Back in March, Gore said to Larry King: "Would you be willing to host one of the first debates, Larry?" When King assented, Gore blurted out, "Well I accept, I accept." Then in July, Gore said to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press": "I've accepted for two or three months now your invitation to debate on this program. Have you gotten a yes from Governor Bush yet?"
Somehow all this schoolyard bravado left George W. Bush with the impression that: 1) Gore was willing to debate "anytime, anyplace, anywhere"; and 2) Gore considered "Meet the Press" and "Larry King Live" appropriate forums for debate.
Bush proposed a debate on "Meet the Press," "Larry King Live," and one of those ninny "bipartisan presidential debate commission" debates, where earnest local reporters ask the candidates if they support the current funding formulas for Title X programs.
Gore backed down and refused to debate Bush on "Meet the Press" or "Larry King Live." The media consensus is Bush made an ass of himself.
After the Senate debate earlier this week between Rep. Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton, I think we at least know why Gore might want to steer clear of Tim Russert. (Though his apprehension about Larry King remains a baffler.) It's not that Russert would be politically biased against Gore: Russert is a Democrat; he got his start in politics working for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
But Russert is a trenchant interrogator, particularly when it comes to exposing mendacity, double-dealing and fraud. Consequently, this year's Democratic candidates react to Russert like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist" facing a crucifix. Hillary Clinton has refused repeated requests to go on "Meet the Press," and Gore backed out of his phony offer to debate "anytime, anyplace, anywhere" the moment Bush proposed "Meet the Press" as a forum.