Jewish World Review Sept. 15, 2000 /14 Elul 5760
The "interview'' was full of banalities, empty promises and mangled syntax of the kind that gets George W. Bush in trouble with the press.
"I want to know who Al Gore really is,'' began Oprah. Neither she, nor we, found out because the questions she asked and the answers he gave allowed Gore to mask policy issues that will impact our lives far more than how we "feel'' about him.
The audience was no better. "What puts a smile on your face?'' asked one woman. "What do you believe is the greatest problem America faces today?'' asked another. Gore answered that one: "We need more meaning in our national life. We need more people to believe in our ability as a people to make it what it's supposed to be. This country is what we make it, and we have the power because of our -- our freedom, but there are a lot of people who -- who kind of stay at arm's length from the political process because, you know, it's politics. And -- and it is politics, but we can change politics if we have enough people who are willing to push past fear of disillusionment and disappointment and do what our founders did and each generation has done, and really seizing the opportunity to make this country what it's supposed to be.''
That answer makes Pabulum look substantive. Oprah, a donor to Democratic candidates and causes, might have asked, "Mr. Vice President, after eight years of you and Bill Clinton, why do you suppose people are disillusioned and disappointed?''
In her introduction, Oprah said she had stayed away from interviewing politicians because "I never felt like I could have a real, real, honest conversation with them.'' She was right. She didn't have a "real, real, honest conversation''with Gore, possibly because she said the entire process of electing a president "boils down to ... who do you like? Who do you like?'' It shouldn't. It should boil down to what candidates believe and how much of our money they will let us keep.
Gore kissed up to Oprah, "remembering'' her when she was a teen "reporter'' for a Nashville TV station and he worked for the newspaper. Oprah accepted this extraordinary memory from a man who has had trouble recalling whether he was in the room when decisions were made about illegal campaign contributions.
Gore said, "I think we've got to make some changes in this country.'' Why? What did you and Clinton do that needs changing? "Partners and spouses need more time. Parents need more help in raising their kids.'' That's easy to fix. Give them a tax cut so they don't have to work just to pay government. Give them school vouchers so they, and not government, can decide what their children should learn.
Later in the show, Gore accepted Oprah's proposal that schools do away with home economics "because nobody is making aprons anymore'' and instead have the schools teach kids how to parent. How many parents think government is better at parenting than they are? Possibly quite a few, because Gore was wildly applauded when he said he favors nationwide preschool for 4-year-olds. Yes, it takes a village to get into their minds early and teach them what to think.
Gore said it was the president's job to "communicate and maintain a set of values upon which decisions ought to be based in this country, and try to persuade people to buy into that.'' The Constitution and the principles embodied in Scripture used to be a sufficient foundation before liberal judges, favored by Clinton-Gore, rewrote the one and stripped the other from our public life.
And so it went. Favorite cereal? Wheaties, though he rarely eats them, thus begging the question how it could be a "favorite.'' What can one expect from a show that spends a lot of time on "the kiss,'' pretending this vertical impression of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was spontaneous?
In all of Gore's complaints about how bad things are -- from education to the "meanness'' in our society -- not once did Oprah ask why Gore and Clinton have not made things better.
Don't look for George W. Bush to get a similar "group hug'' next Tuesday (Sept. 19) when he is
scheduled to appear on the show. Incredibly, many women will probably decide for whom to vote
based on these superficial appearances with the most influential woman in