Thomas Sowell

It doesn't matter whether a candidate proclaims himself in favor of a middle-class tax cut or saving Social Security or paying down the national debt, if what he says is unreliable and wholly incompatible with his record. It doesn't matter how forcefully he comes out in favor of stronger campaign finance laws when he himself has violated such laws so flagrantly that three members of his own administration's Justice Department have urged the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to go after him.

A candidate can promise the moon to everyone, as Gore has done, but that tells you nothing about what he is actually going to do. By their fruits ye shall know them -- not by their rhetoric or their debater's glibness.

Gore's long political history is that of a big-government liberal. It is also that of a chameleon who changes positions with the convenience of the moment.

As a member of the House of Representatives from Tennessee, Al Gore blended in with his constituents' views by opposing abortion, gun control and gay rights. But, after he moved to the Senate and now had national political ambitions, he not only reversed himself on all three issues in order to blend in with the Democrats' national liberal constituency, he blithely denied that he had changed positions during a debate with Dan Quayle.

What Gore had said before and how he voted are all in the Congressional Record. But he knew that the television viewers did not have the Congressional Record in their homes. Like Clinton, Gore knows how to take advantage of the public's lack of knowledge.

We would have learned a lot more about both candidates from a one hour interview of each, one-on-one with an interviewer who knows enough to pin them down, than we learned from three staged sessions under restrictive rules. Bush would probably have come out even further ahead.

More important, so would the voters, who need to know the facts, not be dazzled by the spin.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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