Al Gore has made his share of verbal gaffes. In 1993, he needed a curator to identify the bust of George Washington when he visited Monticello. The following year, he mistranslated "e pluribus unum," as "out of one, many." Just this week, Gore had to ask for help coming up with the word for "mammogram."
Big deal. You haven't read about those gaffes in this column because those miscues don't say anything about Gore, other than that he is human. Follow any man around with a microphone long enough and he's going to make his share of gaffes.
Why then has there been so much coverage of George W. Bush's malaprops?
Figure part of the reason is that Bush makes more verbal mistakes than Gore. Gail Sheehy, in the current "Vanity Fair," opines that Bush is dyslexic. Bush says that supposition is "foolish" and "fiction," and he probably knows himself better than Sheehy. Nonetheless, Sheehy makes a case for her argument. She also goes out of her way to make the point that if he is dyslexic, that does not mean that he is not intelligent.
That's more than many wags can say, as they sneer at Bush's malaprops. Calling Dubya dumb seems to be a national Democratic pastime. I receive e-mails every week from people, many of them not the most articulate beings on the planet themselves, who nonetheless describe the Texas governor as a veritable dimwit.
Or as MSNBC's Brian Williams put it to Bush this week, "How is it that somehow someone has taken the label 'lightweight' and pressed it on your chest?"
Again, Bush has to take some of the blame for his middling reputation in the smarts department. Bush frequently talks about his distaste for introspection. He is not a prolific reader of literature or weighty government reports. Also, Bush League got too cute on the debate debate. It's not that the debate commission is sacrosanct -- Team Bush had a right to challenge its choices. The problem is his campaign ended up looking as if Bush is afraid to debate Gore. This only made Gore seem more formidable and Bush appear less sure of his abilities.
Then there's Bush's pick of Dick Cheney to be his running mate. It's a major mistake that shouts out that Bush really didn't think the decision through as well as he should have. The Cheney choice lacked shrewdness -- and argues in favor of Bush being introspective lest he make similar impolitic choices should he be elected.
That said, Bush is not dumb. He's a Yale graduate. The Washington Post checked out the college transcripts of both Gore and Bush and found their grades to be similar -- and the media gush about how brainy Gore is. Bush also is a Harvard MBA graduate. He trained as an F-102 pilot, although stories are more likely to point out that he was a cheerleader at Andover. That resume alone should assure people that Bush has brains.
Add that Bush has been elected governor of Texas twice -- no small feat -- and won the GOP presidential nomination. Dumb people do not get this far.
At the GOP convention in Philadelphia, Bush demonstrated that he had the gray matter, and the vision, to transform the image of the Republican Party from that of a club for the disgruntled, to that of an organization of hope and inclusion. The media were cynical. It was an uphill climb, yet he made it to the top of the mountain.
The Bush record -- in Philly, as a pilot, as a successful campaigner -- won't stop the Dems from trying to turn Son of Bush into Son of Quayle. The White House is at stake. Besides, the left loves to paint the Right as simpleminded. And if they have to be simpleminded to pull it off, well, that's show business.