As the media buzzed away about George W. Bush's hoary drunk-driving arrest, Al Gore offered three more reasons to run, not walk, to the polls to elect George W.
Reason One: You cannot believe a word he says. Recall that during a debate, when the subject of failing public schools arose, Bush said he would give the school a timetable to bring up scores and, if that failed, he would offer vouchers to parents to send their children elsewhere.
Gore responded that he preferred the model offered by North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt. "If it's a failing school, shut it down and reopen it under a new principal, with a turnaround team of specialists ..." Now skeptics might have wondered how the state would get around the teachers' unions to effect this "turnaround," since it is notoriously difficult to fire incompetent teachers. But don't go ask Hunt, because there is no such program. He has never shut down any school in North Carolina, though he did fire one principal once.
Reason Two: A few days ago, Bush said the following about his plan to permit younger workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in other vehicles: "This frightens some in Washington because they want the federal government controlling Social Security, like it's some kind of federal program. We understand differently though. You see, it's your money, not the government's money. You ought to be allowed to invest it as you see fit." It was clear to the audience, and to any fair-minded person, that Bush had simply misspoken. He was making the point he's made a thousand times (correctly) before -- that the money individuals pay in taxes originates with them, not with the government.
Gore knows that. But here's how he used it: "Do you want to entrust the Oval Office to somebody who doesn't even know that Social Security is a federal program? ... Four days before the election, and he doesn't even know that?"
That is beyond disingenuous; that is smarmy.
Reason Three: The DUI story. Now, it must be acknowledged that Bush erred by not revealing this episode himself months ago, when it would have been a 2 or 3-day story and then disappeared. But, there are six things to keep in mind when judging Bush.
1) The nation has learned a lot about drinking and driving since 1976, when it was -- though illegal -- still socially acceptable. All of us are indebted to Mothers Against Drunk Driving for changing our attitudes. But we must judge Bush's conduct by the standards prevailing then. 2) Bush did not attempt to pull rank with the arresting officer but was a "gentleman" who paid his fine and accepted his punishment. 3) He was stopped for driving too slowly, not for recklessness, which reveals a level of self-control, even under the influence, that is reassuring. 5) He has since stopped drinking completely. 6) He did not lie about it.
Regarding 6, there has been a great deal of huffing and puffing in the press. On nearly every occasion when he was asked about brushes with the law, Bush has been vague, saying he isn't proud of his youth, and so on. But one reporter recalls that he asked Bush if he had ever been arrested after 1968, and that Bush said "no." But here is what the reporter remembers -- after saying no, Bush also said "Well wait a minute, let's discuss this ..." at which point his press secretary rushed over and interrupted, pulling him away. While not exactly forthcoming, that impulse, to correct his statement, smacks of an underlying integrity -- not the ease with lying that this president and vice president demonstrate on a daily basis.
Gore has been insufferable throughout this small imbroglio for his pietistic refusal to comment on the DUI except to say that his campaign had nothing to do with springing it. Yet National Review is reporting that Tom Connelly, the Democratic activist who tipped off the reporter in Maine, is an acquaintance of Gore staffer Mark Fabiani. And Gore staffers have been gossiping for two weeks about a story that was about to blow.
Send Gore to Tennessee to fix his tenant's toilet. That's where his campaign has chosen to conclude.