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Jewish World Review Dec. 15, 1999/ 6 Teves, 5760


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Surprise! Gore Exploits the Misfortune of Bradley; He’s Bill Clinton’s Star Pupil -- HANG DOWN your head, Al Gore. Hang down your head in shame, Mr. Greenjeans, for you’ve become almost as despicable and immoral as Bill Clinton.

Last Friday, after rival Bill Bradley was briefly hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat, a common, treatable condition, Gore spokesman Chris Lehane issued the following statement: “Our hearts and prayers and our thoughts are with Sen. Bradley.” This is the “politics of personal destruction” at its most disgusting level, as it gives the impression that Bradley had just suffered a significant medical malady—can you say heart attack?—and is unfit for the rigors of the presidency.

Gore’s stake in hell is now secure.

Last Saturday, The New York Times published a letter from Bradley’s doctor, written after an examination of the candidate on Dec. 3. It said, in part, after stating that Bradley has an excellent cholesterol level of 161 and normal blood pressure, “When you have atrial fibrillation, you note an irregular heart beat but have no other symptoms. Thus, this rhythm does not, in any way, interfere with your ability to function. Other than the arrhythmia you have no other health issues.” As most newspaper accounts noted, former President George Bush also suffered from a similar condition; at 75, he’s a model of fitness for a man his age.

Unfortunately, I think Bradley’s quest for the Democratic nomination is now in serious jeopardy. Most voters, who won’t take time to read the fine print of his condition, and just see the word heart in headlines, will assume that he’s an immediate candidate for a coronary and will be hesitant to elect him to the stressful job of president. So Gore, after a miserable campaign, botched by hubris, sleazy aides, an abundance of bureaucracy, lavish spending and embarrassing gaffes by the Vice President himself, has finally caught a lucky break. You’d think, under the circumstances, his spokesman could’ve issued a more accurate message of concern, something along the lines of: “Vice President Gore is pleased that Sen. Bradley’s brief hospitalization revealed nothing serious. We wish him the best.” In fact, a day later, Gore did tell reporters it was “good news” Bradley was okay. He said to The Washington Post’s David Broder: “He’s a good man, a great competitor. I look forward to continuing our discussion of the issues.”

But, as Gore knows, the damage was done.

I believe that Al Gore was once an honorable man. I find it reprehensible, for example, that conservative talk-show hosts and pundits are questioning his record in Vietnam, making an issue out of the possible special treatment he received there as the son of a senator. That might be true, but so what? Gore, unlike Bradley and Gov. George W. Bush, actually went to Vietnam, and though his tour was as a journalist, that didn’t protect him from a random bombing or shootout.

(Sen. John McCain, obviously, was also in Vietnam, although he was raised in a military family and had always planned to serve.)

Gore didn’t support the war; he enlisted to help his father in a tough reelection race in Tennessee, to demonstrate that even the privileged had an obligation to their country. Has he milked his military record in subsequent political campaigns? Of course. Yet it was the loyalty to his father, as a young man just out of college, that’s so admirable.

What’s happened since to make him such a detestable figure? He became immersed in politics, for starters, and engaged in the usual flip-flops that legislators are ridiculed for (Gore was once pro-life), and his hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement was probably greater than the norm in Washington. He ran a badly organized campaign for president in 1988, showing his naivete by hitching his fate in the New York primary to Mayor Ed Koch, who was one year from being booted out of City Hall. He skipped the New Hampshire primary and counted on sweeping the South; as a result of this misguided strategy, Mike Dukakis got the media bump early on and made a hash of Gore’s plans. A disappointing result for the Senator, but he was certainly a Democratic contender for the future.

But then he was tapped by Clinton to ride shotgun in his administration.

I suppose it would take a man of extraordinary will not to be influenced by such a corrupt, deceitful human being as the President, and Gore clearly wasn’t up to the challenge. Since he’s been linked with Clinton he has exploited family tragedies to gain votes, has participated in shady fundraising efforts, has palyed the demagogue on race issues and, above all, didn’t have the conscience to resign from his post when it was clear that his boss would go down in history as a deeply flawed president, in the company of Richard Nixon (without the international accomplishments) and Warren G. Harding. Instead, Gore stood by Clinton and forever blemished his public record by saying to the entire nation that Clinton would be remembered as one of the country’s greatest presidents ever.

What a sickening transformation of a once-decent person.

I’ve made it clear in this column the past 18 months that my preference for president in 2000 is Gov. Bush (or, in the unlikely event he’s not nominated, Sen. McCain). But if the country has an irrational streak on Election Day next November and chooses a Democrat I hope it’s Bradley.

The stench of Clinton has enveloped Gore and no drycleaning of his earth-tone suits, Hawaiian shirts or casual trousers will ever wash the muck away. Gore is a disgusting, evil man and I can only hope that voters repudiate him in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond.

Bradley’s health interruption of his campaign came after a particularly nasty week between the two candidates, with Gore lying about his rival’s tax plans. Bradley, like Gore, has not ruled out tax increases if the economy sours; such increases being a necessity for the Big Government entitlements both Democrats favor.
Bradley, finally showing some temper—which he’ll need against Dirty Tricks Gore—said in a statement from Cedar Rapids, IA: “In falsely asserting I want to raise taxes, Al Gore is once again turning an honest discussion about a future no one can predict into a proposal I’ve never made. Al Gore needs to respect voters enough to be honest not just about his plans, but mine. Honesty and trust is what they would like to have in a candidate and what they expect and deserve to have in a president.”

Gore has no shame. When Bradley’s campaign handed out fliers in New Hampshire last week, saying that the Vice President was guilty of “uncontrollable lying,” Gore told The Boston Globe: “I thought he was proposing a different kind of campaign, but this doesn’t even meet the minimal standards of civility.” Inexplicably, Doug Berman, Bradley’s chairman, apologized, saying, “This flier is not characteristic of Bill Bradley, nor the style in which he has run this campaign. I am confident it will not happen again.”

That’s the sort of acquiescence that contributes to a losing campaign. When you’re up against a man with no scruples like Gore, there’s no need to apologize for telling the truth. Gore has lied about Bradley’s plans for the country. That message shouldn’t have been confined to mere fliers in New Hampshire drugstores; it should be the guts of a television commercial. Let the voters know something about the real Al Gore.

When former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin endorsed him last week, Gore took the occasion to repeat his latest mantra about Bradley and taxes, saying his competitor’s plan “is if the economy ain’t broke, let’s break it.”

In Atlanta last Saturday, Gore, who supported (correctly, I think) the welfare reform bill that Clinton signed in ’96 that angered liberals, was a soul brother. He told an audience, according to the Times’ Katharine Seelye, who said the speech was “rife with biblical cadences”: “The other side is counting on blowing the roof off all of the election finance and breaking all the and records and lining up all of the special interests. Well, I can tell you that here in the South, we have the capacity to blow the roof off voter registration and turnout and grass-roots enthusiasm.”

And as in ’98, no doubt, tell lies about Republicans burning black churches.

I don’t agree with Bill Bradley’s politics, and I think that some of the compromises he’s had to make—like giving an audience to the fraudulent Al Sharpton—are unfortunate. But if Bradley’s aloof and elitist, he appears to be a decent man. About the only good news he received last week was an incredibly premature endorsement from The Seattle Times, which wrote, “Bradley calls up the best instincts of a Democratic Party that lost its way.”

But everyone knows that editorial writers in Seattle have their heads in the clouds. Paul Gigot’s column in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, which spelled out how dirty Gore can and will be, had the best take on this race that Bradley, especially now with the bogus health issue, is sure to lose. Gigot wrote: “Liberals supporting Bill Bradley are thus discovering the real price of their Faustian bargain with Clintonism. They defended the lying and lawbreaking in order to defeat the evil Republicans. But now they’re learning the same tactics can distort and demonize their ideas too.

“The Bradley agenda isn’t mine. But there’s something admirable about his attempt to reclaim the moral authority that liberalism has lost under Mr. Clinton. Like Ronald Reagan, whom he often cites, Mr. Bradley wants an honest campaign debate that would give him a mandate to govern. He’d have a better chance of winning if more liberals had denounced Clintonism while it was keeping them in power.”

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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©1999, Russ Smith