Maggie Gallagher
Poor Al Gore.

Here he is with a surging economy, a president at his beck and call, a kissable wife -- and that pesky challenger George W. Bush is now pulling ahead again in national polls.

How can voters be so ungrateful to the Human Pretzel who has bent so far over backward to be anything they asked?

Gore tries to convince us that character doesn't matter, that honor is just another word for the right five-point policy plan. In selling us this, he is telling us just how far the corruption of Clintonism has eaten into his own soul.

The essence of Clintonism, as a political strategy, is not moderation or triangulation. Its hallmark is the new operating code that the truth doesn't matter -- indeed, that it doesn't exist. Clintonism assumes that memory of most Americans for politics is so short that you can just tell the public anything polls say they want to hear. So what if you said something else yesterday? So what if you need to say something opposite tomorrow? Truths are made to be broken. As long as you sound right, in the moment, that is all that counts. If you can fool 51 percent of the people every four years, it's enough.

Before Clintonism, a politician who felt the need to change his abortion position for political reasons might say, for example, that he was now passionately pro-choice. A Clintonist like Gore simply asserts that he was always pro-life. Gore can shamelessly claim his drug benefits plan stops the "big drug companies" from "overcharging seniors" AND that his new plan won't impose price controls that depress new medical developments. Contradiction? No truth, no problem. His mother-in-law doesn't actually, really, truthfully pay more for her arthritis drug than the dog? Who cares about the facts; we're talking policy!

Before Clintonism, a vice president might be embarrassed to publicly call for a policy (releasing the strategic oil reserves) he had publicly rejected as useless a few months before. But even knowing the oil release will cause at the very most a temporary drop in prices doesn't stop Gore. Jeopardize long-term national interests for a temporary, short-term political gain? To a Clintonian, in October, it's a no-brainer.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.