He began by competing with Hillary Clinton for the title of America's best-known nerd, the brown-noser show-off who knows all the answers and is always sitting in the front seat, arm waving in the air, looking as if he's about to burst, saying, "I know! I know! Please call on me, teacher!" That's the Gore who threw numbers at his opponent in mass quantities to prove that he's the one in command of the facts in this election -- only with that special Gore twist, they turn out to be the wrong numbers.
Now The Gore Persona has begun to metamorphose in interesting ways. Gore managed to emit the combined vibes of two usually opposing characters: the sneaky little gossip who tells lies about you to all the other kids to make you look bad -- the back-stabber, who acts nice to your face while he does his darndest to make you look bad behind your back. And the swaggering bully who tries to intimidate you into submission with his threats, his rudeness, his imposing physical presence. He's the guy who made you back up against the wall when he passed, or else.
With all these different people inside Gore's head, it's sometimes hard to tell who is going to emerge in charge at any given moment. But faced with falling poll numbers, the Gore campaign's latest decision, to launch a series of attack ads against Bush, confirms: It's bully for Gore.
To follow up, the Gore team unveiled a "Bush lite" link on its campaign Web site to, as the New York Post put it, "highlight Bush's misadventures with pronunciation." The DNC is running ads trying to make voters blame Gov. Bush for Houston's smog problem. Quite some chutzpah, given that air pollution standards are set by the federal government. Which means Houston's smog got so bad under whose watch? That's right: while Clinton and Gore were running America's environmental regulatory agencies, natch. The Bush campaign is pooh-poohing the new approach. "The American people," said a Bush spokesman, "would rather have a president who occasionally mispronounces a word than someone who makes up words and facts."
Ordinary people are a lot smarter, I'm betting, than Al Gore thinks.