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Politicians Sometimes Speak The Truth

In her latest Political Points commentary, CBS News Senior Political Editor Dotty Lynch says politicians say exactly what they mean more often than we give them credit for.

"I'll tell you exactly what Al Gore is doing," a former Gore aide said last week. "He's selling books. He may or may not decide to run for president but that's not what this is about." This aide, who was with him when his last book "Earth in the Balance" was published, said Gore gets obsessed with selling books. "He used every trick in the book to sell that one. He went after every press opportunity. He tried to nab every award that was out there."

As the political world twists and turns waiting for Gore's '04 decision, most observers have portrayed the book tour as a setup for another presidential campaign or at least a re-entry onto the national stage to test the waters. But listening to what he's doing, including his comedy shtick this week, the key to understanding Gore's motive may be how many times he repeats the words "Joined at the Heart," the title of his new book. Publishers brainwash authors to mention the title of the book over and over in their media hits and Al Gore is a good student. The book isn't selling too well, but it's not for lack of exposure.

Politicians know that the way to get the media to pay attention is to tell us they're running for president. Once they bow out they're chopped liver. So what if you've worked hard for a couple of years writing a book. If you dangle the presidential thing, we'll bite and publicize the book. So Al Gore's friends, who've decided he really is selling his book, "Joined at the Heart," may not be helping the cause by telling The New York Times that he's not going to run. But if they are really friends, they've probably already bought copies of "Joined at the Heart," so Gore may let them off the hook.

Of course, Gore has said over and over that all he's doing is selling his book, "Joined at the Heart." Sometimes, if the cynical press would just accept politicians' words at face value they'd be surprised to see how much truth is really there.

Take Trent Lott, for instance. He told Strom Thurmond very clearly what he believes about problems that wouldn't have been there if Thurmond had been elected president in 1948. He said it in 1980 and he said it again last week. In 1991, Bob Kerrey told Bill Clinton an extremely raunchy joke that told volumes about the locker room atmosphere that surrounded Mr. Clinton's dealing with other guys. John McCain referred to Vietnamese as gooks. Does anyone doubt that this is how he always talks and feels about his captors?

We usually refer to these as "gaffes" since they are embarrassments when they become public. But when Ronald Reagan joked about "bombing in five minutes," when Gerry Ferraro talked about Italian men and when Jesse Jackson referred to New York as "Hymietown," they were telling us more about who they really were than all the 5,000-word profiles written about them.

Words have consequences and maybe we should start paying attention to what these politicians actually say rather than searching for hidden meanings and stories behind the stories. And speaking of words, there are a lot of them in Al Gore's new book, "Joined at the Heart."