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Be kind enough, dear reader, to transport your mind inside Al Gore’s
(scary a thought as that is) as he reads the interview with his boss,
Bill Clinton, in the

November issue of Esquire
magazine.

Poor, poor me. Lord knows, I’ve tried to run as my own man. I’ve tried hard to get out from under his dark shadow. I mean, for months I’ve tried desperately to make American voters forget that I even know the guy. “What was his name again, Tipper? You remember. That chubby ladies’ man from Arkansas?”

“Bill Clinton, honey.”

“Yeah, him.”

Now Esquire sticks it to me. It releases this exclusive interview of him on

esquire.com
a week before the darn election. Who invented this stupid Internet anyway? No wonder I’m in such trouble. Instead of talking about me and my plans to save earth and its many-colored peoples, the media are all talking about him again.

“Tipper, you won’t believe the junk he says in this interview.”

His moral pain. His mental anguish. His hard work on behalf of the American people. How he suffered these last eight years. How everyone was against him. He didn’t do anything wrong. No. He was always working for the American people.

Look at these answers. How can he talk so long about himself? And this sniveling stuff about how the Republicans owe him an apology for what they put him and the country through.

“They never apologized to the country for impeachment, they never apologized for all the — things they’ve done. So what they tried to do at their convention was to have it both ways. They tried to get the people to keep beating up on me for something that the American people had put behind them.

“But folks, I think, that they haven’t necessarily put their abuse of power behind them. And so they have to be very careful about how they handle this, because the American people, they say, ‘Look, that’s over — this is about him and his family, and that’s behind us.’”

Behind us? Easy for him to say. What about me? Where’s my apology?

And boy, I wish Sam Donaldson would ask me easy questions like the ones this Esquire writer Michael Paterniti asked him: “In a way, is it fair to say that you took the presidency back from the two parties and gave it to the people?”

Oh, please. No more rough stuff. I confess. I can’t wait for Paterniti’s profile, “The Last Will and Testament of William Jefferson Clinton,” which will be published when the, gasp, dead-tree version of Esquire comes out Nov. 14.

“And this sleazy cover photo? What is wrong with him, Tipper?”

How did that

Maureen
Dowd
woman at the New York Times describe it? “A come-hither cover picture of Mr. Clinton, saucily grinning, seated on a stool, hands on knees, knees spread apart, responding to the plea of a photographer, provocatively shooting from below, to ‘show me the love, Mr. President.’”

Brother.

I can’t really blame Esquire for breaking its word and posting the whole interview on the Web before the election. They’re desperate for any publicity. I hear they’re fighting for their life against that hot new British import, Maxim, and those other new girl-crazy men’s magazines.

I can’t really blame the Republicans, either. Politics isn’t pretty. I blame Bill. He just can’t shut up and let go of the microphone. He says here he’s ready to face the post-presidency courageously, ready to do whatever he can to be “an effective citizen, an effective force for the things I believe in when I get out of here, without getting in the way of the next president.”

Well, I’m sure George W. Bush will thank him.

“Tipper, honey, it’s time to go. Have you seen my rouge?”

Quick reads
You’ll find lots of good reporting, nice writing and tortured attempts at balance this week in

Time
and

Newsweek,
each of which delivers big election packages and tries not to notice that the polls now convincingly lean Bush’s way.

Nancy Gibbs, a superior writer, teams with Michael Duffy to write Time’s main feature,

“Two Men, Two Visions.”
Dismissive of both candidates, confused by their contradictions, Gibbs/Duffy don’t seem to like either man much and struggle to find substantive differences between them.


Roger
Rosenblatt,
boring essayist for hire and Friend of Gore (FOG), makes the case for voting for Al, humming a medley of reasons torn straight from the Gore campaign’s songbook. Much more inspired — and inspiring, if you’re a Bushie — is the slashing/soaring rhetoric of

Peggy
Noonan.
The ex-presidential wordsmith plugs Bush as a sunny, optimistic, compassionate man with good American instincts who trusts the people and can be trusted by them.

As for Gore, that “rather strange individual,” Noonan is cruel and blunt: “There is no nice way to say this: We can’t afford another famous liar in the White House. America is a strong country but it may not be able to sustain another fabulist; one can be called an accident, a trick of history, but two would amount to a culture of governance, a way of being. It is by institutionalizing the acceptability of lies that a great power becomes a punch line.”

Over at Newsweek, meanwhile, senior editor

Howard
Fineman,
covering the back-to-back visits of Bush and Gore to Pittsburgh, wonders who “Will Have the Last Laugh?” Here’s a nice summary paragraph about the state of the race and the state of Pennsylvania, a 23-pack of electoral votes that has been ignored in recent elections but is being trampled by presidential candidates and their wives this year.

“America was invented in Philadelphia, saved at Gettysburg and ushered into the industrial age in Pittsburgh. But what would Franklin, Lincoln or Carnegie think? The theme song for this campaign isn’t ‘Yankee Doodle’ or ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ it’s ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ With a week to go, neither candidate had truly caught fire, and for their sins they were being hectored by Nader, a media-savvy scourge who may just hold the balance of electoral power between princelings of the baby boom.”

Speaking of Nader, for sticking to his silly left-wing principles, he’s getting severe last-minute beatings by despondent Gore lovers, many of whom are already having nightmares of President Bush, Part II.

The New Republic, whose owner is pitifully desperate for Gore to win,

smashes Nader
in an editorial, calling him arrogant, archaic, paranoid and “a self-styled savior of democracy.” Pointing to a 1960 magazine article St. Ralph wrote about the looming threat of internationalism, it even implies he is an anti-Semite.

Longtime Nader worshipper

Jonathan
Alter
of Newsweek has also given up on the patron saint of trial lawyers: “By refusing to admit that there are deep differences between Al Gore and George W. Bush, by clinging to this emotionally satisfying but factually inaccurate notion of a ‘DemRep Party,’ Nader is squandering his most precious asset — his intellectual honesty.”

And in

Slate.com,
Jacob Weisberg piles on. He says in his piece

“Ralph the
Leninist”
that Nader’s “depraved indifference to Republican rule” has made the Consumer Crusader’s old liberal friends furious. Nader isn’t merely trying to make Gore lose or pull the Democrat Party to the left, he says, he’s trying to wreck the whole party.

“Nader’s goal is not progressive reform,” says Weisberg. “It’s a transformation in human consciousness. His Green Party will not flourish under Democratic presidents who lull the country into a sense of complacency by making things moderately better. If it is to thrive, it needs villainous, right-wing Republicans who will make things worse.”

And, he says, Gore’s increasingly terrified supporters might as well stop their whinings and warnings about the Green Man helping George W. Bush to get to the White House. They’re only encouraging him. “Ralph Nader is a very intelligent man who knows exactly what’s he doing.”

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