WASHINGTON -- Be polite! Al Gore thinks he is president-elect. Last weekend, there was that weird story that the Democrats planted throughout the media that over at his felicitously sited official residence, the Naval Observatory, Gore believes he won the state of Florida. The intensity of his belief was stressed. Apparently it was stressed to impress the American people, but to what effect? Frankly even now I am not clear at this point what the Democrats had in mind with this planted story.
Give it some thought. The presidential count as of Nov. 7 gave the Florida election to George W. Bush. The machine recount gave it to Bush. The hand recount seemed to be giving it to Bush. Even with the Democratic hand-counters conjuring up meaning from "dimpled chads," Bush remained ahead. Still, according to the press story, Bill Clinton's hand-picked successor was sitting forlornly on the grounds of the Naval Observatory, surrounded by family and friends believing with the intensity of a cult. Perhaps a member of the reverend clergy was nearby and what we now call health-care professionals. You know, a fellow in a long white coat with a big, thick syringe of joy juice.
Yet all we really know is that Gore was sitting there, believing like mad. Perhaps it was the consequence of something he perceived in the stars up there above the Naval Observatory.
Well, as the heirs to Sigmund Freud would say, "If it's true for you, Al, it's true for you." On television he cautioned the American people to be patient. He believes he is president-elect. Next he may believe he is president, and after that he may be howling that he is Abraham Lincoln. If he calls in his generals, this could become serious.
In the last century, impeachment followed civil war. The Clinton-Gore crowd has a way of turning American history on its head. This time they seem to envisage impeachment as preceding civil war. In keeping with their sybaritic ways, this war will be waged in Florida, one of America's most popular vacationlands. In keeping with their arrested adolescence, it will be waged near Disney World. Fort Sumter and Gettysburg will be replaced by Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach.
What has impressed me about Campaign 2000 is that, though certain oddities about Gore's relationship with the truth have been remarked upon, almost no one has remarked on this slab of a man's weirdness. He is another of those weird narcissistic politicians who can lie without sweating. Nixon lied, but he perspired profusely. Gore lies without sweat, and he is carrying out this bizarre routine from the Naval Observatory as though it were perfectly normal. Remember all the jokes about Nixon insisting, "I am the president"? The comics had a grand time joking about his insecurity or his amazement at being president. Yet Nixon actually was president. Gore is not even president-elect.
He is delusional, and few in the press seem to have noticed. Can you imagine their mirth if Gov. George W. Bush acted so weirdly? And consider Gore's loyal sidekick, Sen. Joe Lieberman: Is he too not just a little weird? As he patters about ably assisting his boss's delusions, he is the perfect Sancho Panza to this risible Don Quixote.
Yet not all the Democrats are flafla. The congressional tag team of Daschle-Gephardt is serious. When they spread the rumors of how intently Gore believes in his cause they are not delusional. They have a goal.
Their goal in encouraging Gore and encouraging all the legal challenges to Bush is to delegitimatize Bush. They want to make the very existence of the Bush presidency seem to be a scandal or an injustice brought down on the American people. In the months ahead they will raise searing objections to every undertaking the Bush administration attempts. The confirmation hearings of Bob Bork and Clarence Thomas will seem to have been social events of Victorian grace next to the hell these fellows will create for Bush nominees. Every other Bush nomination, no matter how minor, will be raised to the level of crisis.
Then the Democrats' scorched-earth brigade sees itself winning Congress in 2002 and the White House in 2004. There is only one thing wrong with this scenario. They do not believe in anything beyond maintaining office. They have no unique principles or policies. What policies they do have that possess any attraction to the American people are Republican policies.
Can a political party come to power driven solely by the will to power? Can it win the hearts of the American electorate after displaying such ruthlessness? We shall see.
In the meantime, enjoy the Gore spectacle. Don Quixote was a comic masterpiece.