Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Oct. 5, 2000 / 6 Tishrei, 5761

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Conan the veep -- BOSTON | George Bush won Tuesday's debate by a nose--not his, the one Al Gore spent 90 minutes looking down. Both men came into this with a clear imperative: Bush had to show he was at least minimally competent to think through the decisions of leadership. He met his mark, handing in a performance that was by no means brilliant but adequate to convince open-minded voters that he is serious enough for the job. Gore had to show that he was something resembling a real, likable, more or less regular human being. He failed.

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 percent."

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


09/28/00: Dumb vs. Dishonest
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

©1999, Washington Post Co.