THE NEW OUTBREAKS of violence in the Middle East may finally get some people to look beyond the pretty words "the peace process" to the ugly reality underneath. Will those who have for years been urging Israel to "trade land for peace" now begin urging the Palestinians to return some of that land? Not bloody likely. This has been a trade of permanent land for temporary peace.
What "the peace process" has actually meant, especially during the Clinton administration, is responding to violence against Israelis by urging Israel to make more concessions. It is by no means clear that there is any more peace as a result of such diplomatic interventions than there would have been if those who attacked Israelis could expect no such automatic reward from Washington, but had to face Israel's unchecked retaliation instead.
What Clinton most needs, especially for a legacy to overshadow his personal scandals, are photos of him arranging peace agreements in the White House. The long-term consequences for Israel or for other Middle East countries from this photo-op foreign policy is not Clinton's concern.
Once again, however, Clinton's failings may be more of a help than a handicap to Al Gore. Tragic and dramatic events in the Middle East are already overshadowing the recent leak to the New York Times that revealed Al Gore's extraordinary secret agreement with Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin, to allow Russia to escape sanctions under American law for selling high-tech weapons to Iran.
No vice president, or even president, is authorized to circumvent American laws by treaties made without Senate ratification, as provided in the Constitution. Yet this is not even Gore's first such unratified international agreement.
Gore also signed the Kyoto accords, an international agreement which provide for drastic curtailment of many economic activities, in the name of stopping "global warming." Incidentally, many scientists are not convinced that human activity has much to do with global warming, while some question whether in fact the globe is any warmer today than it was a couple of decades ago, when the big scare was over global cooling or a "new ice age."
The biggest boost for "global warming" hysteria was the heat wave that swept across the United States in 1988, which was exploited to the hilt politically. Meanwhile, yours truly was in Paris, shivering in July. A heat wave in one country is not global warming but, in politics, appearances often carry more weight than reality.
The Kyoto agreement was one of those unbelievably one-sided international arrangements that sacrifices America's interests for the sake of a feel-good document and White House photo-ops. Curtailment of many economic activities in the United States are estimated to cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year, along with losses of many American jobs. Meanwhile, China, India and more than a hundred other countries are not required to do anything whatever to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
The Clinton administration has never dared to send this agreement to the Senate for ratification, since that would only produce a humiliating defeat. But, as Gore's secret deal with Chernomyrdin shows, this administration is not above circumventing the Constitution by making international agreements without Senate ratification.
The same cavalier attitude towards the laws and toward the White House itself that Clinton has exhibited has also been the attitude of Al Gore. As president, Clinton is much more the focus of attention, especially when that attention centers on sex. But, aside from that, the two men are remarkably similar in their unscrupulous actions and their shameless lies about it.
Gore may be a little more dangerous because he apparently believes in the environmentalist hysteria he generates. The Unabomber had a copy of Gore's book "Earth in the Balance" in his cabin. Voters should read it too, before they go into the voting booths on election day, and see its sophomoric pomposity.
Despite whatever image Gore tries to project -- and he has spent a lot of time and a lot of money on consultants to shape his image -- Gore is a man of pop science, pop psychology and pop profundity. Whether in journalism or in politics, his whole career has been based on glib words and self-righteous posturing. Do we need a sanctimonious and sophomoric