by his bankers.
Even in his pained efforts to come off as a regular guy -- and the sighs were less frequent -- Gore just couldn't resist talking down to the audience, acting like a frustrated academic who wound up teaching high school against his will. For example, in answering a question about agricultural policy, Gore said: "We've got a bumper crop this year, but that's the good news. You know what the bad news is that follows on that: the prices are low. In the last several years, the so-called Freedom to Farm law has, in my view, been mostly a failure. I want to change many of its provisions. Now, many here will -- who are not involved in farming -- won't follow this, so just forgive me, because the two percent of the country that is involved in farming is important, because the rest of us wouldn't eat except for them."
Thank you, Mr. Gore! As I already know that 100 percent of Americans eat, can I be excused?
Much of the instant analysis provided by pundits pointed out that Gore never mentioned Bill Clinton. In fact, a visitor to the country, listening to the promises Gore said he made in 1992 and kept, might've thought the Democratic nominee had been president for two terms already, and was running for a third.
Clinton is perhaps the worst president of the 20th century; Gore could've used the specter of the lame duck to energize his base -- you know, those saps who believe in the Man from Hope, the guy who's the First Black and Gay President, etc. Remember, it wasn't only Gore who compromised with a GOP Congress to enact welfare reform; it wasn't only Gore whose White House presided over a balanced budget; and it wasn't Gore who ran Newt Gingrich out of Washington, DC.
Those are rallying cries for many stalwart Democrats, but because of Clinton's legal and moral sins, Gore dare not mention the guy's name. That'll hurt him in the minority communities across the country.
Gore is a creepy android of a man who has probably blown an election that defies all historical indicators. Despite the market's recent palpitations, the economy's humming (although Clinton and Gore deserve little of the credit for that; entrepreneurs and hard-working Americans do), the country's at peace and crime is down. In fact, the relative calm has led politicians to exploit bogus issues, like castigating the entertainment industry for their product. Gore, in the St. Louis debate, lied again when talking about that subject. He said that he and runningmate Joe Lieberman would give Hollywood six months before imposing unspecified sanctions. Now, just last month, when Lieberman was at a celebrity-studded fundraiser, he told the assembled point-blank that he and Gore would just "noodge" them.
Gore will do and say anything to win. Fortunately for his loved ones -- and I happen to like Tipper, despite her weird war against rock 'n' roll in the 80s -- the Veep doesn't have any fresh family tragedies to exploit. Yet, if you listened carefully, in his closing statement -- every time he said, "I will fight for you," or when he pledged to pass the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act -- he spoke in the same cadences in which he did when he brought the Democratic delegates to tears in '92 and '96 with his stories about his son's accident and sister's premature death.
In addition, it was absolutely appalling that Gore invoked Missouri's late Gov. Mel Carnahan when answering a question about affirmative action. Both candidates paid their proper respects to Carnahan -- who was killed 24 hours earlier -- at the beginning of the debate. But Gore, typically, had to mine this fertile field one more time. He said: "I think our success over the last eight years has not been in spite of diversity but because of it. Because we're able to draw on the wisdom and experience from different parts of the society that hadn't been tapped in the same way before. And incidentally, Mel Carnahan in Missouri had the finest record on diversity of any governor in the entire history of the state of Missouri. And I want to honor that among his other achievements here."
Bush looked tired during the first half of the debate and didn't, in my opinion, perform as well as he did in Winston-Salem last week. However, even though he blew a couple of questions, as did Gore, he appeared confident and presidential. He stated his key theme of big vs. small government in a simple but forceful manner, leaving Gore to throw out statistics and Washington jargon (but only when Gore wasn't reminding voters of his long resume of public service, pointing out that unlike some people, he hadn't spent the last 25 years in pursuit of personal wealth).
Perhaps not surprisingly, given Americans' lack of interest in international affairs, the vast majority of questions by supposed "uncommitted" Missourians were on domestic topics. As long as this nation's youth isn't sent to war, I don't think many voters give a hoot about Arafat, Barak, Sharon or Putin. That's a Beltway issue. Bush did get off a good one-liner about the media, and I hope he enjoyed it, because the mainstream press is going to pound him from now until Nov. 7. You can just imagine the tension at The New York Times and Washington Post right now.
Bush made the obvious point that Gore is proposing the greatest federal government outlay of dollars since LBJ's Great Society program in the 60s. Gore disputed that. Read the following exchange: Bush: Well, he's wrong. Just add up all the numbers. It's three times bigger than what President Clinton proposed...
Gore: That's in an ad, Jim [Lehrer], that was knocked down by the journalists who analyzed the ad and said it was misleading.
Bush: Wait a minute. May I answer?
Lehrer: Go ahead...
Bush: Forget the journalists. You proposed more than Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis combined. You know, this is a big spender. He is... It's part of his record. We just have a different philosophy... And I believe the people who pay the bills ought to get some money back. It's a difference of opinion. He wants to grow the government. And I trust you with your own money.
Finally, the crux of the entire election was laid out by Bush in about one minute, in a response to a question about the political apathy of young Americans. After Gore gave a mumbo-jumbo answer about kids yearning for campaign finance reform -- how he can address that topic with a straight face really is the mystery of the year -- the Governor was plainspoken.
He said: "I don't think it's the issues that turns kids off. I think it's the tone. I think it's the attitude. I think it's a cynicism in Washington and it doesn't have to be that way. Before I decided to run I had to resolve two issues in my mind. One, could our family endure all this business... And the other was could an administration change the tone in Washington, DC? And I believe the answer's yes, otherwise I wouldn't be asking for your vote.
"And finally, sir, to answer your question, [Washington] needs somebody in office who'll tell the truth. That's the best way to get people back in the system."
That's precisely the kind of talk Americans want to hear. It speaks to Clinton's impeachment, Gore's "no legal controlling authority" gambit, Janet Reno's criminal Justice Dept., Gore's tendency to exaggerate and the squandered eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration.
Is Gore "smarter" than Bush? That issue's now a mere historical
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