Robots Can't Dance
Why Gore's 'Intelligence Gap' Forces him Leftward
NewsForChange.com, August 25, 2000
LOS ANGELES -- One of the only really great things about political conventions is the exhaustive amount of free media lying around in the hallways, showcasing the fantastic (if mis-applied) journalistic energy these circuses provoke. It's taken me nearly a week to get through all the Staples Center booty I stuffed in my bags, and I still keep finding hidden needles buried in the tedious haystacks of campaign coverage.
Take this excerpt from a Gore Q&A conducted by the Los Angeles Times Aug. 15, as he was working on his soul-battering acceptance speech. It's a bit long, so read it slowly, paying close attention to Gore's robot quotient (i.e., his inability to do anything but "stay on message," at the expense of all conversational intelligence):
GORE: I think that the American people deserve to know what the specifics of my proposals are and, in a few cases, how they compare to what we know of my opponent's proposals.
Q: Give us an example.
GORE: Social Security. Also middle-class tax cuts. Those are two examples I will spend some time on in the speech.
Q: On Social Security, you've already been pretty specific during the campaign. Are there more details you're going to put forward in the speech?
GORE: It will delve into the reasons why the specific plan I'm offering is best for the American people. ... I think the people deserve to know the details. And I think that this campaign is an opportunity to make some clear choices about what we're going to do for the next four years. And some of those have to do with Social Security and tax cuts. And I rather doubt that my opponent can make it to the end of the campaign without answering questions about where this trillion dollars for privatization will come from, and other questions of that sort. But that's his decision to make. For my part, I will offer specifics.
Q: Are they new proposals?
GORE: Well, on Social Security, a new way of comparing and contrasting it with the approach recommended by Gov. Bush. But the entire speech will have lots of specifics . . . Just putting it in clear, stark terms and showing the effect on working families in comparison to the effect of my opponent's proposals.
Q: Any brand new policy proposals?
GORE: Well, I haven't finished writing the speech yet.
In sum, Gore champions his willingness to offer policy "specifics" for America's great working families, and then fails utterly to answer four consecutive questions asking him to detail those specifics.
In his speech, you'll recall, after 30 minutes of the vaguest, most falsely populist nonsense, he abruptly declared that he understood completely why people considered him too wonky and "specific" .... Whaaaaat? And then, to emphasize the point, he came out with a brand "new" proposal ... to reduce crime every year this decade.
That's like a baseball manager saying "the way I'm going to improve the team this year is by winning more games."
This is the kind of stubborn dullness people have been spending two years mocking Dubya for. And it highlights one of Gore's main problems: he ain't no Bill Clinton.
Everybody who claims to know Al Gore always stresses his "intelligence," but I've never once felt that from hearing him speak. Clinton, on the other hand, just oozes the stuff, whether of the intellectual or animal variety. His speech on opening night of the convention was masterful and hilarious, even as he was repeating the exact same lines I have pilloried Gore for mouthing (specifically, the Reagan bit about "are you better off now than eight years ago.")
Because Clinton is so clever (and these days, funny), he is able to perform the neat trick of firing up the left wing of the party -- by reminding them over and over again about how evil Republicans are -- while actually trumpeting a very centrist agenda. Gore has no similar magic or intelligence, so he is forced to rhetorically lunge unconvincingly to the pre-New Democrat Left, alienating moderates and people who are sensitive to blatant political hypocrisy alike.
And positioning aside, such shape-shifting betrays a lack of core beliefs -- in himself, if nothing else. Bill Clinton would never say "I'm my own man," just like Mick Jagger or Richard Branson or Ronald Reagan wouldn't. It's redundant, even if he (like the others mentioned) can switch colors faster than a tree-lizard. Clinton's speech got me the closest I'll be to thinking that defeating Republicans is more important than my distaste for Gore, Lieberman, the New Democrats, and the whole rotten bunch.
But then I went outside and witnessed the havoc wreaked by some of those 8,000 cops Bill & Al helped rush onto our streets, and the spell was broken. Clinton's music was distracting for eight years, but Gore is tone-deaf and now we can concentrate on the terrible side effects of the Democratic Leadership Council's electability program. Al better reserve a spot on the bus for Bill.