Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean illustrates why Americans should be very grateful for the electoral college, which put George W. Bush in the White House even though Gore won the raw popular vote in 2000.
There is nothing constant about Al Gore.
Four years ago, when he could have picked Dean to be his running mate, Gore instead decided Sen. Joe Lieberman was the most qualified Democrat to be the stand-in president were Gore elected.
Now, Gore's a Dean man, and Lieberman didn't even rate a heads-up from Gore over the phone.
Gore's switch from picking a center-left Democrat to a far-left Dem says more about the erratic Gore than it does about Dean. As political consultant Garry South, who works for the Lieberman campaign, put it, "This would be similar to Bill Clinton in 2000 endorsing Bill Bradley'' -- who ran against Gore in the primary -- "and not notifying Gore he was going to do so until it was out in the press. How would Gore have felt?"
As soon as the story hit the airwaves, speculation followed: Gore backed Dean because he expects Dean to lose in November. And by endorsing Dean, who opposed the war in Iraq, Gore would be in a strong position to do battle with the Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who voted to authorize war with Iraq, if they face off in 2008.
The problem with such speculation is that it suggests that a calculated political strategy on the part of Gore. If only.
More likely, the move was all about ego. A Wednesday New York Times story chronicled how Dean courted Gore for a year, using the most effective strategy one can use to woe Gore: flattery. Dean frequently praised Gore; he called Gore for advice. Dean told reporters Gore "has given the two best speeches of his campaign" on Tuesday. So Dean played to Gore's pretense as an intellect.
Why not? It worked for writer Naomi Wolf, who wrote in George magazine about Gore's "nerd-visionary instinct" and said that "deep inside, he's a Blakean." Lo and behold, Team Gore later paid the experience-challenged Wolf $15,000 a month to be a campaign adviser.
Dean no doubt understood that Gore would not be bound by his past. The former veep has made a career of changing positions. He has jumped from being anti-abortion to pro-abortion rights, he segued from tobacco farmer to tobacco avenger, and he went from being an idealistic campaign reformer to a phone-call fund-raising maverick.