Gore's 'Nam flashbacks

Posted: Oct 30, 2000 12:00 AM
Demonstrating the same nauseating capacity for exaggeration he now exhibits with wild abandon, when Al Gore was in Vietnam he wrote one of his friends: "When and if I get home ... I'm going to divinity school to atone for my sins."

Presumably Gore wrote this while out from under the protective glare of his bodyguard.

During his tour of Vietnam, the senator's son was assigned a series of bodyguards whose mission it was to ensure that Gore's war injuries would be limited to any paper cuts he might sustain while filing his illiterate scribblings for the Stars and Stripes.

Though Gore's flacks insist that there is "no evidence" Gore noticed anything usual about having a Man Friday serving him mint juleps in wartime, somehow Gore did screw up the courage after only three months of this horror to raise his hand and ask to go home. (The Army grants requests like that all the time: "Can I go home now?")

If Gore didn't know, he was alone in his ignorance. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, soldiers (the ones without bodyguards) used to taunt Little Lord Fauntleroy about his privileged treatment.

Unlike so many Vietnam veterans, the vice president has managed to emerge from his war trauma and open up with the media about the experience. He told Vanity Fair magazine: "I took my turn regularly on the perimeter in these little firebases out in the boonies. Something would move, we'd fire first and ask questions later." He informed The Washington Post: "I was shot at. I spent most of my time in the field." He told The Baltimore Sun: "I carried an M-16" and "I was fired upon."

In point of fact, Gore was never shot at, and never fired a shot in anger. His weapons of choice were white-out and a typewriter ribbon, not an M-16. Though the Los Angeles Times broke the bodyguard story about a year ago, the adversary press never really leapt on it. The Times article was pretty spectacular, citing a number of Gore's fellow servicemen who said that they "were assigned to make sure this son of a prominent politician was never injured in the war."

But then a Gore supporter ("reporter," for short) quickly got one such Man Friday on the record admitting that he was technically called Gore's "security escort" -- not his "bodyguard." That ended the media's interest in the story.

Since then, Gore has felt no compunction about running campaign ads brimming over with photos of GI Al with his prop backpack and M-16. (The bodyguards have been airbrushed out.)

Pointedly alluding to his opponent, Gore shamelessly boasts: "When I graduated from college, there were plenty of fancy ways to get out of going and being a part of that." Not him, though, no sir. He went to Vietnam because: "I knew if I didn't, somebody else in the small town of Carthage, Tenn., would have to go in my place."

No, actually. Gore did get one of those fancy deals. It was just a lot fancier than most boys can get -- especially any other boy from Carthage.

The only difference between Gore and Clinton is that Gore had a way out. If Clinton could have worked out a scam like that he'd surely have gone, too. In fact, this is just the sort of package that would have appealed to Clinton. He could have preserved his "political viability" and his precious little neck at the same time. With all the hookers, he might not even have asked to go home early.

While Brave Al soldiered his rifle and took off for the Saigon Marriot in calculated gambit to help out dad's faltering re-election bid, George W. Bush was climbing into fighter jets and taking off at the speed of sound. Though the National Guard service during the Vietnam War has gotten a bad reputation, Bush was in the Air National Guard. He was a fighter pilot, flying F-102s.

If Al Gore -- or any member of the adversary press now sneering at George Bush's service with the Air National Guard -- ever took off in an F-102, they wouldn't be able to relieve themselves for two weeks. Even in peacetime, fighter pilots routinely lose more comrades than wartime engineers -- to say nothing of Army journalists.

Still, Gore drones on about his fictitious combat experience and taunts his opponent -- who was surely in greater physical peril. Can you imagine a Republican trying to get away with this? Though Gore was allegedly unaware of the special treatment he received back in Vietnam, the privileged Little Lord Fauntleroy is fully aware that the adversary press is about as likely to take a shot at him now as the Viet Cong were back then.