Jewish World Review August 21, 2000 /20 Menachem-Av, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AT THE HEIGHT of the Democratic convention, at a moment when members of the audience were trying hard to work themselves into delirium, while the band was blaring and the signs were waving and the delegates were swaying, a very odd thing happened.
Not 50 feet from the podium where Al Gore and Joe Lieberman stood to address the throng, a Democratic official who shall remain nameless walked up and asked, "So who do you think is going to win in November?" Thinking that perhaps this was a subtle boast, I gave the same answer I have been giving for weeks, "Ask me in October."
Then the fellow shifted his weight from left foot to right, sighed and said, "Yes, it looks like we've got a 50/50 chance at best."
This is Al Gore's quandary. It's not that Democrats think he'll lose; it's that they're afraid he'll become the first person ever turned out of office in the midst of peace, prosperity and general contentment. There's a reason for this malaise: The party of FDR and JFK has become as spooked by Bill Clinton's political skills as the Republican opposition.
Even though Al Gore accepted the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles, the party still belongs to William Jefferson Clinton. People stomped and cheered and even cried when the Man from Hope sang a song of himself. The president performed the ultimate lap dance in his opening-night peroration. He strolled stageward with a hormonal Saturday Night Fever strut. He burst into the arena filled with light and sound and people, and did what he does best -- seducing and grinding and laughing and pausing and holding everyone in suspense for just one moment, one tantalizing titillating lingering moment longer. And then he left.
Democrats awoke Tuesday to a new world. While their heads still spun with memories of Bill, they began reconciling themselves to Al. They let the realization sink in, and rebelled.
Rep. Maxine Waters and members of the black caucus hauled Joe Lieberman in for a consultation. An hour and a half later, everyone was smiles -- because Lieberman had recanted his longstanding and well-documented opposition to racial preferences.
Meanwhile, back in New York, the Amsterdam News was running an editorial that accused Gore of selecting Lieberman for the money: "Jews from all over the world ... will be sending bundles of money. ... America is being sold to the highest bidder."
The very Democrats who blasted George W. Bush for speaking at Bob Jones University turned suddenly silent, afraid to condemn an anti-Semitic screed in a Harlem newspaper. Their voices failed them on the day devoted to depicting Al Gore as a "principled fighter."
Protesters also milled in the streets and parking lots of Los Angeles, muttering and hollering. Environmentalists groused about Occidental Petroleum and the U'wa Indians in Colombia. Labor leaders complained about free trade. And Democrats, with arms crossed and feet tapping impatiently, made a surprising and impudent demand. They insisted that Al Gore -- a lifelong Democrat, the son of a senator, a Washington fixture for 26 years -- prove his bona fides.
The Democratic presidential nominee got little help from his colleagues. Bill Clinton declined to share any warm and human reminiscences about his longtime lackey. Speaker after speaker recited Gore's resume, without a single warm or telling anecdote.
Clinton hangs over the proceedings like a stale fog, and so does a secret fear: Democrats are afraid they'll suffer cosmic judgment for their behavior during the impeachment imbroglio -- for brushing aside presidential perjury and ignoring evidence that in the past he may have committed far graver crimes, including rape. The party that wanted to punish Clarence Thomas for an alleged naughty joke refused to discipline a president accused of sexual predation.
Al Gore inherits a minefield. He must defend Clintonism without defending Clinton. He must appeal to the American public by waxing rhapsodic about peace and prosperity, while revving up liberal Democrats with talk that the apocalypse is at hand -- that the poor are poorer, the lame lamer, the stupid stupider, the wretched more wretched; that greed, avarice, poverty, want and despair loom at every turn. In trying to balance blue skies and black clouds, Democrats have produced what former Democratic imagemeister Pat Cadell calls "mush" -- a themeless muck.
Poor Gore. His courtship of Democrats is like a man's pursuit of a
beautiful woman. He has chased and chased. He has felt moments of ecstatic
success and crushing rejection. But after long and patient effort, he
finally has won the damsel's hand. He has slipped the ring over her finger,
only to be awakened on their first night together by the sound of her
thrashing about in her sleep -- crying out another man's