The spare tire

By Michael Ackley

Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

John Adams called the vice presidency “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

If this is so – and Adams was a perspicacious man – one well may wonder why there is such a fuss over John Kerry’s selection of Sen. John Edwards as his running mate. Our senses suggest it is because Edwards will provide levity for Kerry, just as Dick Cheney was said to provide gravity for George W. Bush. It also will help that he does not appear to have undergone death and re-animation.

Democratic Party strategists say Edwards has a “compelling personal story” that will resonate with voters. That is, he grew up poor, was the first of his family to attend college and became a successful attorney before winning elective office.

Do not be surprised if this story turns out to be similar to that of Bill Clinton, who grew up poor and barefoot in Arkansas, avoiding hookworm only by driving to school in his convertible.

Then there is Al Gore, who seems to be clinging to the vice presidential role of “a spare tire on the automobile of government,” to borrow the words of John Nance Garner. (Yes, we know that other thing he called it.)

Gore is giving speeches about how George W. Bush lied to the American people about Iraq’s involvement in the Sept. 11 terrorist assaults.

Because Bush never said anything about Iraq being behind 9-11, we tracked down Gore and arranged an interview. The former VP met us in the solarium of an imposing institution on the outskirts of Knoxville, Tenn. There, we put the question to him: How did Bush lie without actually saying Saddam Hussein was behind the airliner attacks?

“He was very clever,” Gore explained. “He kept repeating phrases in which Iraq was linked to al-Qaida, and al-Qaida to the Sept. 11 incidents. These phrases created the impression in the minds of Americans that Iraq was behind the assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.”

“So,” we asked, ” he didn’t actually say there was a linkage, he just kind of exercised the power of suggestion?”

“Yes! Yes!,” said Gore excitedly. “That’s what was so diabolical about it. He lied without actually lying! It was evil, EVIL!”

“But Saddam Hussein was giving shelter and assistance to al-Qaida, right?” we asked.

Gore became somewhat subdued.

“That’s not the point,” he said. “Saddam may have been helping al-Qaida, but he didn’t help plan the Sept. 11 attacks. Why, he probably knew nothing about them.”

“Yes! That’s it! Saddam was providing the regular support all those Middle Eastern governments give to terrorists. He had no idea they would do something really serious.

“But Bush – Bush! He repeated key phrases! He misled the public! He CREATED AN IMPRESSION! He stole the election. He …”

“Mr. Vice President …”

The words came from one of a pair of physically impressive men who had stood apart during our discussion but now approached.

“Mr. Vice President, it’s time to go,” the man said.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” Gore said. “My aide is telling me it’s time to meet with my staff to discuss our next move. We’re crafting a new speech, you know. It will explain how Bush has deceived the American people into thinking he’s a rancher in Texas, when he’s really all HAT and NO CATTLE! Hahaha!

“I tell you – I’ll tell everybody: They MUST see it. He’s diabolical. He’s …”

“Mr. Vice President, please,” the man said again, gently laying a large, thick hand on Gore’s arm.

“Yes. I’m coming,” said Gore, and off he went through the solarium, flanked by his two “aides,” who were dressed in identical, starched white coats.