- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2000

When historians begin their excavations of the Clinton-Gore administration, there is one particularly important question they must answer. That is, why political opponents never made much of an issue of the administration's corruption, most notably its penchant for lying.
There were instances when the lies were noted, for instance the jibe by Sen. Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Democrat, that Bill Clinton is "an unusually good liar." But this line of criticism never became a serious issue. "Slick Willie" never replaced "Tricky Dick" in the public discourse.
At the very outset, questions about the character of the man at the top of the ticket were raised by writers and people who knew the Clintons' record in Arkansas, but the politicians shied away. After four years of Mr. Clinton's disturbing string of 'gates, Sen. Bob Dole never made a campaign issue of the Clinton administration's obvious corruption and abuse of power. Now after weeks of Vice President Al Gore's petty though brazen lies, Bill Bradley has made an issue of lies and campaign violations. It saved his sinking campaign in New Hampshire, and could make him the Democratic presidential nominee.
Surely, there are Democrats out there who recognize how vulnerable their party is on "the character issue." I, idealist that I am, even like to think there are Democrats who recognize what a threat Clinton-Gore's corruption is to the democratic process. When David Obey of Wisconsin, a prominent liberal Democrat in the House, responded to the Starr Report's revelations by telling House Minority Leader Dick Gerphardt that "We have to get rid of this guy. He will destroy the Democratic Party for a generation," he was not alone. Other honor-bound Democrats on the Hill and out in the states feared for their party and, I like to think, for their country.
Yet the corruption continued. Mr. Gore on the day of Mr. Clinton's disgrace, his perjury being manifest, his obstruction of justice pretty clear stood on the White House lawn and appraised the impeached president as "one of our greatest presidents." Shortly thereafter, Judge Susan Webber Wright cited this giant of American history for contempt of court, another Clinton-Gore first.
Months later Mr. Gore took to the campaign trail. There he continued his amazing string of whoppers. "I took the initiative in creating the Internet," he declared, apparently believing he was addressing a nation of dunces. His lies have accumulated. He has claimed to be the inspiration for "Love Story" and that his youthful thoughts were taken up by Hubert Humphrey's 1968 speech to the Democratic National Convention. He had been a farm boy, a real estate developer, the whistleblower famous for "discovering Love Canal." Many of us laughed, but still no one pointed out that Mr. Gore is a shameless liar, reminiscent of his mentor Bill Clinton.
On the campaign trail leading up to New Hampshire, Mr. Gore has continued his lies. Many of them are easily refuted. "You know," he lied the other day, "the Clinton-Gore administration has ended the deepest recession since the 1930s." As The Washington Times helpfully pointed out, the National Bureau of Economic Research identifies the current expansion as beginning in April 1991, months before the Clinton-Gore administration began. Back during Campaign '92, when Clinton-Gore launched this lie about the economy being in recession, the country was already out of recession. As for that recession being "the deepest recession since the 1930s," it was one of the briefest and shallowest in American history.
That lie, of course, was aimed at Republicans, who do not seem to mind Clinton-Gore's corruption. Many of Mr. Gore's economic lies, of course, were aimed at Bill Bradley, who finally was roused to object. In varying degrees of insolence, Mr. Gore lied about Mr. Bradley's past positions on campaign finance, flood aid and vouchers. Mr. Gore brazenly lied about his own record on abortion. He also became "tough," as they say, toward Mr. Bradley. The most unlovely side of this toughness was when some of Mr. Gore's supporters sloshed slushy snow on two of Mr. Bradley's supporters, one of whom was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner who lost a leg in battle. The brutes derided him a "quitter" and his colleague as "fatso."
Well, now Mr. Bradley has raised the issue of Mr. Gore's corruption and veracity. A report in the Boston Globe shows Mr. Gore has been deceitful for years. Finally, perhaps the most important issues that can be raised in a political campaign are being raised character and honesty. To the credit of New Hampshire's Democrats, they gave Mr. Bradley a tremendous boost when he addressed these matters. But to return to my initial point, why have the politicians failed to raise these issues?
Is it because they have been intimidated by Clinton-Gore's claim that raising a politician's corrupt record is negative politicking? But corruption has been a legitimate issue for generations. Can you imagine New York Democrats in the 19th century saying to Boss Tweed, "I shall not stoop to mention your padded construction contracts. Mention of the 'Tweed Ring' is off-limits with me." Mr. Bradley has now done America the service of raising the issues of Mr. Gore's veracity and campaign finance irregularities. He deserves the Democrats' support.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor in chief of the American Spectator.

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