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Jewish World Review Oct. 16, 2000 / 17 Tishrei, 5761

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Consumer Reports

We're fresh out
of new Al Gores -- I DON'T PRETEND to know what kind of guy Al Gore is apart from politics -- assuming any aspect of his personality is not tied to politics -- but concerning politics he has a real dilemma.

Gore's public persona is utterly repugnant, especially in a debate. Meaning no offense, he is arrogant, condescending, pedantic, petulant, childish and rude. Yet when he suppresses his combativeness he loses his verve and is utterly ineffective. It's as if his negative qualities are too tied to his political personality to be separated from them.

I am sure that Gore and his handlers are beside themselves because the campaign strategy templates they developed from the primary against Bill Bradley aren't working against George Bush. A completely different dynamic is operative in a general election than in a Democratic primary.

When Bradley was rapidly gaining on Gore in the polls, Gore abandoned any pretense to decency and civility and went for Bradley's jugular. He made things up, distorted Bradley's positions, accused him of being insensitive to blacks, and then brazenly denied he was lying when Bradley confronted him. In those debates, Gore, playing dirty, eviscerated Bradley.

What price did Gore pay for his shenanigans? None, at the time. He was rewarded with a spectacular bounce in the polls, and Bradley was toast. When political opponents and a non-watchdog press give a candidate a pass for his misbehavior he is likely to continue with it. So we shouldn't be surprised that Gore did just that -- until Wednesday night.

Gore must have been shell-shocked by the reaction to his insolence in the first debate and the media's relentless exposure of his tall tales. But before you pat the media on their backs, remember that Gore so often and so conspicuously stretched the truth that they would have had nothing to report about him had they censored stories about his mendacity.

Gore had two major challenges going into the second debate. First, he had to erase the image of mean-spiritedness that he richly earned in the first debate. Second, he needed to make sure -- at all costs -- that he didn't get caught in any more embellishments or lies.

Unhappily for Gore, he didn't achieve the humanness and affability that he sought. He had tried on so many new "Al Gores" during the course of the campaign, there seemed to be no "Al Gores" left. What remained was a listless, impotent and neutered warrior.

Gore's performance reminded me of a character in a recent drama skit at church. The character was caustic and sarcastic. Every time he uttered a biting remark, a buzzer sounded and the scene started over -- and so on, until the character got it right. The message concerned second chances. Don't we all wish that we could take back some of those hurtful things we do or say -- erase them and get a clean slate?

This was precisely the predicament Gore found himself in after the first debate. He was so sheepish in the second debate that it was almost as if he were terrified that the buzzer would go off at any moment. He obviously spent more mental energy on avoiding the buzzer and attempting to project likeability than he did on debating the issues.

His fear was most acute in the final moments when Jim Lehrer asked him whether he was going to continue to portray Bush as a bungler. Gore said he didn't use language like that. When Lehrer protested that his campaign was running ads to that effect Gore quickly replied, "I haven't seen those," then tried to catch himself, just as the internal buzzer went off in his head.

Of course he knew about those ads. I saw Fox News' Jim Angle grill him on the same thing a few days earlier. As I witnessed that silent buzzer, I realized forevermore that Gore's misstatements are intentional. It's just that last night, they weren't in the game plan.

I'm by no means cocky about what will happen from here on out. Gore's no dummy -- and even though he has boxed himself in between nastiness and inauthenticity, the Bush people must not underestimate his ability to regroup. The next debate will be enormously interesting, if for no other reason than to observe just how Gore attempts to walk this tight rope between alienating people and putting them to sleep.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.



10/11/00: Gore: Fuzzy math = dirty politics
10/10/00:Gore: Renaissance man or unbalanced?
10/04/00: Where have you been, Albert Jr.?
10/02/00: Clintonís fragmented presidency
09/27/00: Liberal media doth protest too much
09/25/00: AlGore: Turning dreams into nightmares
09/20/00: Something fishy's going on
09/18/00: It's the liberalism, stupid
09/13/00: An open letter to open-minded cynics
09/11/00: The virtues of going negative
09/06/00: On a mission for marriage
09/04/00: Al Gore's 'Trivial Pursuits'
08/30/00: Lieberman and the paradox of liberal 'tolerance'
08/28/00: A campaign divided against itself
08/23/00: Al Gore's trickle-down populism
08/21/00: Prosperity without a clue
08/16/00: AlGore can run but he can't hide
08/14/00: When hate speech is OK
08/09/00: Bush: The pundits' enigma
08/07/00: GOP convention: Live or Memorex?
08/02/00: The first attack dog
07/31/00: The Cheney taint?
07/26/00: The anti-gun bogeyman
07/24/00: The raging culture war
07/19/00: Is Hillary 'Good for the Jews'?
07/17/00: How dare you, George?
07/12/00: Jacoby's raw deal
07/10/00: The perplexities of liberalism
07/05/00: Big Al and big oil
07/03/00: Partial-birth and total death
06/28/00: Some questions for you, Mr. Gore
06/26/00: Supreme Court assaults religious freedom
06/21/00: Waco: We are the jury
06/19/00: "Outrage" just doesn't quite cut it anymore!
06/14/00: Al Gore: Government's best friend
06/12/00: Say goodbye to medical privacy
06/07/00: Elian: Whose hands were tied?
06/05/00: Who, which, what is the real Al Gore?
06/01/00: Legacy-building idea for Clinton
05/30/00: Clinton: Above the law or not?
05/24/00: Not so fast, Hillary
05/22/00: Gore's risky, fear-mongering schemes
05/17/00: Can Bush risk pro-choice running mate?
05/15/00: Right to privacy, Clinton-style
05/10/00: Patrick Kennedy and his suit-happy fiddlers
05/08/00: Don't shoot Eddie Eagle
05/03/00: Congress caves to Clinton, again?
05/01/00: The resurrection of outrage
04/28/00: A picture of Bill Clinton's America
04/19/00: President Clinton: Teaching children responsibility
04/17/00: Elian, Marx and parental rights
04/12/00: Elian, freedom deserve a hearing
04/10/00:The fraying of America
04/05/00: Noonan: End Clintonism now
04/03/00: Bush: On going for the gold
03/29/00: Phantasma-Gore-ia
03/27/00: Treaties, triggers, tobacco and tyrants
03/22/00: Media to Bush: Go left, young man
03/20/00: Stop the insanity
03/15/00: OK Al Gore: Let's go negative
03/13/00: Deifying of the center
03/08/00: The media, the establishment and the people
03/01/00: McCain's coalition-busting daggers in GOP's heart
02/28/00: Bush's silver lining in McMichigan
02/24/00: A conservative firewall, after all
02/22/00: Bush or four more of Clinton-Gore?
02/16/00: Substance trumps process
02/14/00: The campaign finance reform mirage
02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
01/03/00: McMedia?
12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
11/15/99: GOP caves again
11/10/99: Triangulation and 'The Third Way'
11/08/99: Sticks and stones
11/03/99: Keyes vs. media lapdogs
11/01/99: Signs of the times
10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
10/25/99: A matter of freedom
10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?