- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Al Gore is speculating in the stock market of the American mind and he is selling short. His statements in this first week of the de facto general election campaign would suggest that he intends to plumb the depths of the voter/s stupidity. From his early gambits, it's pretty clear Mr. Gore judges the American voter to possess the reasoning power of a daffodil and the attention span of a grasshopper.
Don't take my word for it, take Al's. Item: Starting election night he carefully used the magic syllables John McCain in almost every paragraph of his remarks. His theory, it seems, is that if McCain voters hear Al Gore repeat Mr. McCain's name constantly, they will come to think that Al Gore is just like him (interestingly, Republicans are going to test out the same theory on Mr. Gore with different syllables Bill Clinton).
But, not wanting to rely exclusively on this semi-subliminal strategy, the vice president has fallen back on his old standby strategy misstating the facts. On Monday Mr. Gore proudly announced that a McCain leader endorsed him for president. Both on his web site and in a press conference, Mr. Gore announced that Jim Bass, "The Mississippi State Director of McCain for President… endorsed Al Gore for president." It sounds impressive.
However, according to the New York Times, Mr. McCain never visited or campaigned in Mississippi, never set up any organization and didn't even have an office there. In fact, the New York Times went on to report that none of the political reporters in Mississippi had ever heard of Jim Bass. After researching the name, the newspaper of record discovered that Mr. Bass had run for the Mississippi state senate 12 years ago as a Democrat.
But converting an obscure, failed backwoods Democratic Party pol into a "McCain leader for Gore" is a logical part of Mr. Gore's more audacious goal of being the national champion of "campaign-finance reform." So ludicrous, on its face, is this proposition, that it has created a cottage industry amongst columnists and pundits to most successfully complete in 25 words or less the statement, "Gore as champion of campaign finance reform is like…" (If readers of this column will send in any examples spotted, I will announce the winning metaphor in a future column.)
But, a warning to Mr. Bush: Every minute you spend privately giggling at Mr. Gore's seeming overreach is a minute closer to success for the Great Pretender. The vice president is the kind of fellow who follows you into a revolving door and comes out in front while picking your pockets in the process. Governor, you're walking the mean streets of Washington now. You're not in Austin anymore.
Of course, the exit polls show that Mr. McCain's supporters overwhelmingly voted for him because they thought he was a swell guy, not because they longed for passage of the McCain/Feingold Campaign Finance Act of 1999. Campaign-finance reform is still a third-level issue to the public. But I suspect that Al Gore understands and is following the nefarious theory of Dick Morris Bill Clinton's former political consultant.
Mr. Morris advises aspiring crooked politicians in his recent book (in which he tries to apply the principles of Machiavelli to contemporary American politics) that a candidate should not endorse an issue because he is for it, or because it would be good for the country. But rather, an issue should be endorsed if it enhances the image of the politician. Like a good suit, the issues make the man. So, while the public may not care much about campaign-finance reform, they think candidates who are for it are better people.
Obviously, the issue of campaign-finance reform would be working double duty for the vice president. If he can snatch the issue from Mr. Bush's lap, not only does he take away a positive issue from Mr. Bush, but also it would obviate the suspicion that Al Gore is a felonious violator of existing campaign-finance laws. This will be a hard sell, but Mr. Gore may have the tools with which to carry it off.
The Clinton/Gore campaign methods are, at a technical level, a marvel to behold. The pace, breadth and rhythm of their assault; the exquisite integration of the different available media; their marshaling of a broad range of advocates all enhanced by an unscrupulous willingness to straight out lie about any topic gives them an arrogant confidence that the voters exist only as fodder for their mind-bending fusillades. Until their method has been defeated at the polls, we must honor its efficacy, even while we deprecate its ethics.

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