- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2000

You could forgive readers of the New York Times for thinking they suffered from double vision when two pictures of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appeared on the front page.
The caption warned: "One Melts, the Other Doesn't."
In our image-conscious society it was difficult to tell the difference. The wax model of the mayor, which will take up residence in Madame Tussaud's Museum on Times Square, looks slightly more real, accustomed as we are to seeing our politicians smiling directly at us. The real guy was looking down.
"When they complain that I can't make all the campaign appearances because I am at City Hall and have to work during the day, watch out, I can send this guy around," says the mayor. Every candidate, of course, could use some version of what the Germans call a "Doppelgaenger," or alternative self.
Al Gore, for example, makes us think we're listening to double-talk as well as seeing double. He has not only changed his clothes to those of alpha male earth-tone masculinity on the advice of feminist Naomi Wolfe, but the vice president has offered so many different versions of what to do about Elian Gonzales that it's difficult to know exactly what he really thinks. He not only disagrees with how the president conducted the abduction of Elian, but contradicts his own spokesman, who said the veep didn't want to criticize the administration's strategy. (Oh, yes he does; he just did.)
A funny thing has happened to the vice president. He's gone from being mocked for being wooden to being held in contempt for becoming ruthless. It's one thing for George W. to describe him as "willing to stretch the truth and exaggerate in order to get ahead," but when liberals in his own party accuse him of deception, the vice president has a problem.
The liberal attitude was summed up by Jacob Weisberg in Slate magazine, who writes that Mr. Gore's "remorseless killer instinct" may cause Democrats to lose not only their claims of higher ethical standards but the White House, too.
In a tight spot, the vice president "did not hesitate to grossly distort [Bill Bradley's] record, to imply that he was insensitive to blacks, or to mock him as an egghead," he writes. "If you know Gore, you know he'll do essentially the same thing to Bush: rip into his flesh like a crazed weasel while grinning and promising never to make a 'negative personal attack' against an opponent."
How did the veep, once perceived as the decent guy walking on the high road of life, while the president slogged along in the gutter, become so villainish? It's been accumulative. Looking backward from the Buddhist temple fund-raiser, which he characterized first as "community outreach," it's easy to trace the pattern of political cynicism. It actually began at the Democratic National Convention in 1992, when he exploited his son's near-fatal traffic accident with an appeal to psychobabble sentimentality. Four years later he did the same thing with his sister's death of lung cancer, intimating that his family had stopped growing tobacco because of it, when it actually remained a major crop on the family farm in Tennessee. He met Al Sharpton, the demagogic black preacher, at his daughter's Manhattan apartment while pretending to be there for a visit to his grandchild. Preacher Al popped into public view by accident.
The multitude of deceptions over fund-raising telephone calls and the illegal contributions from foreigners have made George W. the "decency candidate" almost by default. George W. capitalized on that last week in Washington with a promise to "restore civility and respect to our national politics." He pleaded for an end to the bitter partisan politics for which both parties bear blame. He underscored his message by meeting with Sen. Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Democrat, to talk about reforming Social Security. He showcased an appearance with home-state Democrats, telling them he works "both sides of the aisle to get something done."
He joined his wife Laura at a meeting of Republican women at a forum titled "For Our Daughters." If women have the edge in this election, as some pundits suggest, it's because they prefer George W.'s appeal to bipartisanship over Al Gore's ruthless rhetoric. We shouldn't be surprised if men do, too. In a USA Today poll, women split their approval between the two candidates, but George W. led among men by 17 points among white men by 26 points. Al Gore, the men said, is not a man they instinctively trust.

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