Sigh of the crook

Posted: Oct 05, 2000 12:00 AM
Apparently the key to being described as a masterful debater in modern America is to repeatedly heave loud sighs into your microphone whenever your opponent is speaking. It's getting increasingly embarrassing to keep hearing testimonials from Vice President Al Gore's personal friends and family members about how clever (and lifelike!) he is in private. We got another glimpse of him in the first presidential debate this week, and it's hard to miss what a creep he is.

Gore has so many odd tics and phony gestures that it's hard to pin down which trope it is that makes him seem so bizarre. He has progressed from speaking to us as if we're retarded, to speaking to us as if we're retarded and deaf. The same way gay men exaggerate feminine gestures, Al Gore exaggerates human gestures, wildly overarticulating his every syllable.

It's true you can't imagine Al Gore ever making a slip of the tongue, as George Bush sometimes does. But only for the same reason that you can't imagine the computer recording on a business answering machine making a slip of the tongue -- the difference being that a computer voice doesn't have the capacity to condescend to you like Al Gore does. Bush occasionally makes a slip of tongue because he's human.

In addition to the thunderous sighs, Gore constantly interrupted Bush to make "just one more point." Nut-mail always has this quality, with the "one more point" typically being written around the margin of the paper. Even the unflappable, phlegmatic Jim Lehrer started rolling his eyes at Gore's incessant interruptions.

Another oddity is that Gore is forever smiling at inappropriate moments. In a tedious monologue on campaign financing, he went from a deep, angry frown to a maniacal grin in the course of this single sentence -- "our system of government (frown, frown, frown) is being undermined by too much influence coming from (huge beaming smile!) special interests money." Neither the frown nor smile was consonant with his words. He's really strange.

I suppose it's possible for a peculiar freak of nature to make a good president, but Al Gore wouldn't. Though he did make it through the first debate without claiming to have invented anything or to have been the inspiration for any major motion pictures, Gore repeatedly wheeled out his promise to put Social Security in "an iron-clad lock box" where the politicians can't touch it. If Gore can invent a lock box politicians can't pick, he won't be stuck bragging about inventing that measly Internet anymore.

(Incidentally, I just found out what the plot of "Love Story" is, and I think it should have come as a surprise to no one that Tipper is depressed, since her husband's fantasy is that they are the couple who inspired a story in which the romantic crescendo consists of the woman dying.)

Gore accused Bush of using "code words" on abortion, even as he assiduously employed a code word for abortion. Gore has openly sworn to having his own litmus test for Supreme Court justices, assuring baby-killing enthusiasts that "the right to choose is fundamental. ... I vow to you that we will never let anyone take that right away."

Indeed, Gore has a whole slew of litmus tests up his sleeve. Last January, the vice president peremptorily announced his commitment to putting gays in the military saying: "I would insist before appointing anybody to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the individual fully support my policy (on gays in the military), and yes, I would make that a requirement." That would exclude a lot of people from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Gulf War heroes Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf.

Gore denounced Bush's tax plan for giving a tax cut to the "very richest" Americans, which is a little like opposing civil rights laws on the grounds that they'll mainly benefit blacks. The rich are the ones who pay taxes, so of course an across-the-board tax cut helps them the most. As soon as the poor start paying their fair share of the tax burden, they'll get a tax cut too.

Across-the-board benefits for the "very richest" Americans turns out to be a lot more appealing to Gore when it comes to his socialist "universal" plans for this and that. Bill Gates shouldn't have his taxes cut, but he should get free prescription drugs.

But as George Bush found out, if you quote the vice president back to himself ("no controlling legal authority"), or cite something he's done (the Buddhist temple fund-raiser), he will lash out at you for making personal attacks. Democrats think it's dirty politics to remember what happened yesterday. But a "personal" attack? That assumes a fact not in evidence.