Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2000/ 22 Kislev 5761
Ready to lay to rest the past and press onward
WHO was that unmasked man?
The Al Gore who gave a gracious, warm, humorous, conciliatory concession speech Wednesday night was a stranger. Either he is testimony to the wisdom of his father's words, which Gore recalled in the speech: "No matter how hard the loss, defeat might serve as well as victory to shape the soul and let the glory out." Or the man deserves to win this year's Oscar for best actor.
Suspending skepticism for the sake of the Republic, I can state this much without stretching credulity: Had Al Gore conducted himself throughout his campaign as he did during that speech, he would have been giving an acceptance speech rather than a concession.
Gone was the wooden man, and in his place emerged a human being, emoting humility and wisdom in the name of unity and reconciliation. He was natural, relaxed, funny: "I spoke with George W. Bush and congratulated him, and I promised him that I wouldn't call him back this time," he began.
Gone was the divide-and-conquer warrior who tried to convince Americans in the midst of unprecedented prosperity that we never had it so bad. And gone was the race-baiting antagonist who was comfortable throughout the past year with campaign ads and rhetoric that played on vulnerable Americans' fears and emphasized differences rather than our common heritage, values and goals.
"This belatedly broken impasse can point us all to a new common ground, for this very closeness can serve to remind us that we are one people with a shared history and a shared destiny."
Huh? Who said that? Since when?
Gone, in other words, was the mean, fang-toothed avenger whose operatives scorched the earth everywhere they went in order to win at any cost. Which is to say, Al Gore the loser is a far greater man than Al Gore the candidate ever dreamed he could be. It is difficult, as a friend once remarked to me, "to be a jackass when you're naked."
George W. Bush, on the other hand, was the same old George, still startled by the headlights, still terrified of power surges that might knock out the Teleprompters, but a messenger of unity as always. And though he comes to the highest office without a clear mandate, without a majority of the popular vote, without the consensus any president would hope for, he at least comes as the man he has always been. In his words, a unifier not a divider.
He said he carefully selected the site of his acceptance speech, the Texas House of Representatives, where Democrats were a majority, "because it has been home to bipartisan cooperation."
"We've had spirited disagreements. And in the end, we found constructive consensus. It is an experience I will always carry with me, an example I will always follow." He closed by asking for prayers and the seizing of common ground.
Most Americans seem ready to secure that common ground, though there remain the usual self-employed agitators whose livelihood depends on disharmony. A CNN/USA Today Gallup poll found that 80 percent of Americans are prepared to accept Bush as president. This although only slightly more than 50 percent said they agree with the Supreme Court ruling that resulted in Bush's coronation or think the ruling was fair. Clearly, the country is ready to lay to rest the past and press onward.
To his immense credit, Gore has helped advance that goal. He asked his supporters to close ranks and to back Bush, noting that "that which unites us is greater than that which divides us."
It's just too bad he didn't say that in the first place, which surely the unmasked Gore must now
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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