Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean illustrates why Americans should be very grateful for the electoral college, which put George W. Bush in the White House even though Gore won the raw popular vote in 2000.
There is nothing constant about Al Gore.
Four years ago, when he could have picked Dean to be his running mate, Gore instead decided Sen. Joe Lieberman was the most qualified Democrat to be the stand-in president were Gore elected.
Now, Gore's a Dean man, and Lieberman didn't even rate a heads-up from Gore over the phone.
Gore's switch from picking a center-left Democrat to a far-left Dem says more about the erratic Gore than it does about Dean. As political consultant Garry South, who works for the Lieberman campaign, put it, "This would be similar to Bill Clinton in 2000 endorsing Bill Bradley'' -- who ran against Gore in the primary -- "and not notifying Gore he was going to do so until it was out in the press. How would Gore have felt?"
As soon as the story hit the airwaves, speculation followed: Gore backed Dean because he expects Dean to lose in November. And by endorsing Dean, who opposed the war in Iraq, Gore would be in a strong position to do battle with the Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who voted to authorize war with Iraq, if they face off in 2008.
The problem with such speculation is that it suggests that a calculated political strategy on the part of Gore. If only.
More likely, the move was all about ego. A Wednesday New York Times story chronicled how Dean courted Gore for a year, using the most effective strategy one can use to woe Gore: flattery. Dean frequently praised Gore; he called Gore for advice. Dean told reporters Gore "has given the two best speeches of his campaign" on Tuesday. So Dean played to Gore's pretense as an intellect.
Why not? It worked for writer Naomi Wolf, who wrote in George magazine about Gore's "nerd-visionary instinct" and said that "deep inside, he's a Blakean." Lo and behold, Team Gore later paid the experience-challenged Wolf $15,000 a month to be a campaign adviser.
Dean no doubt understood that Gore would not be bound by his past. The former veep has made a career of changing positions. He has jumped from being anti-abortion to pro-abortion rights, he segued from tobacco farmer to tobacco avenger, and he went from being an idealistic campaign reformer to a phone-call fund-raising maverick.
Besides, Gore has a history of burning bridges after he loses. After he lost his first bid for the White House in 1988, Gore faulted his pollsters and handlers, and pledged to listen to his inner voice. Since 2000, Gore again has pledged to be less political and more authentic. In 2002, the New New Al Gore promised to just "let it rip."
He let it rip all right.
Gore had no problem picking up the telephone to dial for dollars from the White House during the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign. But when it came to engaging in the simple courtesy of calling Lieberman to give him a heads-up, Gore was a hang-up.
A thinking man should at the very least have anticipated that the press would ask if the call had been made and known that Gore would look bad if it hadn't. So the question is: Was the New New Al Gore so squeamish about calling Lieberman that he wouldn't make the call? Or is Joe Lieberman 2000, like the old Al Gore, such old news that the New New Al Gore forgot him?