Jewish World Review Oct. 5, 2000 / 6 Tishrei, 5761
Gore was so programmed, so artificial, that it seemed as if he had been put together with an Identikit, hurriedly and in the dark. His face, with its leaps from oaken repose to plastic animation, looked like the mirror of a soul that has been through one cosmetic surgery too many. And what has happened to the poor man's body? How did Arnold Schwarzenegger get into Al Gore's suit? Someone needs to check the videotape on this, but I am pretty sure that Gore did not used to have a 23-inch neck. It is, I think, fair at this point to ask whether the vice president is a step-in or perhaps a pod person.
Then there was Gore's unfortunate decision to, as Ann Landers used to advise girls, just be himself. That was the real Al up there--the class showoff smirkily displaying his superiority, lecturing, hectoring, interrupting, bullying. And, oh, the pained grimaces, the rolling of the eyes, the sighs! Every time Bush spoke, it seemed, Gore would haul up another great gust of oh-really-now from his lungs and blow it all over the stage, shaking his new Conan head and pursing his lips to show his frustration in being forced to witness such foolishness.
It was much like the most infuriating of all husbandly marital-argument tactics. You know the one--where you play the part of the patient but pained party in the obvious right, too much a gentleman to say that your wife is spewing pure rubbish, but communicating utter contempt through creative breathing. In marital circles, this usually culminates in a scene like this:
She: With a full head of steam, perorating.
He: Rolls eyes. Grimaces. Makes noise like steam escaping radiator bleed valve.
She: "What did you say?"
He: "I didn't say anything."
She: "You sighed."
He: "Excuse me. I wasn't aware that sighing was a federal offense."
She: "!!XX!, Jack."
All in all, an unattractive performance, and damaging to Gore. But was it enough? Not nearly. If Bush is to win, he must in the coming days and debates:
* Keep playing the seven-years card, hard. Bush showed Tuesday night that he finally has a handle on the core of the race for the undecideds. That core consists of an argument revolving around two issues, Social Security and health care. Gore talks a good game on these subjects, but he has a real weakness: He is the No. 2 in an administration that for seven years has failed to address these problems. Bush hammered Gore on this failure, and he should hammer more. To Gore's every promise, Bush needs to say, as he did Tuesday, "Yeah? Why haven't they done it for seven years?"
* Keep studying. Bush was better than ever on substance but still barely good enough. In the next debate, he must get to the next level; he must display a knowledge of the issues (his own issues at least) that goes beyond bare-bones set pieces.
* Make 'em laugh. Having established a measure of gravitas, Bush can now afford to display his easy wit and genuine good humor. Nothing will more effectively highlight Gore's priggishness.
* Turn the argument on taxes. Gore is giving Bush a great opportunity by harping on the charge that Bush's tax plan would give "breaks to the wealthiest one percent." Bush should embrace the fight, to remind voters that his tax plan gives breaks to all people and that Gore's plan only gives breaks to selected people--often people who are doing what the government wants them to do with their lives. If mom and dad in a $78,000, two-kid household both work and put the kids in day care, the Gore plan gives them a break--but if mom stays home with the kids, forget it. Bush's plan covers everyone; Gore's covers only "the right people." That's an effective counter to "the wealthiest one
09/28/00: Dumb vs. Dishonest