WASHINGTON -- Now that George W. Bush and Albert A. Gore have had their "Bash in Beantown," and Dick and Joe have had their "Clash in Kentucky" -- who, but those of us paid to do so, will bother watching next week's face-off at Wake Forest University? On Thursday, Dick Cheney's dry wit and Joe Lieberman's bonhomie were entertaining. But if the Nielson Media Research numbers from these first two encounters are any indication, FOX's new sci-fi series, "Dark Angel," may out-draw the next matchup between the candidates for president. Why? Because the FOX fantasy is more believable than debate "costar" Al Gore.
If Vice President Pinocchio wants people to pay attention to his next condescending, mind-numbing recitation of numbers, statistics, budget data and financial figures, he'd better get someone to coach him on how to tell the truth. It would also be helpful if Prince Albert the Arrogant got some kind of treatment for his physical problems. His rolling eyeballs, smirking sighs, guttural groans and throaty moans make everyone wonder if this is the guy we want negotiating with OPEC on the cost of oil next year. He sounded like the uncle he now claims was poison-gassed in World War I. Is the Veep short of breath? Did he spring a leak? Does the guy need oxygen? Let's see his medical records.
Whatever Al Gore's physical maladies, they pale by comparison to his biggest problem: He just can't tell the truth. The man he wants to replace apparently had (or has?) a compulsive desire for women other than his wife. And Al Gore evidently has an equally compulsive desire to embellish his curriculum vitae, to create fabrications where facts would do, and to misrepresent matters that are so easily disproved, by even the most cursory examination of the facts.
Why does he do it? Why did Al Gore look right into the camera on Tuesday night in Boston and repeatedly create fictions? After years of psychobabble about Bill Clinton's pathologies and whatever it is that "made him do it," why does Al Gore invite similar scrutiny? And why, after what the nation has been through with William the Impeached, is the so-called mainstream media so willing to let Al Gore shrug off his blatant falsehoods?
When Gov. Bush magnanimously complimented the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for its handling of fires that swept through Parker County, Texas, in June 1998, the Veep eagerly lied: "I accompanied (FEMA Director) James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires broke out." But the truth, quickly checked, shows that Gore never traveled to Texas with James Lee Witt. He did travel to Texas in late June, after the fires were mostly out -- but went for a Texas Democratic Party event, not to inspect fire damage.
Gore went on to tell a moving, but bogus story about a schoolgirl in Sarasota, Fla. -- Kaylie Ellis -- whose classroom was so crowded that, "They can't squeeze another desk in for her, so she has to stand during class," Gore asserted. That, too, was a lie. The truth came out the next morning when the principal of Sarasota High School, Dan Kennedy, told Florida's WFLA radio that Prince Albert the Fabricator had been "misleading" because "we don't have any students standing in class, and we have more than enough desks for all our students." In fact, the room had been crowded because it was being refurbished and was packed with $100,000 worth of yet-to-be-unpacked new equipment.
In another Florida fiction, Gore claimed, "I went to a school in Dade County, Fla., where the facilities are so overcrowded the children have to eat lunch in shifts, with the first shift for lunch starting at 9:30 in the morning." But Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, the principal at the Lillie C. Evans Elementary School, an avowed Democrat says, "My school has never, ever had lunch start that early and I don't know of any other school in the country that does."
When reporters poke into these prevarications and point them out to the man who would be president of the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, what does he say? "I may have mis-spoken, but the real issue here is whether the top 1 percent of income earners will get a risky tax break." Give me a break!
Until the Boston debate, the Big Questions were: "Is Al Gore 'likeable enough' to be president?" and, "Is George Bush smart enough to be president?" We now know the answers to both queries: No and yes -- in that order. But now, thanks to his own prevarication, dissembling and deceit, the most important question is, "Mr. Gore, can we trust you enough to make you president?" Thus far, the only thing the Veep has proven to us is that he lacks the integrity needed to sit in the Oval Office. The bright youngsters who created the slogan "It's the Economy, Stupid!" had better tell Al Gore the new motto for this campaign: "It's the Veracity, Stupid!"