- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2000

There are more ways to measure the winners and losers in tomorrow's election than mere election results. We'll have to wait for the day-after wise guys to get the most trenchant analysis, but we can already see the big picture.
That picture is like a pointillist painting by Seurat, where the total image emerges from the placement of millions of tiny dots which change and direct our attention to different perspectives. We think we perceive the whole drama in three dimensions, but then we're deceived by two dimensions that focus the attention.
Before the results are in, we can zoom in on several fascinating dots, both trivial and essential, that reveal a lot about the protagonists in this campaign.
From the outset Joe Lieberman looked like a brilliant choice. When Al Gore announced that he was taking the leading Democratic critic (were there any others?) of Bill Clinton's moral misbehavior, he blunted the major thrust of the theme of the Republican convention that Mr. Gore and Mr. Clinton were attached at the hip, scandals, evasions, lies and all. It was a considerable plus that the senator was an "orthodox" (now revised to merely "observant") Jew, a man of faith, which muted criticism from the religious right.
But nobody anticipated how Mr. Lieberman's dots would change on the hustings, a change captured in an editorial in The Washington Post asking, "Where's the Old Joe Lieberman?" The senator had not only repudiated the central core of his conservative positions on school vouchers, affirmative action, Hollywood purveyors of flesh and gore but alienated Jews and Christians alike by pointedly showing his "respect" for Louis Farrakhan, who describes Judaism as "a gutter religion" and whites as "subhuman." When Mr. Lieberman was interviewed on his radio show, Don Imus asked pointedly: "If you return to the Senate, which Joe Lieberman will you be?"
The tiny dots describing Dick Cheney are less exciting. Here was a balding man with a paunch in an image-conscious, television - driven age, seeming to represent the past more than the future. But in his one debate with Mr. Lieberman, and with growing confidence on the stump, he has shown himself to be understated, witty and totally in touch with the defense issues he had handled in the past and which will continue to require a president's attention in the future.
Once Mr. Gore climbed out of the shadow of Mr. Clinton, he shot up in the polls. You could see it in the dots. But then the dots, as the dots will, changed. Voters who liked Mr. Clinton grew nostalgic for the disarming charm of the dissembling which loomed in stark contrast to Mr. Gore's clumsy "exaggerations." When party leaders, fearing the worst, at last brought Mr. Clinton out to campaign, the shadows over Mr. Gore lengthened again. That separation at the hip seemed not so successful, after all.
His love scenes with his wife Tipper, the coast-to-coast kissing and cooing, soon rendered him absurd. Like the little boy who gets the grown-ups to notice him once for being cute, he doesn't realize that replaying the same cuteness over and over soon strains the indulgence even of doting parents.
The tiny dots are hardest to connect in defining George W. He really didn't change much as the summer faded into September and then became October, except that he gained the confidence to laugh at himself. The Democratic mantra that he was too dumb to be president was soon drowned in applause. If he was so dumb, why was he running the smartest campaign?
The most powerful lingering image of the last days of this campaign may well be that photograph of Mr. Clinton on the cover of the December issue of Esquire magazine, a lewd and lascivious portrayal of a below-the-belt attitude. Michael Paterniti, who interviewed the president for the magazine, defends it as "the exact view" of Lincoln at the Lincoln memorial. (Others have remarked that it was merely the exact view that Monica had.)
But we've seen Abraham Lincoln, and, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen in an election in a previous millennium, Abe Lincoln is one of our greatest presidents, and Mr. Clinton is no Abe Lincoln. This election is about that, too.

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