- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2000

In 507 B.C. an Athenian aristocrat Cleisthenes in order to win a power struggle with a fellow oligarch named Isagoras, suddenly turned to the common people and offered them political power if they would shout down Isagoras in the aristocratic governing Council of Four Hundred. And so, by pandering to the downtrodden in order to win an elite power struggle, democracy was born in human history.
This recollection crossed my mind as I suffered through the Democratic presidential debate Monday night. If Cleisthenes's power grab could yield something far more noble, perhaps the smarmy and servile pandering by Al Gore and Bill Bradley to their liberal Harlem audience may produce something of moral value. I confess that finding something of value in that debate is a reach, but one of my boys has upbraided me for being too cynical and sarcastic, so I am struggling to spot silver linings.
The debate got off to a squalid start when anti-Semite and racial bigot Al Sharpton was given the honor of the first question. While neither Mr. Gore nor Mr. Bradley was responsible for choosing Mr. Sharpton, they were responsible for their own answers. Neither of them took the opportunity to rebuke Mr. Sharpton for his years of riot and murder-inducing race hatred (doubtless, the same media that has sternly and repeatedly rebuked Gov. Bush for not challenging Bob Jones University's racial policies when he spoke there will not rise to criticize Messrs. Gore and Bradley for the same offense in the face of Mr. Sharpton.)
Instead of expressing their moral objections to Mr. Sharpton, Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley immediately went down on their knees, rhetorically, and demeaned both their audience and themselves for the next 20 minutes, as they competed to see who could be more gut-wrenchingly condescending in their paeans and promises to their audience. The largely black audience maintained its dignity in the presence of this boot-licking face-off by episodically booing the more egregious offerings.
While there were several candidates for the most repulsive moment of the night, my personal favorite was when Al Gore intentionally misinterpreted Mr. Bradley's claim to deserve black support so that Mr. Gore could rush to the unneeded defense of the Congressional Black Caucus. In his deepest, most unctuous voice, Vice President Gore almost winking into the sea of black faces in the audience said that Mr. Bradley underestimated the political savvy of those real sharp Black Caucus members. By my count, that one deservedly got the most sustained audience booing and hooting of the night.
At least Bill Bradley comes to his boot-licking sincerely. After all, he passed up profitable endorsement deals when he was in the National Basketball Association out of a sense of guilt that his black teammates deserved them more. Of course, even then it was a pointless gesture, as some other white player got the contracts Mr. Bradley eschewed. But sincerity ought to count for something, and it is clear that Bill Bradley has genuinely suffered from white, liberal guilt decades before he considered running for president.
Which brings us to the appalling Mr. Gore. As Mr. Bradley repeatedly pointed out, when Al Gore was a senator from the great state of Tennessee he was for the National Rifle Association, against abortion, in favor of a charitable tax exemption for the anti-Catholic, anti-black Bob Jones University, against affirmative action and in favor of the tobacco business.
When, as an aspiring presidential and vice-presidential candidate, his constituency changed from Tennessee good ol' boys to the national Democratic Party's interest groups, his positions changed to fit his new audience. The expediency of his policy reversals is so obvious that the vice president barely bothers to defend his intentions. After a few half-hearted, dissembling denials, Mr. Gore goes on the attack.
He accuses Mr. Bradley of being backward-looking, going negative and making personal attacks out of desperation, while he, Al Gore, is looking to the future, prepared to help all those who need help (and can provide votes).
The Gore argument is, essentially: "I may be a sniveling lying hypocrite, but I'm willing to be your sniveling lying hypocrite." The smart money is betting that's a winning argument in today's Democratic Party. But smart money doesn't bet on just any big promiser it looks for the prudence and caution of the true professional. And they saw it in Mr. Gore Monday night. When he was asked whether he would support reparations from white to black Americans because of slavery, you could see the cash register ringing in his head: 30 million black descendants of slaves x $10,000 = too many dollars per vote. He doesn't mind selling what's left of his political soul, but only if the price is right. And supplies are limited.

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