- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Issues of style seem to preoccupy the thoughts of many journalists covering the quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. NBC-TV's Norah O'Donnell called Al Gore "buff" and suggested he should challenge Bill Bradley to one-on-one basketball. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd observed that "Al has traded his black loafers for cowboy boots to look less earnest," then subjected us to 800 words about Mr. Gore's hobbies, favorite artists and movies, and even how he would spend a day playing hooky.

Beyond the fluff, Mr. Gore has much to answer for. He is hardly the earnest, public-spirited nerd he is often portrayed as being or "squeaky clean" in the words of ABC/NPR personality Cokie Roberts. Mr. Gore has, in fact, been guilty of extremes of revanchism and mean-spiritedness, and the author of wacky, antisocial public policy.

While a senator, Mr. Gore was notorious for his rudeness and insolence during hearings. A favorite trick was to pose a question and as the witness began to answer, Mr. Gore would begin a whispered conversation with another committee member or a staffer. If the witness paused in order that the senator not miss the response, Mr. Gore would instruct him to continue, then resume his private conversation, leaving no ambiguity: Not only is your testimony unimportant, I won't even pay you the courtesy of pretending to listen to it.

Such behavior is mean-spirited but in the cosmic scheme of things, insignificant. Since he became vice president, however, Mr. Gore and one of his top advisers, Gregory Simon (who went through the government's revolving door, peddled access to the White House for a while, and has just joined the Gore campaign), have been guilty of actions worthy of a tinhorn dictatorship. Intolerant of any dissension or challenge to their view of policy, they went to extremes to purge their "enemies," in a way reminiscent of the worst excesses of the Nixon administration.

In order to slant federal science and technology policy and to rid the civil service of dissenting views, Messrs. Gore and Simon interfered improperly in federal personnel matters. For example, while working for the vice president, Mr. Simon threatened a high-ranking official at the Department of Energy with retaliation if she were to hire the former assistant director of the National Science Foundation, David Kingsbury, to a civil service position. Messrs. Simon and Kingsbury had clashed on biotechnology policy in earlier years. In fact, as a congressional staffer, Mr. Simon had hounded Mr. Kingsbury from government with unsubstantiated charges of conflict of interest. Also, while working for the vice president, Mr. Simon improperly ordered the FDA to remove a senior civil servant at the Food and Drug Administration from his position. FDA officials conceded that this was retribution for his "transgression" of having implemented Reagan-Bush policies effectively.

Mr. Gore himself dismissed Will Happer, a senior scientist at the Department of Energy, because he refused to ignore scientific evidence at hand that conflicted with the vice president's pet theories on ozone depletion and global warming. Similar incidents have occurred at the departments of State, Energy and Interior and at Environmental Protection Agency. In these departments and agencies a number of prominent civil servants have been moved to less visible positions or substituted with other officials during interactions with the White House for their own "protection."

On personal as well as public issues, Mr. Gore has demonstrated again and again that he has difficulty in discriminating reality from fantasy. He claimed, for example, that he and Tipper were the model for the novel, "Love Story," an assertion that author Erich Segal denied. Mr. Gore also accused his political enemies of possessing "an extra chromosome," a remark that infuriated the families of persons with Down's syndrome, which is caused by an extra chromosome.

Mr. Gore's delusions also run riot on issues of technology and environmentalism, such as his repeated endorsement of anti-technology tracts and criticism of technological advances, as congressman, senator and vice president. His writings generally place science and technology at odds with "the natural world" and by inference, with the well-being and progress of mankind.

Mr. Gore's patronizing, apocalyptic and overwrought book, "Earth in the Balance" offers disturbing insights into this presidential hopeful. In it, Mr. Gore trashes the empirical nature of science for disconnecting man from nature. "But for the separation of science and religion," he laments, "we might not be pumping so much gaseous chemical waste into the atmosphere and threatening the destruction of the earth's climate balance." He ignores that but for the separation of science and religion, we would still be burdened with the notion that the sun and the planets revolve around the Earth which would no doubt pose certain problems for space exploration by NASA. (Historians call the last epoch when religion dominated science the Dark Ages.)

Running for president should be about more than waistlines and style. Mr. Gore has plenty of record to account for. Voters and pundits should make him do it.

Henry Miller is a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of "To America's Health: A Proposal to Reform the FDA."

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