- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2000

You just know a candidate has a problem when two days out of a four day national convention are dedicated to prove that the man is, indeed, after all, human. "I stand here tonight as my own man," presidential candidate Al Gore cried; an existential moment for Mr. Gore perhaps, but it was pitiful for a man with more than 20 years in public life. Touching as Tipper Gore's photo essay of Democratic candidate Al Gore's life was on Thursday night, it left the viewer wondering why it should take this much effort to convince the American voter that Mr. Gore is not entirely made of wood; that, yes, he can fog a mirror.

And no sooner had Mrs. Gore done her bit as faithful cheerleader, than Mr. Gore stepped on the stage to undo her work. Overly detailed, wonkish, dry, shapeless, visionless none of these adjectives fully capture the mind-numbing endlessness of the litany of government programs, too numerous to count here, that added up to what should have been the greatest speech of Mr. Gore's political life. If this had an overarching theme, it would be that government has a place in every aspect of your existence. Commentators afterwards praised the speech as Mr. Gore's greatest ever in which case we are talking about damning with faint praise. The vice president reportedly wrote the entire opus himself, which one can readily believe.

What Mr. Gore's acceptance speech lacked in style, it did make up for in unintended irony, however. It continues to amaze how Democrats manage to see the motes in others' eyes, but remain oblivious to the beams in their own, to borrow a biblical image. Just as President Clinton has done in his State of the Union addresses, Mr. Gore introduced four families of "ordinary" citizens, a kind of show and tell. One was the Gutierrez family, whose children attend a "crumbling and overcrowded" school in San Antonio, Texas get that? Texas "with cracked walls and peeling plaster. Trailers cover the playground where the kids used to spend recess." But Mr. Gore will do something about that; he will "rebuild and modernize our crumbling schools." Well. Coming from the man who allowed his own tenants, the Mayberry family, to live in destitute and filthy, unsanitary conditions on the grounds of his estate in Tennessee, this is precious indeed. How about fixing your own crumbling walls first, Mr. Gore?

Similarly, Mr. Gore pledges to "put democracy back in your hands, and get all the special-interest money all of it out of American democracy by enacting campaign finance reform." The man who shook down Buddhist monks for campaign contributions and begged for money from the White House should know something about abuses of campaign-finance laws. Mr. Gore singled out tobacco, oil companies and the pharmaceutical industry as particularly egregious offenders, ignoring his own long-standing involvement in the two first and Sen. Joe Lieberman's fund-raising dependency on the third.

If this is the best Mr. Gore can do, Republicans do not have reason to be overly concerned.

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