Jewish World Review Nov. 21, 2000 / 23 Mar-Cheshvan 5761
The shocking saga of the incredible
TAMPA | This has turned into the tale of the
Incredible Shrinking Men.
As Al Gore and George W. Bush continue their
post-election maneuvering to determine which of
them will eventually become the most powerful
person in the world, each seems to grow smaller
by the hour. By the time one of them stands on the steps of the U.S. Capitol
on Inauguration Day in January, the nation may need a microscope to see him.
All that a president really has going for him is the perception of great stature.
And -- because of what has been transpiring in Florida for the last two weeks
-- by the time we get a president, he is likely to have all the stature of a flea.
Americans -- and the people of the world -- have been watching this. They
should not be criticized if, when they gaze upon the two men still clawing to
win, they find themselves filled with a feeling somewhat short of awe.
Gore is seeming increasingly like a weirdo.
He doesn't appear able to speak about the events that are unfolding here
without breaking into a creepily inappropriate grin, and without throwing a
way-beyond-left-field chuckle into his voice. Here is a man who is choosing to
discuss with the American people one of the most serious and dramatic
electoral moments in the country's history -- and certainly the most serious and
dramatic moment in his own public career. Yet -- like an actor auditioning for
a light comedy who has mistakenly been handed the script for a ponderous
tragedy -- he emotes words of somberness and gravity while smiling and
chuckling as if he is watching an old rerun of "Hee-Haw."
Last week -- when he timed a live public statement just at the moment the
network evening newscasts were going on the air -- he might have intended for
the nation to say to itself: Al Gore is making an announcement so important
that the network news is carrying it live. Instead -- the public being smarter
than Gore gives it credit for -- the nation said to itself: Oh. Look. Gore has
figured out If he makes a statement now, the network newscasts will have to
carry it live and unedited. How clever. How transparent.
The other Incredible Shrinking Man is doing no better.
After Gore made it onto the evening news with his statement, Bush was picked
up at his ranch in Texas and was rushed back to Austin like a tardy Federal
His advisers propped him in front of an American flag and had him read a
speech they had written for him about their -- and thus his -- position on the
election situation in Florida. He read the words with all the authority of a local
anchorman at a small-market television station doing his first practice
runthrough of the day of news copy he has just been given.
As amiable and pleasant as Bush can be, even his supporters appear at times
to value him more as a vessel for their political beliefs than as an actual human
being who is prepared to be the leader of the free world. And quite apart from
the question of whether, out of more than 200 million Americans, Bush is the
one person who is most qualified to be president, the genuinely sobering
thought is: He is not even the member of his own family who is -- today, right
this minute -- most qualified to be president.
The so-called wise men -- the elder statesmen from both parties, James Baker
for Bush and Warren Christopher for Gore -- came to Florida because of how
large they loomed on the political landscape. Their stature, it was assumed,
would transfer to the candidates for whom they spoke.
But they, too, have been done in by the Incredible Shrinking Man syndrome.
They may have been big when they got here -- but by the time this is over,
they will leave Florida looking like pygmies.
No one from either party says a word that is not uttered out of self-interest;
you get the impression that Gore and Bush, and the people who work for
them, could just as easily and persuasively argue the other side of the
ballot-recount question if they thought it would benefit them. And by the time
this is over, they may end up doing just that.
As a nation, we have long been told that the wisdom of the people always
makes itself evident, and that in the people's collective voice there will be the
Maybe that is what has happened down here. Maybe the fact that, almost two
weeks after Election Day, the United States still has no president-elect is no
The people have spoken.
And have said that they don't want either of these guys.
Americans are feeling something short of
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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©1999, Tribune Media Services