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If the New York Times follows the script, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2000,
the “newspaper of record” will endorse Al Gore for president of the
United States.

Because the Times takes itself so seriously and considers its
endorsements so weighty, the paper traditionally waits until the last
Sunday of October before the election. Any earlier, I guess, would just
be too unfair to the competition, in the mind of the editors.

How can I be so sure the Times will endorse Gore over George W. Bush
or some third-party candidate? Because the Times is nothing if not
predictable — predictably and partisan Democratic.

Just to refresh your recollection of what the Times said Oct. 25,
1992: “Bill Clinton … manifests qualities of leadership: intellect,
years of immersion in government, the capacity to attract first-rate
people — and the perseverance that has carried him through a brutal
campaign. These concrete characteristics equip him to be a good
president. With his instinct for ordinary people’s concerns and for
social unity, he could be even better.

“Mr. Clinton is an unquestioned leader of education reform and an
enthusiastic advocate of initiatives like the police corps, in which
students can pay back college loans with service.

“Mr. Clinton’s vision inspires hope.”

Wow! I get choked up just reading prose like that, don’t you?

Then, again, the Times weighed in Oct. 27, 1996: “Today we endorse
the re-election of president Bill Clinton.

“… our endorsement is delivered in the unequivocal confidence that
he is the best candidate in the field and in the belief that because he
has grown in the job he can build on the successes of his first term
while correcting its defects. …

“He is clearly the candidate of hope and progress in this race.

“… he wisely opposed a balanced budget amendment that would tie a
president’s hands in a military or fiscal emergency.

“… he is regarded internationally as a leader with a sophisticated
grasp of a superpower’s obligation to help the world manage its
conflicts and economic interests.

“Many Americans do not trust him or believe him to be a person of
character. We do not dodge that issue, nor should Mr. Clinton. Indeed,
he must view it as a prime opportunity of his second term. A fraction of
the electorate, of course, will never forgive his reputation for
philandering. But he can reclaim the trust of the great majority by
demonstrating a zeal for financial integrity and for protecting the
machinery of justice from politics.

“The presidency he once dreamed is still within his reach if he
brings the requisite integrity to the next four years. By adding self
discipline to vision, he can build on the achievements he has already
made and make a fair bid to leave Washington in 2001 as one of the most
notable presidents of the 20th century.”

Notable, indeed. I’ll give him that right now. But back to the point.

With rhetoric like that, and a track record of endorsing Democratic
presidential nominees come hell or highwater, is there any doubt about
where the Times will come down on Oct. 29?

I don’t think so. OK, we know who the Times will endorse, we know the
day the paper will do it. But try to imagine what the Times will say in
endorsing Al Gore. In other words, what excuses will the Times find to
support Gore after two terms as second banana in the most corrupt White
House in the history of the republic?

Gore was in the thick of the scandals that saw the White House meddle
in the machinery of justice for political reasons rather than protect it
from politics. Of course, Clinton and Gore did nothing in their second
term to restore integrity to the office — and everything to lower
expectations for future officeholders.

Maybe the Times editorial will go something like this: “Vice
President Al Gore has demonstrated his leadership and keen political
insight in the last eight years — by inventing the Internet,
reinventing government and deconstructing the whole notion of
‘controlling legal authority.’

“His campaign to ban the internal combustion engine places him second
only to the Unabomber as a zealous leader of environmental reform.

“Al Gore stands on the precipice of greatness. He is regarded
internationally — particularly from Beijing to Moscow — as a leader
with a sophisticated grasp of personal and political self-interest.

“By adding vision to self-discipline, he can build on his
achievements as vice president and make a fair bid to leave Washington
in 2009 as the most notable president of the 21st century — at least so
far.”

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