10/6/2000 12:00:00 AM - Mona Charen
Everyone knows that Al Gore's biggest problem is a tendency to lie, which is why his resort to lies in the first debate is almost creepy. For several weeks, the news has been full of Gore's little exaggerations and fibs. One would have thought that if he had one goal, it would be to avoid any additional lies.
But he couldn't resist.
Right out the box, when asked about a direct quote in which he had questioned Bush's qualifications to be president, he denied that he had ever said it. Well, as they say in the movies, you can look it up. If he hesitated to repeat this in front of a national audience lest he look churlish, there were other options. He could have said: "If I conveyed doubts about Mr. Bush's qualifications then I may have been imprecise. What I really contest are his proposals." But Gore chose dishonesty. The resemblance to his mentor, Bill Clinton, is uncanny.
George W. Bush, in a magnanimous moment, offered a bit of praise for the Clinton/Gore administration, noting that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had done a fine job during the fires and floods Texas has recently endured. Unable to muster a gracious response, Gore basically seconded Bush's praise of his own administration and amplified it to be sure everyone caught his role "... FEMA has been a major flagship of our reinventing government efforts, and I agree it works extremely well now." But not even that bit of self-inflation could satisfy the egomania of our vice president. He then added, "I accompanied James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires broke out."
Well, no he didn't. Gore is a solipsist: Everything and everyone is interesting only insofar as it relates to Himself. If he wasn't there, it couldn't have been important. But it clearly was important, so he had to be there! Al Gore is the Zelig of modern politics, painting himself into pictures of which he was no part. He invented the Internet, co-sponsored McCain/Feingold, discovered Love Canal, faced danger in Vietnam, rocked to sleep as a babe to music written when he was an adult and authored the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. He now claims that he legitimately read in a newspaper article that he was the model for Erich Segal's tearjerker s"Love Story." Baloney. People know this sort of thing. Segal has even gone public saying that Gore was not his model.
In addition to forever exaggerating his own accomplishments, Gore has the repellent habit of always assuming the worst about you. He has worked mightily with debate coaches and image-meisters to tone down his monumental condescension, but he still cannot quite shake it. That was the root of his recent gaffe regarding prescription drug prices for mothers-in-law and dogs. He had seen a Democratic Party handout claiming that veterinary medicines are cheaper than those for humans. But instead of simply relaying this information (actually, it's propaganda and it's not true) to voters, Mr. Brilliant felt that it might be too hard for their weak minds. He figured he'd better personalize the story for them. And so he claimed that his mother in law
and his dog
were taking the same medicine and paying very different amounts.
That same Let Me Simplify This For You mindset was at work in the debate over and over again, but he got caught when he used little Kailey Ellis as the symbol of overcrowded, underfunded public schools. The day he visited, Kailey had to stand in science class for a few minutes until someone got her a lab chair. Gore did not inquire about the facts. He grabbed Kailey's name and ran. Later, we learned that it was one of the first days of school in one of the wealthiest districts in Florida, that Kailey was standing because they were unloading $100,000.00 worth of new equipment and that she was given a desk the following day.
Here's a deal that might satisfy voters and might prove even more remunerative than Mr. Bush's tax cut plan -- have Mr. Gore give taxpayers back one dollar for every lie he tells.