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Jewish World Review Sept. 28, 2000 / 28 Elul, 5760

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Consumer Reports

Dumb vs. Dishonest -- IN ANY close presidential election, the decision in the end goes to what can be called the good citizen vote. This bloc, which amounts to anywhere between 20 and 30 percent of the vote, is composed of people who eschew strict party politics and honestly choose on the basis of who they think is better fit to run the country. A quaint notion, but there it is.

This year, the good citizens face an unusually challenging choice. On one hand, in George W. Bush, they have a candidate who is smarter (and more experienced in high office) than the average bear, but not a whole lot more. On the other hand, there is Al Gore. He is certainly smart and experienced enough to handle the job. The question about Gore is different: Does he have a fit character for the job?

To put it bluntly, the good citizen must ask, what is worse for the country: a not-terribly-bright president or a cynical fraud as president? This characterization of Gore is harsh; is it fair? Let's consider this week's Exhibit A.

On Sept. 10, Al Gore and his running mate, Joe Lieberman, declared, to great and calculated fanfare, that, as the New York Times put it, "if the entertainment industry did not stop marketing violent films, recordings and video games to children they would propose legislation or new regulatory authority allowing the federal government to sanction the industry." Gore gave the industry leaders six months "to clean up their act"; after that, he said, he would push the FTC to take legal steps against the industry for false and deceptive advertising. "Those who don't like it," said tough-talking Gore, "well, they don't like it."

Nine days later, Gore and Lieberman appeared at a $4.2 million fundraiser at the Beverly Hills estate of supermarket magnate Ron Burkle. There, and without the slightest rosy blush of shame mantling any cheek in sight, the formerly tough guys promised precisely the opposite of what they had promised the week before.

"We will nudge you, but will never become censors," Lieberman assured the happy crowd of donors. "Al and I have a tremendous regard for this industry . . . [and] I promise you this: We will never put the government in the position of telling you by law, through law, what to make." Gore was careful to leave the explicit reneging to his sidekick, but he stood approvingly by, and he clearly associated himself with the sentiment. No more threats of government action from Al; now he spoke only of the usual toothless volunteer restraints--"I know a lot of you will be standing with us"--and of "all the things we have in common."

It is the unembarrassed nakedness of the cynicism, the sure confidence that this too can be gotten away with, that is astonishing. But not really, not any more. We are used to this now, because Bill and Hillary and Al have made us used to it. The great lesson that the Clinton-Gore people have learned is the lesson that springs directly out of the hole that is the soul of Clinton himself: Do anything, say anything, get away with it.

Anything. Last week the White House grudgingly released information showing that, of 404 people invited to sleep overnight at the White House or Camp David since Hillary Clinton began her Senate race, 146 of the guests had contributed money in this election cycle, for a total of $5.5 million, 98 percent of it to Democratic entities. About 100 of the sleepovers have contributed to committees supporting Mrs. Clinton's race, for a total of $624,000. Overnight guests contributed a total of $2.5 million to the Democratic National Committee and a total of $142,750 to the Gore campaign. The rate of sleepovers has actually increased in this election--going from 19 a month to nearly 29--over the 1996 cycle, when the Clinton-Gore team was first caught in the practice of selling out the White House to donors.

Oh, dear, caught again. Who cares? "I don't think it is particularly newsworthy," sniffed Mrs. Clinton. "There just really isn't any reason for anybody to raise any questions about it."

That was the voice of Clinton-Gore and it was saying: So, what are you going to do about it, anyway? These people will never change. As long as they are trusted with power they will abuse power; as long as they are trusted by the people they will lie to the people; as long as they are trusted with the White House ("their house," spokesman Joe Lockhart miscalls it), they will trash the White House.

And that is the good citizen argument for Bush over Gore. The country can afford a 40-watt president. It cannot afford to allow the Clinton-Gores, corroded to the core, to further define corrosion down.

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


09/21/00: Flapping furiously
09/14/00: Down AlGore's Memory Hole
08/24/00: AlGore's Flex-O-Joe
08/17/00: The Joyful Clinton Nation
08/09/00: A Calculated Risk
08/03/00: New Hope for Nice Guys
07/27/00: But What About Dad?
07/20/00: U.S. Handiwork In Sierra Leone
07/13/00: President With a Porpoise
07/06/00: The Importance of Being Earnest
06/29/00: A Press Obsession With the Death Penalty
06/21/00: Gore and the Goodies
06/15/00: Network Snooze
06/01/00: Sunshine on My Shoulders
05/24/00: Last Chance for a Hardened Prevaricator
05/17/00: Cuomo's Thought Police
05/10/00: Hammering DeLay
05/04/00: Some Closing Thoughts
04/28/00: Endangering Elian
04/19/00: Imitation Activism
04/12/00: Why they hate Bubba
04/05/00: Census and nonesense
03/29/00: The Stiffs and Their Statuettes
03/15/00: Anarchy in Kosovo
03/08/00: Reform joke
03/01/00:The Pinhead Factor
03/01/00: The Christian Right: Past Its Prime . . .
02/24/00: McCain's Majority
02/16/00: Sharpton's Supplicants
02/09/00: The GOP Pilgrims' Sad Tale
02/02/00: Fodder For the GOP
01/26/00: Million-Dollar Mediocrity
01/19/00: Campaign Reform: Let's Pretend
01/12/00: Never Again? Oh, Never Mind
01/05/00: Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In
12/22/99: Gore's TV Gambit
12/15/99: Campaigns Do Clarify
12/08/99: Kosovo's Killers
12/01/99: Not Ready for Prime Time?
11/24/99: The Company He Keeps
11/17/99: Republican Illusion
11/10/99: The Know-Nothing Media
11/03/99: Necessary Partisanship
10/27/99: Buchanan's Gift to George W. Bush
10/21/99: Who are the real friends of the poor?
10/14/99: Gore's 'courage'!?
10/08/99: Republican Stunts
09/23/99: Buchanan's folly
09/16/99: Beatty and Buchanan: That's Entertainment!
09/09/99: Puerto Rico Surprise (Cont'd)
09/02/99: Puerto Rico Surprise
08/12/99:The Age of No Class
08/05/99: Assessing Welfare Reform
07/29/99: On the Wrong Side
07/21/99: Mass Sentimentality
07/15/99: Blame Hillary
07/08/99: Guide to the Arts: For Your Summer Reading . . .
06/30/99: A Perfectly Clintonian Doctrine
06/25/99:Smorgasbord by the Sea
06/16/99: A National Calamity
06/09/99: Stumbling Forward
06/02/99: Commencement '90s-Style
05/26/99: Will we ever learn? Clintochio is a lying ...
05/19/99: Comforting Milosevic
05/13/99: Short-Order Strategists
05/06/99: Four Revolting Spectacles

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