- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Back in the late 1980s, I got a phone call from Al Gore. At the time, he was a senator from Tennessee and a member of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, and I was beginning a lobby career for a fine company known as SBC Communications.

Up until that day I had never met Al, not even a handshake. Yet he called, as senators sometimes did back then, to invite me to his fund-raiser. Actually, “invite” is the wrong word. It was more like “compel”; some might even say, “threaten” consequences for my, shall we say, non-participation.

Let me be clear. I had no problem with a call to solicit campaign funds. Senatorsdothose kinds of things, and they have every right to. Nor did I have issues with his clumsy reminder that his committee and he had jurisdiction over most of my company’s business practices. (Really, senator, I thought you were calling because of our shared interest in country music.) Sure, it was a bit Tony Soprano before Soprano was cool, like come to my fund-raiser or else I’ll bash your company’s windows with my legislative baseball bat. Still, no problem: I’m a big boy.

What troubled me, then and now, is/was the shameless hypocrisy of all his populist rhetoric, railing against corporations, followed by a big-time money shakedown. Then, as now, I thought Al Gore was an unprincipled loser. Then, as now, I thought he needed to grow up. Then, as now, I wished he would just go away.

I was reminded of the incident again last week after the former vice president gave a speech at the Georgetown Law Center, spreading more sore-loser rhetoric and lies about President Bush. An AP report, for example, notes “with a smirk, Gore then added: ‘so when the bipartisan 9/11 commission issued its report finding no credible evidence of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, it should not have come as a surprise.’ ” Problem is, the commission never said that in its report. The AP story goes on to correct Mr. Gore. In fact, the commission made clear, they did indeed find connections between Iraq and al Qaeda.

Not to mention how time changes truth for the former vice president, who linked Iraq to terrorism consistently during the 1992 campaign, according to Stephen Hayes in his book “The Connection.” Now that connection is a political nuisance.

Besides trouble with the truth, the graceless Mr. Gore has other serious political problems. Losing politicians often have a difficult time knowing when to exit into the sunset. Mr. Gore’s ride has been particularly unsettling.

Wearing opportunism on his rolled up shirtsleeve, he jumped on the Howard Dean wave, just as it was about to crest and come tumbling down, crushing the former Vermont governor’s presidential aspirations. After failing at his own presidential bid, he lost again trying to play kingmaker in someone else’s. Was it bad timing, or is Al Gore the kiss of political death?

As the last sitting vice president since Hubert Humphrey to run for the White House and lose, Al Gore consistently looks more smarmy than smart, calculating than classy and always graceless under pressure — remember those “sighs” during the 2000 presidential debates.

During his eight years as vice president, Mr. Gore consistently squandered opportunities to engage the vast national security apparatus of the United States to track down and kill terrorists like Osama bin Laden. Instead, he used his tenure to spew cheap-shot populist anti-business rhetoric and shake down lobbyists to attend fund-raisers with Buddhist monks. These immature, politically motivated maneuvers cost America dearly in terms of security, appeasing terrorists around the globe.

Saddam Hussein’s destabilizing designs in the Middle East are now clear to anyone willing to look beyond the narrow lens of political opportunism. Saddam’s adventures in Kuwait, his genocide against the Kurds, and his use of weapons of mass destruction all point to a madman of near-Hitlerian proportions. Last week, the New York Times, a publication hardly sympathetic to the administration’s Iraqi policy, unearthed a broad plan by Iraqi intelligence, approved by Saddam, to work directly with bin Laden to destabilize the Saudi ruling family.

Unlike some politicians that move on after losing, Mr. Gore’s futile attempts to remain a player are failing — big time. Even Democrats cringe when they hear of his latest gambits. Is there a word in today’s political lexicon that blends embarrassment and liability? “Pathetic” might work — but only if delivered with the requisite sigh.

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