Gore's conceit masks inevitable defeat

Posted: Jul 03, 2002 12:00 AM
We now know that barring the unforeseen, nothing will stop the USS Gore from dashing itself on the rocks of historic electoral defeat, again. The final indication was the public declaration from his wife, Tipper, that she wanted Al to run for president, again. Gore-watchers had always said he wouldn't run unless his wife let him. And, with that spousal fatwah in his pocket, Gore recently convened a closed-door meeting with his most devoted supporters, informing them that "If I had to do this all over again, I'd just let it rip. To hell with the polls, tactics and all the rest. I would have poured out my heart and my vision for America's future." Gore went on to explain, in the words of the Chicago Tribune, that he'd been "too scripted, too conflicted and too tightly controlled. And if he takes another run at the White House, he vowed, his own instincts will be his guide." How sad. Al Gore actually believes that he lost the 2000 election because people didn't know him well enough. I don't think anyone who heard Gore scream about the "protecting the people over the powerful" felt that he lacked passion. Rather people lacked passion for him. Perhaps he feels if he'd only French-kissed his wife in public more often, people would have realized what a normal guy he is. This arrogant confusion is common among politicians. You see, out of necessity, their egos are so massive they can actually bend light. This distortion, in what sci-fi mavens call the space-time continuum, causes politicians to think that they would never have any trouble if the voters could get to know them better. The logic works something like this: I am the most wonderful, intelligent and humble person in American life today, therefore if the people think I'm an indecipherable pod-person it must be because the lines of communication broke down somewhere. And, to be fair, sometimes this might be an accurate analysis. Especially in the days before television and radio, when politicians had to either show up someplace in person or else rely entirely on accounts by newspaper journalists, you can imagine instances where the "real" candidate might have been hidden from the voters. But this explanation just doesn't work for Gore. First, for all the fuss over the Florida recount, there's no disputing that Gore lost the one state where voters knew him best: his home state of Tennessee. Secondly, during the campaign Gore's poll numbers tended to climb when he was out of public view and plummet when people were reminded that the Democratic nominee was actually Al Gore. This trend continues today. According to the latest poll, by Bloomberg News, President Bush leads Gore by more than 20 points, 56 to 32. According to The New York Times, Gore's backers prefer to cite a poll saying Gore's positive-to-negative rating among Democrats is 58-12. That's fine, but I bet you the more Gore we see, the higher that negative score will go. This all points to the most obvious reason Gore's wrong. Gore was at his least appealing -politically -when he spoke freely. For example, in a famous interview with Fast Company, a new-economy business magazine, Gore explained at length how the U.S. Constitution is like a massive "parallel computer system." The "world has become a great vibrating brain," he explained excitedly. It was a long, extended metaphor with lots of diagrams and details. And, to be fair, it was interesting in an intellectual sense. But for a politician it was deadly. No political consultant has ever -ever! -told his or her candidate to delve into long, gassy, chart-heavy disquisitions on parallel computing and vibrating brains. This was Gore being Gore. I think Gore would lose in the primaries, even if he weren't the weird man he is. His only two issues -the war on terrorism and the ongoing business scandals -are great for any Democrat but him. Unfortunately, both al-Qaida's rise and big business' irrational exuberance for financial chicanery took hold while he was the No. 2 man in the White House. But the real reason Gore is toast is that he's Gore. He says his real mistake was to allow his handlers to deprive the voters of a look at the "real" Gore. This explanation, its stunning arrogance and blame-passing notwithstanding, is endearing. It's an oddly human reaction for such a notoriously odd human. But that doesn't make it true.