- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

LOS ANGELES.
A lot of chickens that have been fluttering over the landscape, looking for a place to roost, found the Staples Center Thursday night.
As hard as he tries, Al Gore just can't get out of the shadow of Bill Clinton, the scandals, the investigation, the reach of grand juries.
News of the latest sensation, that Robert Ray, the special prosecutor who succeeded Kenneth Starr, has impaneled a new grand jury to consider whether the president should be indicted for perjury, for lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky in the trial of Paula Jones' lawsuit against him.
Impaneling of the grand jury, which was sworn in July 11 and learned about only Thursday when Pete Yost of the Associated Press found out about it, does not mean that the president will actually be indicted. But it does mean that Bill Clinton continues to make Al Gore's life miserable.
The veep tried hard last night not to show his anger and misery, but the delegates and particularly the reporters, pundits and other scandal-watchers following his speech off the floor of the convention hall, measured every word of the speech, however innocently it might have been written, against the news from Washington.
"We're entering a new time. We're electing a new president. And I stand here tonight as my own man, and I want you to know me for who I truly am."
No doubt he does, but easier said, after these past eight years, than done. The poor guy shares the mark of the beast, and all his rubbing and scrubbing seems not to have any good effect at all.
The Democrats, predictably, were furious. "It's probably just another dirty trick," said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York. Said Jake Stewart, a White House spokesman: "The timing of this leak reeks to high heaven." Even George W., who has kept a discreet silence all week (unlike the president, who picked a fight with George W.'s daddy during the Republican convention in Philadelphia), felt he had to say something. He sent out Karen Hughes, his press spokeswoman to say that it wasn't "appropriate" for this "announcement" to be made on the day that Al Gore accepts his party's nomination.
But it wasn't an announcement. The story broke because a reporter smoked it out, and that's because smoking out stories is what reporters do. The White House crew, masters of smoke and spin, know that better than everyone else, and have practiced the dark arts of smoke and spin for nearly a decade.
Al Gore cannot have been surprised. He knows better than anyone the depth of the mud around Bill Clinton's ankles, and he knows that some of it will stick to him no matter what he does, or how eloquent his speeches may be. That's why Joe Lieberman was brought in, to try to confer a little innocence by association.
Mr. Lieberman has helped some, but not nearly as much as the Democrats hoped. They were counting on a "convention bounce" in the polls to shave a few points off George W.'s 10- to 15-point lead, and horror of horrors, the bounce in the first two days of the convention went not to Al but to George W.
The Lieberman nomination, a gimmick much like Walter Mondale's selection of Geraldine Ferraro two decades ago, may in fact turn out to be a negative. The Gore forces quelled an incipient revolt by black delegates here, but they did it with aspirin and this may be something more severe than an aspirin headache. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, for example, is continuing to talk more about the difficulties he's having with his own conscience than with his mouth. It's usually the other way around.
The Gore disease is that the more the public sees of him the less they like him, and so far the more the public has seen of George W. they more they like him. The Lieberman selection exacerbated this problem. The Republicans in Philadelphia liked Dick Cheney, who united the party. Joe Lieberman divided Democrats, and his renunciation of a lot of what he secretly believes in has hardly seemed to change that.
The Democrats leave Los Angeles much in the mood of the Republicans when they left San Diego four years ago. They got to town wanting reassurance and they're leaving with doubts, and worse. Some of them are even beginning to think the unthinkable, that it might not even be close.

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