Jewish World Review August 25, 2000 /24 Menachem-Av 5760
Gore may or may not get a brief polling bounce from the convention, but he handed Bush huge gifts for the fall campaign, leaving the presidential debates as his last chance to win the White House.
Gore's acceptance speech -- written by himself, leaving no one else to blame -- revealed him to be an old-line populist liberal with a grim view of America's "working families" being victimized by "powerful forces and powerful interests."
There was no sense of optimism, despite America's economic boom, and no sense that the high-tech new economy provides exciting opportunities.
Those themes are now owned by Bush, who enunciated them at the Republican convention along with promises to be "compassionate" toward those in danger of being left behind.
Gore also laid out such a long laundry list of government initiatives -- reminiscent of a State of the Union message in the Great Society days of President Lyndon Johnson -- that Bush seems justified in saying budget surpluses had best not be left in Washington because they'll be spent.
Not only was Gore's content politically self-destructive, his delivery was so rushed that he tromped over his applause lines. And the speech was utterly devoid of humor or poetry.
His best lines were: "That's the difference in this election: They (Republicans) are for the powerful, and we're for the people. Big tobacco, big oil, the pharmaceutical companies, the HMOs. Sometimes you have to be willing to stand up and say no -- so families can have a better life."
The message was a throwback to William Jennings Bryan's 1896 "Cross of Gold" speech, but it was better expressed this year by Pat Buchanan in his Reform Party acceptance speech.
Buchanan referred to Washington as a political "swamp" that neither "Beltway party" would drain because "to them, it's ... a protected wetland, their natural habitat. They swim in it, feed in it, spawn in it and are as happy there as Brer Rabbit was in his briar patch."
Gore's speech suggested that his campaign is seriously worried about the challenge being mounted from the populist left by the Green Party's Ralph Nader, who's drawing close to 9 percent.
Gore's disastrous speech capped a disappointing convention in which, according to daily polling by the Voter.com Battleground survey, Gore not only failed to gain on Bush, but fell a bit further behind.
Polling data last Monday showed Bush leading the race by 9 points. Tuesday and Wednesday polls showed him leading by 11, with conservative Democrats and married white working women moving further away from Gore.
It's not hard to figure out why. First, President Clinton failed to dramatize Gore's part in the country's economic and social successes during the past eight years.
Then, most speakers at the convention -- finishing with Gore -- spent all their energies tending to the party's liberal base instead of reaching out to centrist swing voters.
Gore's vice presidential nominee and presumptive emissary to the center, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), spent much of the week convincing teachers unions and African-Americans that he is reliable on their issues: school vouchers and affirmative action.
Lieberman's speech to the convention Wednesday night, while winningly delivered, was utterly devoid of the centrist New Democrat ideology he's been espousing for years, especially as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council.
Even the two New Democrats who nominated Lieberman, Sen. John Breaux (La.) and Rep. Ellen Tauscher (Calif.), delivered speeches bleached of any mention of entitlement reform or free trade, the ideas they've promoted.
The one touchy issue that Lieberman did hit, but lightly, was about Gore and his wife, Tipper, once taking on Hollywood over explicit song lyrics -- a position they later abandoned.
Lieberman said, "No parent should be forced to compete with popular culture to raise their children." Though the convention audience loved Lieberman, that line got scant applause.
Among the many tasks that Gore needed to accomplish in Los Angeles, the one he perhaps got farthest on was acquainting people with his life apart from the No. 2 role he's played with Clinton. The many family portraits presented were heart-warming, if at times excessive.
To get himself out from Clinton's ethical shadow, Gore mentioned Clinton only once in his acceptance speech -- and gave short shrift to the accomplishments of the past eight years.
Evidently worried about seeming "too negative," Gore failed to mention Bush directly. Gore disparaged the "personality contest" aspect of the presidential race, but he did little to erase Bush's advantage.
Gore campaign aides said the Veep needed a huge bounce from the convention to catch up to Bush and then start the fall campaign just a few points behind. My guess is that Gore's only hope now is a disastrous Bush performance in the
08/22/00: AlGore, look to future, not to Bubba