Al Gore is back trying to prove he's the smartest kid in the class, despite his grades. In his latest Against the Grain commentary, CBSNews.com's Dick Meyerhopes this tired nation isn't subjected to another Gore campaign.
Sunday morning: I promised myself I wouldn't do it.
I became seriously agitated as I plowed through Al Gore's op-ed piece in the Sunday New York Times. In spite of the Gorean wood-prose and the barrage of banal bromides, I was deeply moved by the essay. The sanctimony, hypocrisy and sheer self-unknowing of the man had me stuttering.
But I vowed not to write about it. Enough Gore.
Wednesday: Uncle. I give up. I can't help it. I'm bursting. It's my duty.
People need to read Gore's piece. And they need to talk about it and think about it.
Democrats who are iffy about whether they want Prince Albert to run again need to read it. They won't be on the fence any more. Bring on Joe or Johnnie E. or John K. or Dick or Tom. Even Howard. Anyone but…
Republicans depressed about the S&P 500 need to read Gore's piece to keep hope alive. Democratic administrations may be better for the stock market than Republicans, but Republicans don't think so. They'll feel better knowing that Gore is in the race, and more politically tone deaf than ever.
The gist of "Broken Promises and Political Deception" by Al Gore is this: Joe Lieberman shouldn't have criticized my 2000 message just because it didn't work and I really, really would be a better president than the president.
But you really have to look at the details of this essay to fully appreciate how appalling it is.
Let's take it from the top. "There has always been a debate over the destiny of this nation," Gore begins, pompously, " between those who believed they were entitled to govern because of their station in life, and those who believed that the people were sovereign."
Who more than Al Gore has ever believed in his right to govern based on his station in life? Who more than Al Gore has been more born and bred to govern? Who has ever acted more entitled to govern?
More importantly, how can Gore still - after all these years - not know how grating it is when he pretends that he was not born an American noble? It's insulting. The man must really believe we're a nation of morons.
Moving right along, "For well over a year, the Bush administration has used its power in the wrong way." Well, fine, Gore disagrees with Bush policies. Presumably that's why he ran against him.
Now comes the nut of this case, the part aimed at Lieberman's recent digs: "Standing up for 'the people, not the powerful' was the right choice in 2000." Why? Give us a reason. Argue don't just assert and righteously cross your earth tone arms and stamp your alpha-male feet.
William Saletan puts it nicely in Slate, "When a vice president backed by a roaring economy runs a class-warfare presidential campaign and loses, most people would call the experiment a failure. Not Al Gore." (Saletan goes on to make a neat case about how Gore's "inauthentic", silver spoon, 'us vs. them' populism differs from Clinton's 1992 message, though it may have failed to recognize that Clinton's schtick probably wouldn't have worked either in a post-Monica election, as a Gore strategist pointed out to me.)
But what really adds injury to these insults is the plain fact that Gore retreated from his beloved populism in the middle of his campaign.
"Gore is now defending and embracing a positioning that he thought had been overdone by the time of the 2000 convention," a high Gore campaign adviser told me. "In fact, he would have excised all references to 'people versus the powerful' from his convention speech but decided that the press would make too a big deal of the omission. By the end of the campaign, the words coming out of Gore's mouth bore little relation to the message that propelled him ahead of Bush, which is the one he is now defending."
The rest of the op-ed piece rehashes broad, platitudinous denunciations of Bush policies, doesn't mention the White House handling of 9/11 and holds the Clinton-Gore regime up as the pillar of rectitude (as it were).
For example, Gore piously calls on Bush to release to the public the list of energy special interests who met with Cheney's task force and the scoop on his Harken Energy dealings. Well, remember the Hillary health care task force? Remember Whitewater? Where were you, Al?
Perhaps when this section of the piece was written the former vice president was using the restroom because he drank too much iced tea.
The apparent news peg for Gore's essay is the "corporate crime wave" (as candidate Nader calls it). "Uncommon power has combined with uncommon greed to create immense deceptions and losses, Gore wrote. "Millions of average Americans have been victimized."
Damn right, and most of it happened on your watch buddy.
And nobody courted those now despised darlings of the dot-com bubble more ardently than the man who invented the Internet. Was Gore out there demanding more SEC protection for the little guy investor when the market soared in 1998 and 1999? Or when it started to crash in 2000?
Gore ends the essay where he begins – in empty-talk pompousland: "Now is a time for truth and courage. And now is the time for all Americans to stand up to the powerful on behalf of the people."
My favorite part of the piece is the italicized description that runs at the bottom:Al Gore, vice president from 1993 to 2001, teaches at Fisk University and Middle Tennessee State University.
Somehow this fighting enemy of the powerful forgot to mention that he is also vice-chairman Metropolitan West, the financial services company.
Now is a time for truth and courage.
Dick Meyer, a veteran political and investigative producer for CBS News, is Editorial Director of CBSNews.com based in Washington.
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Against the Grain
By Dick Meyer
Copyright 2002 CBS. All rights reserved.