- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2000

As the American electorate rouses itself to contemplate who might best lead the country over the next four

years, the voters find themselves beset by an unanticipated issue. Recent revelations in the Lost Angeles Times force voters to ask whether this great republic, the only superpower left on Earth, can risk electing as president a man with a record of bladder problems.

By his own admission, Vice President Al Gore repeatedly had to leave important White House meetings in 1995 to get to the bathroom. He told this to a Justice Department task force, though possibly he calls the bathroom by the Victorian euphemism "the comfort station." The vice president frequently resorts to euphemisms when difficult questions confront him, and there is something decidedly Victorian about his stilted formulations.

Another troubling question arises from the Los Angeles Times' report. The vice president has a drinking problem. By his own admission he cannot hold his iced tea. It was the tea, he says, that forced him to the bathroom or to the comfort station or whatever he calls it.

Incidentally, these were important meetings, the kind the vice president is known to take very seriously. They were meetings focused on raising money for the 1996 presidential race. The vice president, as with all Clintonites, is an ardent fund-raiser, and these funds were being raised for the most important presidential race in history. The race was against Bob Dole, whose election would bring America right back to 1992 and what the Clintons' called "the worst recession since the Great Depression."

The evidence of the vice president's health problems is contained in the La Bella Report, which has finally been leaked to the Los Angeles Times. Charles La Bella headed a Justice Department task force investigating the Clinton administration's 1996 campaign finance violations. The report, finished in the summer of 1998, accuses Justice Department officials of "gamesmanship," "contortions," and "intellectually dishonest" double standards in refusing to assign an independent counsel to investigate the 1995-1996 machinations of, among others, the Clintons, White House aide Harold Ickes, and Mr. Gore.

The report concludes Mr. Gore "may have provided false testimony" about his involvement in 1996 campaign finance violations.

Naturally, the Justice Department suppressed the La Bella Report. Yet one has to wonder why Attorney General Janet Reno and her servitors felt the report had to be suppressed.

There is nothing new about the Clinton administration practicing deceit, giving false testimony, and obstructing justice. The administration has followed these traditional presidential practices for years and across a broad range of issues, from firing White House employees to frustrating congressional investigations into technology transfers to the Chinese and campaign finance violations and Whitewater, to keeping the president's love life make that sex life private.

Why suppress a report that merely catalogs still more of these practices? My guess is that the Clintonites were trying to cover up the vice president's drinking problems and his embarrassing bladder condition. America cannot have a president who is forever leaving the room during ticklish negotiations with, say, the Israelis or the Palestinians, people famous for their self-control.

According to the La Bella Report, Mr. Gore told investigators that "he drank a lot of iced tea during meetings, which could have necessitated a restroom [comfort station] break." The meetings concerned raising both "soft money" and "hard money" for the 1996 campaign.

Originally, Mr. Gore testified that the meetings did not discuss "hard money." When documents contradicted his testimony, Mr. Gore revealed his troubling condition, a weak bladder necessitating restroom breaks too numerous to mention and his failure to recollect any discussion of illegal "hard money." Apparently, he even failed to read the meeting's itinerary.

Perhaps the vice president was also under the influence of iced tea when he hosted those 31 White House "coffees" that filled Democratic coffers and when he made those 56 telephone solicitations from the White House. His confusion over the purpose of his appearance at the Buddhist Temple and the misstatements he made about that meeting might also be attributed to demon tea. His association with convicted felons in pursuit of campaign funds might be attributed to his tea problem, along with all those misstatements he has made about his past achievements. Skeptics called them lies, but now it appears this singular public servant was laboring under the influence of caffeine.

Now he tells us he is going to make campaign finance his chief issue just as Sen. John McCain did. But Mr. McCain never hid his medical records. And the record of his trips to the bathroom is perfectly normal. Vice President Gore is a sick man. Do we want a sick president? And why did President Clinton not tell us of his vice president's trips to the bathroom? Surely they must have confronted each other in the hallway outside the Oval Office. How long will the republic endure the balderdash of these two arrested adolescents?

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

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