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Jewish World Review Nov. 20, 2002 / 15 Kislev, 5763

Michael Kelly

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Consumer Reports

Enter Gore, bold
man on the Left | A terrible banality is born. Again.

The rollout of the new, putatively 2004, model Gore is now well underway, with the usual sort of campaign that has included the usual sort of interviews that are, in the context of politics, "revealing," and the publication of the usual sort of book that is, in the same relative terms, "serious."

What will attract the most immediate attention about the new Al Gore are the "revealing" parts. To sum up, Gore still thinks he was robbed in 2000, in the unpleasantness his wife, Tipper, likes to call "when we won but the Supreme Court decided we couldn't serve." He is still magnanimous to himself in defeat, still much given to giving himself much credit for, sort of, accepting reality.

"I could have handled the whole thing differently and instead of making a concession speech, launched a four-year, rear-guard guerrilla campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the Bush presidency. . . . And there was no shortage of advice to do that," Gore told The Post. But that would be wrong: "I just didn't feel like it was in the best interest of the United States, or that it was a responsible course of action." Yes, Gore could have refused to recognize the peaceful transfer of power upon which our democracy rests and instead waged a "guerrilla" campaign to "undermine the legitimacy" of the elected government of his nation, simply hurting that nation and not incidentally destroying what was left of his career and reputation. He chose not to. Thanks.

What is much more interesting lies in the "serious" realm. Here a new Gore really is emerging, or reemerging. This is not the Vice President Gore of the centrist-positioning Clinton White House, not the reinventor of government. This is the Gore of "Earth in the Balance": Gore, the thinker of big thoughts; Gore, the visionary; Gore, the radical; Gore, the bold man of the left.

The unsubtle Gore made his initial move with a strategy declaration that, henceforth and in implicit contrast with his posture of 2000, he would "speak from the heart and let the chips fall where they may." He followed this with strident but incoherent attacks on President Bush over the handling of the war on terrorism and the economy, and, most recently, with the pronouncement that Gore had "reluctantly come to the conclusion" that the solution to the "impending crisis" in American health care was the "single-payer national health insurance plan" -- the idea he savaged his 2000 Democratic primary opponent, Bill Bradley, for supporting.

But the big heave in the effort to reposition Gore as the holder of large, lefty ideas on policy comes in the new book written by Gore and his wife, "Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family." Like "Earth in the Balance," "Joined at the Heart" is self-consciously grand in intent and self-consciously radical, a manifesto for sweeping change at a fundamental level. Also, similarly, it is an intellectual mess, a shallow and aggressively disingenuous, themeless pudding of fashionable-left articles of faith unsupported by foundations of fact.

Do not, please, take my word for this. Rather, read the polite but utterly scathing review of the Gores' book by the leftist (but serious, not "serious") political scientist Andrew Hacker in the current issue of the New York Review of Books. The political point of "Joined at the Heart" is to align Gore with what he must see as the coming new liberalism, a liberalism of essentially aesthetic values, the chief of which is an abhorrence of moral judgment. So, "Joined at the Heart" is an extended celebration of what the Gores call "new family forms," in which the family is bravely and newly seen not in the old moralistic Mom-and-Dad terms, but as "a group of people who love and care about each other, regardless of blood relation or marital status."

The problem with this is the preponderance of evidence that the old Mom-and-Dad model is the only one that, speaking generally, really works -- in terms of taking care of children, building a constructive society and broadly advancing the happiness of the species.

No matter, as Hacker notes again and again, "Joined at the Heart" insists, again and again, on ignoring and even distorting this evidence to support an argument that is about as complex and about as true as a bumper sticker: "We are family."

So this, apparently, is where Gore thinks he's going: Full speed ahead into the waters of cultural wars that no one else (including George W. Bush) is interested in fighting, in support of a left-radical redefinition of family values at considerable variance with available evidence and general opinion.

You go, Al.

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