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A curious thing has happened along the campaign trail. It seems that
heartthrob Al Gore is having difficulty with women.

The New York Times reports that a recent CNN poll shows Bush leading
Gore by 11 points.

The so-called “gender gap” has been a mainstay for Democratic
presidential contenders, and studmuffin Al Gore doesn’t want to be the
exception. He needs a substantial majority of female voters to win the
general election.

Not to worry. When it comes to pandering politics, Al Gore is among
the best. He has a chameleon-like ability to become anybody he wants to
be when it suits his purposes.

Take for instance his 1996 Democratic convention speech, where he
passionately told of how he had dedicated his life to fighting the
tobacco industry following the death of his sister from lung cancer. He
failed to mention that he had already broken the pledge by accepting
major contributions from big tobacco companies after her death.

In case you think that was just a temporary lapse, you should be
advised that Gore just hired media consultant Carter Eskew to be a lead
strategist in his campaign. Eskew was the one who masterminded the big
tobacco companies’ $40 million media blitz that helped defeat a 1998
Senate anti-tobacco bill.

The move prompted the otherwise gracious RNC Chair Jim Nicholson to
remark, “They better open the windows at Gore campaign headquarters,
because the hypocrisy is so thick in the air that it burns your eyes.
… Gore has hired the biggest tobacco guru since Joe Camel.”

Gore hasn’t changed his mind again about tobacco. He just says or
does what he needs to do at any given time to further his political
ambitions. Even Democrat-friendly Bill Schneider of CNN observed, “With
this hire, Gore is taking a calculated risk with Eskew. He’s counting on
Eskew’s worth as an adviser to outweigh any questions people bring up
about the tobacco issue.”

But Gore isn’t really worried about losing the support of
anti-smoking groups. They are hardly going to abandon him to the
Republican nominee. But the soccer moms are a genuine cause for concern.
And believe me: Gore will do what it takes to try to bring them back
into the fold.

Some of Gore’s transparent techniques to re-establish the traditional
gender gap are amusing. Even the N.Y. Times admits that they are “not
terribly subtle.”

For example:

  • He told crowds that he “had been reared by a mother who grew up
    poor, got on a bus to Nashville with her blind sister in tow, waited
    tables for quarter tips and, in 1936, became one of the first women to
    graduate from Vanderbilt Law School.”

  • He quipped that when he listened as a child to his parents talking,
    “it was clear to me that (women were equal to men) — if not more so.”
    (That one is particularly “Goorish” — meaning something boorish uttered
    by Gore.)

  • He always makes it a point to be introduced to his audiences by
    women.

  • His speeches are loaded with promises to women concerning day care,
    early childhood education and gender equality. Listen to this one, and
    see if you can avert nausea: “This pledge is in honor of my mother: an
    equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work.” (He better hope that not many
    women read U.S. News, which reported that payroll records show that
    women staffers for Gore earn about 86 cents for every dollar his male
    staffers earn.)

  • He was so desperate to showcase women that he begged several to
    attend a $1,000 fund-raising luncheon at the discounted price of $300.

Not all women are so easily wowed. One of the discount-luncheon
attendees complained that “he kept bringing up women’s issues. … I
wanted to hear about something more relevant to my life, like economic
development.”

As with his tobacco issues, Gore’s rhetoric about women rings a
little hollow. If he is going to continue to claim expertise about
women, he needs to understand that they have good memories. Many of them
remember his unflinching loyalty to the most womanizing character in
modern history.

Gore’s new pollster Celinda Lake even acknowledges that the Lewinsky
scandal is suppressing Gore’s ratings with women. She calls this
“delayed reaction to the Clinton factor ‘unfair.’”

No, Ms. Lake. When Al Gore chose to stand by his man over the rights
of women, he knew what he was doing. That he is being made to pay for it
today is eminently fair.

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