Al can run -- but he can't hide

Posted: Aug 16, 2000 12:00 AM
If you ever doubted your instincts that the mainstream media's bias inhibited their analytical abilities, just remember their chorus warning of an impeachment backlash against Republicans. Most conservatives always knew that these predictions were counterintuitive at best and devoid of reality at worst. As successful as Clinton and his henchmen were in unconscionably demonizing Clinton's accusers, it never seemed very likely that such trumped-up charges would overshadow Clinton's wrongdoing. Unfortunately for the Democratic Party and Al Gore, they cast their lot with Bill Clinton when they wrapped themselves around his scandals instead of following the honorable example of Sen. Howard Baker and other Republicans during Watergate. As we prepare for the Democratic Convention, our attention is repeatedly drawn to the specter of Bill Clinton haunting every ounce of Gore's glory. Democratic leaders want you to believe, by the way, that the focus on Clinton is an artificial Republican construct -- that George Bush and Dick Cheney are trying, artificially, to saddle Gore and his party with "Clinton fatigue." I dare say that even if Republicans were completely mum about Clinton's contamination of the Democrats' electoral prospects, this phenomenon would continue to surge forward of its own irrepressible momentum. As this last week proved, Bill Clinton can't stand any appreciable time away from the limelight. He told Pastor Bill Hybels and a congregation of ministers in Chicago last week that he loves this job. Likewise, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Clinton "demonstrated an intense interest in all aspects of the campaign to succeed him." Unhappily for Al Gore, Hillary's high-profile candidacy ensures a daily national reminder of Clintonism, as well. It is common knowledge that Gore and his aides constantly complain about the president's actions. Gore himself is said to be "steamed" about the amount of money Bill and Hillary are raising and how much attention they are drawing. Democrats can run from Bill but they just can't hide. They are entwined in a symbiotic relationship because he saved the party and the party saved him. The latest Newsweek poll shows that 52 percent of the voters think that being tied too closely to Clinton's sex scandals is a serious problem for Gore's presidential campaign. Monday morning's newspapers illustrate the magnitude of Gore's Clinton-problem. In National Journal's Earlybird, the Clinton issue was screaming from almost every headline in their news digest under the section titled, "Not Handing Over the Torch Yet." Earlybird summarizes the major stories (paraphrased): Washington Post -- Clinton to speak tonight and lavish praise on Gore; Los Angeles Times -- In an interview Clinton dismissed as absurd Bush's charge that he deserves little credit for the economy; Chicago Sun-Times -- While Clinton busy fundraising in Los Angeles, Democrats fretting over task of shifting public's attention from Clinton's scandals to Gore's virtues; Associated Press -- Gore said he wouldn't hesitate to seek Clinton's counsel if he becomes president; New York Times -- Democrats to adopt platform that ties Gore to Clinton's legacy of centrist policies; Reuters -- Hillary under criticism for stealing Gore's thunder. A CNN/USA/Gallup poll taken after Gore tried to offset his character deficit with the selection of Joe Lieberman reveals that he's not going to be able to borrow someone else's integrity for the election. In fact, it appears that Gore's Lieberman pick has backfired, causing people to focus more on his Clinton connection rather than less. The poll shows that Gore hasn't gained on Bush, who still leads Gore by 16 points among likely voters, 55 percent to 39 percent in a four-way race. Nearly half of all likely voters say there is no chance whatsoever they would vote for Gore. Unfair, you say? Not really. Not when you understand that Gore didn't contract the Clinton virus vicariously, but by personally embracing his mentor's misdeeds -- and engaging in an abundance of his own. I'm not just referring to his complicity in the campaign finance scandals. National Journal's Carl Cannon tells us that Gore's greatest challenge concerning his convention speech is dispelling the "nagging suspicion" that "he's not always constrained by the facts." Fittingly, we turn our attention back to Bill again. Analysts say that the suspense over his convention speech centers on how and whether he will extricate Gore from being blamed for his affair. I'm afraid this is one political magic trick our presidential wizard just may not be able to pull off.