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Jewish World Review Oct. 27, 2000/ 28 Tishrei, 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Consumer Reports

The sorcerer rides to
rescue his apprentice -- BILL CLINTON will get his last hurrah, after all. The president, along with several key Democrats, yesterday invited the apprentice to get out of the way and let the sorcerer do the job. We've got the sequel to '88: Bush vs. Clinton. Big time.

The president has invited "community and religious leaders" — read labor-union bosses and black preachers — to the White House to sit 'em down and wind 'em up while the Air Force refuels Air Force One, and then Mr. Clinton leaves for California, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Kentucky, New York and anywhere else the pilot can find an unoccupied runway.

This is what the president has been living for, what the desperate Democrats have been waiting for. This cuts Al down by more than a few splinters, but it's a free country. Presidents have First Amendment rights, too. Monica Lewinsky is looking for her beret, ready to search for a rope line. This is gonna be like old times.

Gray Davis, the gray governor of California who recognizes a loser when he sees one, yesterday all but invited Al out of the campaign in California, The guv, like a lot of Democrats in Washington, is worried about more than the presidential race, which some of them are braced for losing, anyway.

Seats in Congress and the state legislatures are at risk coast to coast, and that's particularly important this year because new congressional seats will be drawn next year, and control of the district-drawing mechanism is crucial.

An aide to Gray Davis sharply rebuked Al's campaign staff last week for inept strategy in California, where George W. has cut Al's double-digit lead in the public-opinion polls to six or seven points, close to the margin of error. Hence the panic call to the White House, where the president had been waiting by the telephone.

"He's immensely popular here," Governor Davis said of the president at a press conference yesterday in Sacramento. "He's one of the most compelling speakers in American politics, and there's no one I can think of, absent the candidate himself, who could rally Democrats and independents and motivate them to turn out, than President Clinton."

If Al could do it, of course, the governor wouldn't have spent the State of California's money on the call to Washington, but everyone's trying to be as polite as possible about the humiliation of having to assign the president to the role of the St. Bernard with that little keg of brandy hanging from his collar.

The president, at Al's determined insistence, has until now kept a low profile, venturing only a bitter assessment of George W.'s performance after the second debate, and drawing a rebuke from Al as thanks for it. Al's handlers are terrified that the president will "overshadow" the candidate, but most Democrats have reached the reluctant conclusion that Al is slipping swiftly into the shadows all by himself. An incumbent candidate running in such good times — which is exactly what Al is —should not be anguishing at Halloween over whether the undecideds will break for him in the final 10 days.

This is the best news George W. has had all week. He linked the president and Al yesterday at Pittsburgh in a rousing indictment of Al as one of the leftovers at the Clinton White House, now going a little ripe, and vowing to honor the "controlling authority of conscience."

The faltering Gore campaign is "a fitting close" to eight years of leaving "faint footprints," of "marking time, not making progress. They're going out as they came in. Their guide, the nightly polls. Their goal, the morning headlines. Their legacy, the fruitless search for a legacy.

"In my administration, we will ask not only what is legal, but also what is right, not just what the lawyers allow, but what the public deserves."

This was the harshest rhetoric of his 16-month quest for the White House, a sharp departure from the feel-good mush and bean sprouts he has skillfully dished out in this season of politics served up to the baby-food taste of the fans of Oprah and Jim Lehrer.

But a taste for red meat invariably returns in the last week of every presidential campaign, and George W. has learned the lesson everyone thought Republicans never would, the Democratic art of going for the jugular while decrying knives.

Yesterday in Pittsburgh he pledged to change "the tone of political discourse" while laying out the awful "negative example" of Al Gore. "He talks of 'ripping the lungs out' of political adversaries," he said, quoting Al accurately. "Part of his campaign headquarters is called 'the slaughterhouse.' And his staff proudly calls itself a band of 'killers.' "

Dr. Cool sounds ready for Mr. Slick. This should be the seven days that rocked the vote.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


10/25/00: The founding father with a story to tell
10/23/00: A lonely passion for religious rights
10/16/00: Spending blood on the folly of fools
10/11/00: A big night for the embellisher-in-chief
10/06/00: AlGore's black problem
10/04/00: In headlong pursuit of the bigot vote
10/02/00: A modest proposal for Rick Lazio
09/27/00: When folks at home give up on a scamp
09/25/00: Gore plot exposed! The secret minutes
09/18/00: Playing politics with the blood supply
09/14/00: Al sets out to find his 'tolerance level'
09/12/00: When it's time for a thumb in the eye
09/07/00: Making a daughter a campaign asset
09/04/00: A footnote to the lie: How he beats the rap
08/30/00: Unbearable lightness of a cyberjournal
08/21/00: Clinton chickens on AlGore's roost
08/16/00: The long goodbye to California's cash
08/09/00: Innocence by proxy is a risky scheme
08/07/00: After insulin shock, an authentic rouser
08/02/00: When it gets hard not to get a little giddy
07/31/00: George W.'s legions of summer soldiers
07/26/00: He's set a surprise --- or a trap for himself
07/24/00: How do you serve a turkey in August?
07/19/00: Would Hillary sling a lie about a slur?
07/17/00: Process, not peace, at a Velveeta summit
07/12/00: The Texas two-step, a nudge and a wink
07/10/00: The Great Mentioner and his busy season
07/05/00: No Mexican standoff in these results
07/03/00: Denting a few egos in the U.S. Senate
06/28/00: Bureaucracy amok! Punctuation in peril!
06/26/00: The water torture of American resolve
06/21/00: The happy hangman is a busy hangman
06/19/00: Dick Gephardt finds a Dixie dreamboat
06/14/00: Taking a byte out of innovation
06/12/00: 'Go away, little boy, you're bothering us'
06/07/00: When a little envy is painful to watch
06/05/00: Fire and thunder, bubble and squeak
05/31/00: South of the border, politics is pepper
05/26/00: Running out of luck with home folks
05/24/00: The heart says no, but the head says yes
05/22/00: A fine opportunity to set an example
05/17/00: The Sunday school for Republicans
05/15/00: Hillary's surrogate for telling tall tales
05/10/00: Listening to the voice of an authentic man
05/08/00: First a lot of bluster, then the retreat
05/02/00: Good news for Rudy, bad news for Hillary
04/28/00: The long goodbye to Elian's boyhood
04/25/00: Spooked by Castro, Bubba blinks
04/14/00: One flag down and two memorials to go
04/11/00: Consistency finds a jewel in Janet Reno
04/07/00: Here's the good word (and it's in English)
04/04/00: When bureaucrats mock the courts
03/28/00: How Hollywood sets the virtual table
03/24/00: Dissing a president can ruin a whole day
03/20/00: When shame begets the painful insult
03/14/00: The risky business of making an apology
03/10/00: The pouters bugging a weary John McCain
03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden