THE NEW GORE RULES – Political satirist, James Campion’scoverage of the 2000 presidential race

Aquarian Weekly 9/20/00 REALITY CHECK


Before Jerry Lewis was done blubbering through “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, young members of the Al Gore for President Committee, California chapter, were popping several corks of $12 champagne and sending condolences to the George W. Bush camp. Labor Day is the dead line for making a race of presidential campaigns and the vice president is back from the dead. Suddenly this is shaping up to be the closest run since 1960 when Dick Nixon considered shutting down the government for a recount.

Autumn looks to be good business for the Democrats. An underdog winter gave way to a summer slide in poll numbers, but that was history by September 1 when their boy had come from resembling a robot politician to some hipster Gandhi looking to topple all evils. Transformation # 346 has pulled Promise Boy into a statistical dead-heat with Bush careening towards those ugly weeks when his daddy turned a steady 1992 lead into a Clinton ass whupping. And for the first time since John McCain stole New Hampshire, Captain Shoe-In needs to get serious.

At press time, Bush has survived countless months in this process NOT being Al Gore. First he was NOT Bill Clinton, then NOT John McCain, but now NOT being Al Gore isn’t enough. Gore took care of that with a PT Barnumesque extravaganza in Los Angeles, complete with dramatic films, a make-out session with his wife and a line of world-class populist rhetoric aimed at every human sucking air. It was a brilliant slice of bull dung worthy of his predecessor and G.W. has had no answer.

It wasn’t long ago that Bush had Gore on many personal issues from blatantly lying about campaign finance infractions to calling an impeached president the “greatest ever.” Gore pulled out of that donnybrook and started another. He did it to Bill Bradley. He is doing it to Bush.

NOT being Al Gore is no longer working because Gore took himself right out of that equation by drawing issue lines in the sand and painting the Republican Party as corporate-subjugating power mongers. This worked for his buddy, Big Bill in ’95 against the Republican Revolution and has all-but neutered Bush’s clever “Compassionate Conservatism” slogan. Gore has redefined the fight. Now the question is: What is the Bush camp going to do about it?

Bush, a man who has set tones all the way to his own fantasyland convention, has suddenly been left at the corner of morality and integrity with a weak explanation for tax cuts and a wild challenge to restructure every government program since the New Deal. Gore put him there, a place in which he is quite obviously uncomfortable. It wasn’t long ago that Bush had Gore on many personal issues from blatantly lying about campaign finance infractions to calling an impeached president the “greatest ever.” Gore pulled out of that donnybrook and started another. He did it to Bill Bradley. He is doing it to Bush. This is the kind of fight this space has maintained a junkyard dog like McCain would have been effective winning, but popular GOP think tanks of their imbecilic masses put the kibosh on that, so Bush is what they get.

Another key question at the GOP headquarters since New Year’s has been: Can a Golden Boy with an open lane to the White House handle the big hit? McCain derailed that free ride, but when things got tough Bush leaned on the power brokers of the party, as did Gore in his primary battle with Bradley. McCain turned out to be a more difficult fish to fry. Bush was supposedly toughened up by the experience, but not nearly enough to fend off a national collapse in his numbers. Now all there remains is the general voting public and a bloodied Bush doesn’t seem so insulated anymore.

Gore’s comeback is miraculous only when considering Bush’s lack of rebuttal. Gore has been able to effectively sell the idea that he has been part of an administration that deserves to have a second act while outlining a myriad of horribly demented government programs that need rectifying. A man who has been one heart beat from the presidency and the deciding vote in the senate for eight years has ingeniously cornered Bush’s outsider market. Junior has responded to this latest political magic show by smiling like a dipshit and calling a NY Times reporter an asshole.

Don’t be fooled, the Bush people figured on a cushion before the debates. Gore is overrated as a debater, but Bush has problems explaining agenda to reporters. This is why the Bush camp has refused to acquiesce to formal debates where Gore can hammer away at long-form, uninterrupted hyperbole in two-minute increments. In this arena, he will skin Bush alive. Consequently, Bush recently tried to rope Gore into an informal, close nit battle with Tim Russert. This is a fight the Bush people think their man is more likely to win.

Not forgotten in the grand scheme of polls and trends are the bare-bones facts of bagged electoral votes. Each candidate has already a third of them wrapped up by voting history and party prevalence alone. Gore will not lose New York or California and Bush cannot lose Texas or Florida and hope to win. Many of the key battleground states are still vacillating, but the Bush people know full well the states that put Reagan and Bush sr. in the White House, and were wrested away by Clinton in two consecutive elections, are not sweeping to Gore. There has yet to be a poll invented that can figure how Michigan will go.

Labor Day numbers are fickle. In the last week of August 1976, Jimmy Carter was coming off Watergate and the pardoning of Nixon, and lead Gerald Ford by 38 points. With three weeks to go it was 15, then 10 by Halloween. Carter won by a mere 57 electoral votes. In 1992 Ross Perot had thrown the whole thing into a tizzy and Bush sr. was sitting on Pennsylvania Avenue planning his victory gala. He was trounced by 212.

Anything spoken or polled before September in a presidential campaign is bull cookies. This is what the junkies at the office pool over at U.S. News & World Report call “go time.” Gore gets this. Bush needs to.

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