- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 24, 2000

There he goes again. Al Gore, that old artificer, has decided once more to take a hatchet to his life's story. The most recent documented example took place last month, when he told a group of Florida senior citizens that his mother-in-law, Margaret Ann Aitcheson, had to pay three times as much for the prescription drug Lodine than he pays for his dog's almost identical medicine.

It turns out: (1) His campaign says he doesn't know if his mother-in-law actually takes such a drug. (2) If she does, he doesn't know what she pays. (3) He doesn't know how much he pays for the dog's drug. (4) He didn't consult his checkbook to figure out the cost figures. He got those numbers from a spurious study conducted last year by Democrats on the House Committee on Government Reform. (5) The American Veterinary Medical Association told the same Democrats the study was a joke and that "we believe [investigation of drug-company practices] will provide insufficient evidence to develop a compelling argument regarding human drug pricing." (6) The study misleadingly compared wholesale prices with retail. And (7) he didn't compare actual dosages of the pharmaceutical.

Here we see a now-familiar blend of fantasy, fabrication and exploitation of Mr. Gore's family. He says his father was a champion of civil rights, although the senior Gore voted against the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. He says his mother put an end to single-sex accommodations at a Nashville club the change occurred 14 years after she visited the place. He says he remembers being lulled to sleep as a baby by his mother's singing "Look for the Union Label." He was 27 when the unions came up with that ditty.

He brags that his sister was the "very first" Peace Corps volunteer. False. He has said that he swore off tobacco money after the same sister died of lung cancer. Not exactly: Four years later, he was bragging to tobacco farmers about his own prowess at cutting tobacco. His campaign literature touts his record as a "brilliant student." Mr. Gore's a bright guy, but he wasn't a candidate for honors. His grades at Harvard, according to David Maraniss of The Washington Post, included "one D, one C-minus, two C-pluses and one B-minus, an effort that placed him in the lower fifth of the class for the second year in a row."

Then we have autobiographical weirdness: He claimed to "find" Love Canal. He didn't. He said he and Tipper were the inspiration behind "Love Story." Author Erich Segal has swatted that one away. Furthermore, why not claim to have inspired a good movie or at least one in which your beloved doesn't die?

He once said his work as an investigative reporter at the Nashville Tennesseean led to the jailing of corrupt bad guys. He later had to apologize for the fib. He boasted of co-sponsoring the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill. It was introduced after he left the Senate. A campaign aide in 1988 told him to stop exaggerating after Mr. Gore bragged of being "the only farmer" in that year's Democratic field and that he was a "hands-on" homebuilder.

Reporters wave this pattern off as if it were the most natural thing in the world. But it isn't. It's weird, and it's incomprehensible. Al Gore is a guy with a good life's story. He has plenty to boast about. But he insists on embellishing, embroidering, fabricating lying and about his own life!

The question is: Why? Nobody has a good answer, least of all Mr. Gore. But it gives cause for pause. If he lives in a world of his own devising, what should we say about the policies he proposes? It turns out that they, too, are phantasmagorical packed with the kind of vivid but surreal detail one finds in dreams. Upon closer inspection, the "specifics" of Mr. Gore's health-care plan, his tax plan, his economic plan, his foreign policy plan all have the clear marks of delusion. They don't connect clearly with the world in which we live.

Go to his Web site. A few examples: You get marriage penalty relief only if you don't own a home. You get help to pay college tuition only if you pay federal taxes that cuts out 50 percent of the population and you get aid for just one child. The prescription drug benefit doesn't kick in fully for seven years.

His platform is a sea of fine print, of codicils and exceptions. It assumes we cheerfully will spend hours on the phone bargaining with bureaucrats who get paid to deny benefits and hold down costs. And if the government isn't perfectly efficient, costs really could explode.

Years ago, a reporter named Janet Cooke got fired from The Washington Post because she made up stories about an 8-year-old heroin addict. The series, "Jimmy's World," won a Pulitzer Prize which, like Miss Cooke's job at The Post, was withdrawn after the hoax was revealed.

Now, we're being asked to believe in Al's World. But this time the prize isn't a plaque and a check. It's the presidency

Tony Snow is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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