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

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Al Gore has stopped the sighs. But has he stopped the lies? | Al Gore has stopped the sighs. But has he stopped the lies?

He was accused of both when he ran for president in 2000. I thought some of the accusations were unfair and that his critics were splitting hairs. He definitely sighed during his first debate with George W. Bush, but did he really tell actual lies? I mean more than any other politician?

Whether he did or not, the accusations definitely hurt him. His critics portrayed Gore as a man who would "say anything" to gain the presidency.

Well, now Gore is back making a media blitz to sell a book and prepare for another presidential run in 2004.

So what happens? He goes on ABC last week and tells what, in my opinion, is at the very least a fib.

Here is the exchange between Gore and Barbara Walters from her interview with him last Friday. They are talking about Gore's decision on Dec. 13, 2000, to concede defeat after the Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 against him.

BARBARA WALTERS: You wrote your own concession speech.
AL GORE: Yeah.
BARBARA WALTERS: Some people said it was the best speech of your life.
AL GORE: Yeah.

But did Gore write his own concession speech? Not according to Eli Attie, who was Gore's chief speechwriter. The following is taken from my book "Divided We Stand," which was published last year. Read it, and decided whether Gore really wrote his own speech:

"The next morning (i.e., Dec. 13), Attie gets a call from Gore.

"'Why don't you come over and bring a laptop?' Gore asks him.

"Attie goes over -- he uses the back gate this time -- and Gore is in blue jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt. They spend the whole day working on the concession speech, Gore dictating parts, Attie working them over, printing them out, draft after draft.

"'His mood was pretty good,' Attie said later. 'He was really stoic. He really wanted to make sure he had a good speech. He had a big Christmas party scheduled for that night, and so we sort of worked all day on it.'

"Some Gore supporters don't want him to use the word 'concede' in his speech because that would be an admission he has lost. Gore rejects the argument. He tells them the speech will be read with a fine-tooth comb, and he wants to be gracious toward Bush and not grudging. He also insists on referring to Bush as the 'president-elect.'

"The hour grows late, and Gore's guests start arriving for the party. He greets them and then searches out Attie and suggests more changes for the speech."

Clearly, Gore and Attie wrote the speech together. Gore dictating parts, Attie providing and reworking parts, Gore reworking parts and editing the final draft. This is the way nearly all his speeches were produced, indeed the way virtually all political speeches are produced.

Everybody knows the politicians use speechwriters. So why didn't Gore just say that to Barbara Walters?

When she asked him if he wrote his own concession speech, he could have said, "I worked with a speechwriter, but it was largely my own" or even, "I had help from a speechwriter, but it was essentially my speech."

Why couldn't he have just fessed up and told the whole truth instead of fudging things?

A small point? Splitting hairs? Not a big deal?

Maybe. But as the last election showed, splitting hairs is what campaigns are often about.

Al Gore says if he runs for president again, he is going to be different this time.

But so far he pretty much sounds like the same old Al to me.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate