Just about every month we see a new Al Gore. Correction: Every month
we see the same Al Gore engaged in yet another pathetic effort to remold
his image into something more palatable to the voters.
Ironically, with every succeeding transformation, Gore makes himself
less electable, especially against George Bush. It is not so much that
each of Gore’s new faces is less attractive to voters. But the fact that
he can’t stay put longer than one month in the same layer of his own
skin will ultimately be unsettling to voters. The American people prefer
a president who is stable, dependable and even predictable. So far,
stability is not part of Gore’s resume.
Gore’s problem is not that he is uncomfortable with himself but that
he doesn’t appear to know himself. He may know who he is apart from
politics (as hard as that is to imagine), but if so, he has yet to bring
that person into the public light.
Think about it. If you look at any of Gore’s campaigns you will find
an unmistakable pattern of merciless attacks against his opponents.
Sure, almost every candidate in a contested election criticizes his
opponent’s positions on the issues or worse. But ambush-politics have
been the centerpiece of Gore’s campaigns. Why is that? Well, it all goes
back to the same thing. Gore is not comfortable enough with himself to
rely primarily on his own positives.
Gore has also picked the wrong predecessor and the wrong time to run.
Clinton fatigue is about more than just the scandals — though they
would be trouble enough for Gore, who has embraced Clinton’s scandals
and engaged in many of his own. The public has also grown weary of
If Clinton is known for anything more than his corruption, it is his
tireless pandering to the electorate in his policy decisions. Even if
Gore could somehow escape the Clinton scandal-taint, he would still face
the formidable hurdle of convincing the voters that he stands for
something, based on principle above politics. And Republicans don’t even
need to dredge up his past 180s, such as with abortion and tobacco. He
has given us a number of real-time examples in this campaign cycle,
including his about-face on privatizing Social Security and the issue of
Gore’s chameleon-like evolution is made to order for George Bush. For
regardless of what criticisms can be leveled against Dubya, most agree
that he is quite comfortable with himself. He knows who he is and he
likes himself. Bush’s authenticity, by contrast, will magnify Gore’s
Contrary to mainstream media accounts, Bush has been remarkably
consistent throughout the primaries into the general election campaign.
Yes, he changed his position on whether he would meet with gay leaders,
but he did not change his policy toward gay issues, and that’s what
counts. He has been consistent on the issues, even when it did not
appear to benefit him politically. His tax plan is a good example.
The media argue that Bush completely changed to fend off the McCain
challenge in North Carolina. A more accurate assessment is that he
started speaking to his conservative base. But he did not change his
positions on issues. So Bush may plead guilty to occasionally
repackaging himself, which is simply smart politics. But repackaging is
a far cry from changing the contents of the package — and that is what
Gore has repeatedly done.
Despite early concerns in some quarters, Bush has emerged as his own
man with an arsenal of substantive policy proposals. He has surrounded
himself with an impressive array of political heavyweights, which has
enhanced his reputation as a competent leader.
Critics argue that Bush has been slow to announce his proposals. But
it’s better to be deliberate and constant than to play hit-and-miss with
the issues, using confused voters as guinea pigs. Perhaps Gore would
have to change less had he gotten it right the first time, or the
second, or even the third.
Don’t listen to the egghead political scientists whose models say
this election is Gore’s to lose. These sterile analyses fail to factor
in the all-important intangibles, such as corruption and poll fatigue,
leadership, stability and affability. Poor Albert Jr.’s got his work cut
out for him.