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When Bill Bradley grew tired of persistent misrepresentations in a
primary debate, he asked Al Gore, “When you don’t tell the truth as a
candidate, how can people trust you to tell the truth when you are
president?” This wasn’t the first time a major Democrat figure leveled
such a serious charge at Gore. In 1988, an exasperated Michael Dukakis
told presidential candidate Gore: “If you want to be president of the
United States, you better start by being accurate.”

Now, George W. Bush has joined these two prominent Democrats in
warning the people about Gore’s losing battles with the truth. Bush
described Gore this way: “His misrepresentations are serious business –
not the legitimate debate of political disagreements. They are a
disturbing pattern of embellishments and sudden reversals.”

Bush was referring to a string of inexplicable, arguably weird,
statements by Gore over the past few weeks. Gore said his mother-in-law
pays three times more for her arthritis medicine than he pays for the
same medicine for his dog. This dog and mother-in-law story was made up.
At a union conference, Gore told the Teamsters that “Remember the Union
Label” was “one of the lullabies” his parents sang to him as a child. In
fact, the song was not written until 1975 — when little Gore was 27
years old. Gore claimed to have been involved in setting up the
Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The truth is that the oil reserve was set
up and funded in 1975, two years before Gore became a member of
Congress.

Before proceeding, it is also only fair to concede that nobody is
perfect; we all misspeak from time to time. We get dates and facts
wrong. We exaggerate to make a good story even better. It’s only human
to do these things. But these all-too-human aberrations are not what is
at issue. At issue is whether Gore’s ongoing struggle with the truth has
escalated into an ongoing struggle with reality.

In an interview last April, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Dean of the
University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communications,
commented upon the relationship between Gore’s behavior and his fitness
to serve as president: “You wonder if it’s a failure to listen or an
impulse to deceive. … The question is, is there a basic personality
flaw there that will make it more difficult for him to be president? Is
there a tendency to exaggerate? Is there a tendency to reconstruct the
past? When you start counting on the fingers of both hands you start to
say maybe there’s a pattern here.”

There is no “maybe” about the pattern of fabrications, exaggerations
and flip-flops. Gore claimed that he invented the Internet, that he and
Tipper were the models for Erich Segal’s novel, “Love Story,” that as an
investigative reporter he “got a bunch of people indicted and sent to
jail,” that he was a cosponsor of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance
reform bill, that he was always pro-choice on abortion, that in Vietnam
he spent most of his time in the field and was fired upon by the enemy,
that he had a private meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s, that
he negotiated Internet protection for children, that he had a major
impact on Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 presidential acceptance speech, that
half of his 1988 presidential campaign staff were women, that he totally
renounced his connections to tobacco after the death of his sister from
lung cancer, that his sister was the very first volunteer for the Peace
Corps, that his father was a leader in the civil rights movement, that
he did not know he was in the middle of a fund-raiser at the California
Buddhist Temple in 1996, that he did not know his fund-raising phone
calls from his government office were illegal, and that he did not know
anything about the millions of dollars illegally funneled into the
Democrat Party by agents of communist China.

All of these claims and boasts are documentably false, and some of
them are arguably delusional. We have in clear view the picture of a
deeply insecure man, uncomfortable with himself, and too fragile to hear
or tell the hard truth — a man who phonies up the past to appear
smarter, more worthy, and more substantive than he really is.

Gore’s propensity to mangle the truth appears compulsive in that,
although warned about it by his advisers, he apparently cannot stop
himself. Is this a man we can trust to keep his word, honor his promises
and restore our faith in government?

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