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Jewish World Review August 21, 2000/ 20 Menachem-Av, 5760

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Clinton chickens on
AlGore's roost -- LOS ANGELES | A lot of chickens that have been fluttering over the landscape, looking for a place to roost, found the Staples Center Thursday night.

As hard as he tries, Al Gore just can't get out of the shadow of Bill Clinton, the scandals, the investigation, the reach of grand juries.

News of the latest sensation, that Robert Ray, the special prosecutor who succeeded Kenneth Starr, has impaneled a new grand jury to consider whether the president should be indicted for perjury, for lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky in the trial of Paula Jones' lawsuit against him.

Impaneling of the grand jury, which was sworn in July 11 and learned about only Thursday when Pete Yost of the Associated Press found out about it, does not mean that the president will actually be indicted. But it does mean that Bill Clinton continues to make Al Gore's life miserable.

The veep tried hard last night not to show his anger and misery, but the delegates and particularly the reporters, pundits and other scandal-watchers following his speech off the floor of the convention hall, measured every word of the speech, however innocently it might have been written, against the news from Washington.

"We're entering a new time. We're electing a new president. And I stand here tonight as my own man, and I want you to know me for who I truly am."

No doubt he does, but easier said, after these past eight years, than done. The poor guy shares the mark of the beast, and all his rubbing and scrubbing seems not to have any good effect at all.

The Democrats, predictably, were furious. "It's probably just another dirty trick," said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York. Said Jake Stewart, a White House spokesman: "The timing of this leak reeks to high heaven." Even George W., who has kept a discreet silence all week (unlike the president, who picked a fight with George W.'s daddy during the Republican convention in Philadelphia), felt he had to say something. He sent out Karen Hughes, his press spokeswoman to say that it wasn't "appropriate" for this "announcement" to be made on the day that Al Gore accepts his party's nomination.

But it wasn't an announcement. The story broke because a reporter smoked it out, and that's because smoking out stories is what reporters do. The White House crew, masters of smoke and spin, know that better than everyone else, and have practiced the dark arts of smoke and spin for nearly a decade.

Al Gore cannot have been surprised. He knows better than anyone the depth of the mud around Bill Clinton's ankles, and he knows that some of it will stick to him no matter what he does, or how eloquent his speeches may be.

That's why Joe Lieberman was brought in, to try to confer a little innocence by association.

Mr. Lieberman has helped some, but not nearly as much as the Democrats hoped. They were counting on a "convention bounce" in the polls to shave a few points off George W.'s 10- to 15-point lead, and horror of horrors, the bounce in the first two days of the convention went not to Al but to George W.

The Lieberman nomination, a gimmick much like Walter Mondale's selection of Geraldine Ferraro two decades ago, may in fact turn out to be a negative. The Gore forces quelled an incipient revolt by black delegates here, but they did it with aspirin and this may be something more severe than an aspirin headache. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, for example, is continuing to talk more about the difficulties he's having with his own conscience than with his mouth. It's usually the other way around.

The Gore disease is that the more the public sees of him the less they like him, and so far the more the public has seen of George W. they more they like him. The Lieberman selection exacerbated this problem. The Republicans in Philadelphia liked Dick Cheney, who united the party. Joe Lieberman divided Democrats, and his renunciation of a lot of what he secretly believes in has hardly seemed to change that.

The Democrats leave Los Angeles much in the mood of the Republicans when they left San Diego four years ago.

They got to town wanting reassurance and they're leaving with doubts, and worse. Some of them are even beginning to think the unthinkable, that it might not even be close.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


08/16/00: The long goodbye to California's cash
08/09/00: Innocence by proxy is a risky scheme
08/07/00: After insulin shock, an authentic rouser
08/02/00: When it gets hard not to get a little giddy
07/31/00: George W.'s legions of summer soldiers
07/26/00: He's set a surprise --- or a trap for himself
07/24/00: How do you serve a turkey in August?
07/19/00: Would Hillary sling a lie about a slur?
07/17/00: Process, not peace, at a Velveeta summit
07/12/00: The Texas two-step, a nudge and a wink
07/10/00: The Great Mentioner and his busy season
07/05/00: No Mexican standoff in these results
07/03/00: Denting a few egos in the U.S. Senate
06/28/00: Bureaucracy amok! Punctuation in peril!
06/26/00: The water torture of American resolve
06/21/00: The happy hangman is a busy hangman
06/19/00: Dick Gephardt finds a Dixie dreamboat
06/14/00: Taking a byte out of innovation
06/12/00: 'Go away, little boy, you're bothering us'
06/07/00: When a little envy is painful to watch
06/05/00: Fire and thunder, bubble and squeak
05/31/00: South of the border, politics is pepper
05/26/00: Running out of luck with home folks
05/24/00: The heart says no, but the head says yes
05/22/00: A fine opportunity to set an example
05/17/00: The Sunday school for Republicans
05/15/00: Hillary's surrogate for telling tall tales
05/10/00: Listening to the voice of an authentic man
05/08/00: First a lot of bluster, then the retreat
05/02/00: Good news for Rudy, bad news for Hillary
04/28/00: The long goodbye to Elian's boyhood
04/25/00: Spooked by Castro, Bubba blinks
04/14/00: One flag down and two memorials to go
04/11/00: Consistency finds a jewel in Janet Reno
04/07/00: Here's the good word (and it's in English)
04/04/00: When bureaucrats mock the courts
03/28/00: How Hollywood sets the virtual table
03/24/00: Dissing a president can ruin a whole day
03/20/00: When shame begets the painful insult
03/14/00: The risky business of making an apology
03/10/00: The pouters bugging a weary John McCain
03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden