Ross Mackenzie

All's fair in love and war - and politics.

The teeming multitudes who have been dreaming about how good things would be if the 2000 presidential election had gone the other way can wake up now: Al Gore is back.

This is the guy who told us that he and Tipper were the prototypes for "Love Story" despite denials by author Erich Segal, and that he invented the Internet - remember? Currently, he is trying to set up a liberal network to counter Fox News, evidently not understanding that liberalism is the ideological diet on which all the other networks feed.

So on Tuesday, in Harlem and Iowa, there was long-haired Alpha Al (these days he's evidently seeking to present as an intellectual, and never mind that he couldn't make it through Harvard Divinity School), signifying for Howard Dean.

That may seem incongruous, the ultimate inside-the-Beltwayist endorsing the ultimate outsider - verily, a candidate who has made his way thus far from Vermont blasting precisely the Establishment Gore paradigmatically represents. It all invites the mind to recall the Berenstain Bears book, "Inside, Outside, Upside Down."

And now all the endlessly knowing anchorpersons and news bunnies, who knew Howard Dean would be the first Democratic presidential wannabe to bite the dust, are intoning that the Gore endorsement seals Dean's nomination.

That is not quite right.

Rather than securing Dean's nomination, Gore's endorsement confirms the obvious - that Dean will be the nominee. (What's more, the Internet conspiracy theorists will have a wild time of it, because Dean apparently has been cultivating Gore by phone for months - the Gore endorsement apparently a done deal for several weeks.) If Dean were not loping ahead of the Democratic pack in fund-raising, and were he not rocking in the polls (ahead by 30 points in New Hampshire alone), Al Gore would not be out there endorsing him.

The Gore endorsement tells us a number of other things: (1) that Gore is showing his own true leftism as a man uninterested in even Democratic moderation; (2) that three years ago he picked Joe Lieberman to be his running-mate because he needed on the ticket not only a geographical but an ideological counterpoise; (3) that ideological simpatico (with Dean) is ultimately more important to him than loyalty (to Lieberman, who waited for Gore to decide not to run before declaring his own candidacy);

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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