Los Angeles -- The post-Clinton era is finally underway! Oh sure, we all know that our beloved leader is going to be in office for another five long months, but here in Los Angeles, at the Democrats' painfully-boring "America 2000" Convention, it was clear that even William the Impeached finally realized that the time had come to depart center stage. And as happy as that prospect makes Republicans, Bill Clinton stepping out of the spotlight makes his protege, Al Gore, positively giddy.
Unfortunately for Al and his running mate, Joe Lieberman, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton refuse to go quietly into the night. For days before their "highly emotional farewell" and "passing of the torch," the Clintons did a series of big-bucks "his" and "hers" Tinseltown fundraisers. Hillary was collecting cash for her New York Senate campaign, while her soon-to-be disbarred husband hit up Hollywood's deepest pockets to finance the mother of all presidential libraries. The Clintons' hard currency binge should help fuel Hillary's fight against Rick Lazio in New York, and allow their Little Rock memorial to rival Saddam Hussein's palaces. If the Clintons had spent one more minute sucking the cash out of Glitter City, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman might have had to go together to Temple -- a Buddhist Temple.
But it wasn't just the greedy spotlight-seeking, cash-collecting antics of Bill and Hillary that set back the Gore-Lieberman cause this week. When the presidential nominee of a party is honored at his convention, he is -- or at least he should be -- the political equivalent of a bride on her wedding day, insofar as he is the sole recipient of all the attention; woe to the groom, mother-in-law, or drunken uncle who steals the limelight. But here in the City of Angels, the kooky relatives of the Democratic Party were more than willing to parade themselves before the television cameras, corporate lobbyists and Democrat donors, regardless of the consequences to Al Gore.
Talk about diversity! There were labor activists, anarchists, abortion-rights supporters, anti-WTO dissenters and Ozone Man's former allies in the radical environmental movement -- all distressed that Prince Albert the Anointed hasn't done enough to support their respective causes -- doing their best to disrupt the Democrats' big bash. In one of the few spontaneous events of the week, PETA protesters, replete in pig suits, dumped 10 tons of manure in front of the Wilshire Grand Hotel, the local headquarters for the Democratic National Committee.
None of this was necessarily unexpected from the radical special interest groups that gathered to "Rage Against The Machine" while taking in music provided by the rap-metal group with the same name. And surely the much-maligned Los Angeles Police Department deserves credit for their restraint in controlling the large, often unruly crowd. But all of this was a sideshow for the real struggle at this convention: Al Gore's oft futile effort to break out of the shadow of his manipulative mentor. He seemed to be thwarted at almost every turn.
First, it was the insubordination of Loretta Sanchez, a relatively unknown second-term congresswoman. Her ultimately-cancelled fundraiser at the notorious Playboy mansion -- home to major Democrat donor Hugh Hefner and his cornucopia of concubines -- was the center of a well-publicized, week-long saga. Gore, desperate to distance himself from the sordid antics of Wild William, begged Sanchez, the vice-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, to move her moneymaker from the Palace of Porn. By the time Prince Albert the Weak finally coerced her into moving the event to another venue, the very public Gore-Sanchez squabble didn't just keep the Democrats from conveying their message; it was the message.
On Monday, the Clintons took over the hall -- not to pump up Al and Joe's campaign, but their own causes instead. Mrs. Clinton's self-serving, prime-time admonition that it really does "take a village" was covered by every network -- a favor not accorded Laura Bush two weeks prior. Then, our beloved leader did his surreal WWF pimp-roll into the arena, not to talk about what Al Gore would do in the future, but about what he, Bill Clinton, had done to fulfill his own campaign slogan: "It's The Economy, Stupid." During the course of his blessedly brief 40 minute speech, Clinton talked about himself for 32 minutes and Al Gore for barely seven. Joe Lieberman, who had once declared Mr. Clinton's behavior to be "immoral," barely got honorable mention.
By the time the balloons and confetti dropped on Al Gore Thursday night -- after he had made more promises than any mortal could possibly keep -- the glitter was gone from L.A. On Tuesday, when Sen. Ted Kenedy and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg tried to recreate the magic of Camelot and Jesse Jackson made an impassioned plea for the liberal cause, the overnight polls plummeted for Gore. Joe Lieberman tried to morph himself into an attack dog for his failing ticket, but still wisely continues to run for his safe Senate seat in Connecticut. By the time it was all over, it was clear that Al Gore needed more help than he was given. He needed a miracle, which the City of Angels did not provide.