- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2000

The wags who write comedy for "Saturday Night Live" are going to have to stop portraying Vice President Al Gore as a plodding dullard, and no more jokes about his head looking like a "pressed ham." From now on, present him as Albert Einstein with sex appeal. It is now official. He is a high intellectual.

Yes the stonehead, who regularly lays on us stupefying whoppers that reveal him to be a very stupid liar and probably not all that smart, has now been officially identified as nearly a genius.

I read this in the New York Times. For a while it looked like the American press would have the decency to keep intellect out of Campaign 2000. The Republican contender eschews the label and snickers at the term. All agree he is no intellectual. The Democratic contender sucks on his lower lip. Admits that well, goll, gosh, he is a sucker for "big think" ideas. When pressed by a Times reporter for one of his "big think" ideas, Mr. Gore, the eternal college-boy apple polisher, responds "Oh, OK. I find the ideas in the fractals, both as a body of knowledge and as a metaphor, an incredibly important way of looking at the world." Fractals? Does Tipper know he talks about fractals in public?

Prefacing his revelation about fractals, Mr. Gore admitted, "I can't say this, it's going to sound so weird." No, you eternal sophomore, it merely sounds stupid. Yet the most pretentious mediocrity to run for the presidency since Gary Hart cannot imagine himself as saying anything stupid, and apparently neither can his biographers in the press. No wonder George W. Bush snickers at intellectuals.

The whole thrust of the Times' article on Mr. Gore was that he is indeed absorbed with "big think" ideas. The evidence the Times adduced is not very convincing. In fact he comes off as Mr. Bush without the charm. Mr. Gore's grades at Harvard were slightly worse than Mr. Bush's at Yale, except when Mr. Gore took the fluff courses that Harvard began to offer in his day, for instance, Erik Erikson's "The Human Life Cycle," a pre-fractal course with such "big think" ideas as "identity crisis." He also took a fluff course from Professor Richard Neustadt about "presidential decision-making." Mr. Neustadt was one of the how-to profs who came to Harvard. His course and books were not based on serious thought or vast learning. Rather they were books on how-to, in this case, make a presidential decision.

Mr. Neustadt's work was to the study of history and politics what home economics once was to the study of nutrition. The home-ec teacher instructed the pretty girls on how to prepare a meatloaf. Professor Neustadt instructed the handsome young Harvard boys on how to make a presidential decision or a presidential Cabinet. The obvious difference between Mr. Neustadt and the home-ec teacher being that the latter actually did prepare a meatloaf. Mr. Neustadt never has made a presidential decision.

Serious minds at Harvard in the 1960s did not take Professor Neustadt very seriously, nor Professor Erikson. Professor Merle Fainsod, the distinguished scholar at Harvard's Russian Research Center, when asked about Mr. Neustadt was known to have given a withering glare and quipped "little Dickie Neustadt." But now such sciolistic minds as Mr. Erikson and Mr. Neustadt have risen to the estate of respected authorities. And do you know what Mr. Neustadt told the Times about Mr. Gore's intellect? Mr. Neustadt actually said that among 20th century presidents only "Teddy Roosevelt might have stood higher" than Mr. Gore "as intelligences go." Gov. Bush, stop laughing.

Now, do you think my assessment of Professor Neustadt too astringent? There sits Mr. Gore in his earth tones chatting about ideas with the 20th century's lesser presidential minds. There sits the former president of Princeton University and constitutional scholar, Woodrow Wilson. There sits Herbert Hoover, known as the Great Engineer. He fashioned the vast European relief program after World War I. And there is Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme Allied commander, and peeking from behind the curtains Richard Nixon, perhaps in prison garb after all, we orchestrate this scene for the illumination of Mr. Neustadt. Mr. Gore is about to enthuse over "fractals." Let us leave him to his admirer, Dickie Neustadt.

This presidential campaign is going to be the most amusing in many a moon. The press will at some point grow very indignant with both candidates. George W. will ceaselessly disappoint on the intellectual front. He will seem superficial. How shocking to have a superficial man in the White House after the scholar-president, Bill Clinton. But Mr. Gore is going to be the press' big disappointment. At some point the journalists are going to suspect he is "artificial." They will not quite be able to explain how he is artificial, but he will fail to be convincing as a human being. Perhaps it has something to do with fractals.

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

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide