Monday, March 31, 2008

Anybody But Gore

We need a fifty-first state and we need it now. It doesn’t matter how we do it. Add Puerto Rico or Guam, take on Saskatchewan, or buy Guadeloupe from the French. Carve West Virginia in half and create the state of East West Virginia. Annex the Moon and give it three electoral votes. I don't care as long as someone promises to hold a primary election next week. Because really, if we have to wait three more weeks for Pennsylvania to go to the polls, we're all going to go crazy.

The best evidence of this impending lunacy is the suggestion, which has received a staggering amount of airtime this week, that the Democrats should simply abandon both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and ask Al Gore to accept their presidential nomination. Al Gore! The man has already won a Nobel, an Oscar, a Grammy, and probably the Publishers' Clearinghouse grand prize. And now we want to give him the keys to the White House? Let's just award him the Stanley Cup while we're at it.

Seriously, though, this is truly a bad idea, the sort that only comes to you after your fifth beer or when you have a cable talk show and you've run out of things to discuss. Shall we start with the obvious point? What sort of reaction would the Democratic Party generate were they to dismiss both of their history making candidates in favor of an aging white guy who already failed in his two previous bids for the presidency? What would the slogan be? How about, "Al Gore: Because History Can Wait".

Also, isn't this supposed to be a "change" election? I know Hillary's husband was once president, but at least she is relatively new to public office and her gender does set her apart from all previous viable candidates. But how can we have a change election, an election about washing the foul taste of the past eight years out of our mouths, if our only choices are the two guys that George W. Bush beat back in 2000.

And it's not as though the media ever stopped holding Al Gore in contempt. If anything, his success away from politics has only made the bullying pundits angrier. Even today, we are still periodically treated to the hackneyed (and untrue) story about Gore claiming to have invented the internet. Do you really want to go through all that again during the most important election of our lifetime? Just let candidate Gore say that he ordered the filet mignon when it was really the T-bone, and the media dam will burst with all the old chestnuts about Al the serial exaggerator, the man with the weird penchant for making things up. After all, the guy even thinks he invented the freaking internet!

There's another thing, too, something that people forget now that Al Gore is a multimedia superstar. As a political candidate, he absolutely sucks. He ran as the incumbent party's nominee during a time of peace and prosperity and he lost. He faced off against a callow, ignorant, part-time politician who could barely form a coherent sentence and he finished second. He even managed to win the election but somehow screwed that up.

Did we mention that Al Gore once had the chance to select from hundreds of brilliant, charismatic, loyal Democrats to serve as his running mate and instead opted for Joe Lieberman. Not only did Lieberman bring his tiresome national nag act to the campaign trail, but he managed to do something that had previously been considered impossible: he actually lost a debate to Dick Cheney. And when the party needed him to fight for them in the noise and corruption of the disputed Florida results, Lieberman high-tailed it out of town, desperate to protect his own presidential viability for 2004 even if that meant allowing George Bush to seize a victory he did not earn.

Of course, the same could be said of Gore. As soon as the networks—not coincidentally led by Fox—prematurely declared Bush the winner, the Democratic nominee hopped into his limo all ready to concede. It took a phone call from his Florida operatives to persuade him to wait until the actual votes were tallied. And even after various recounts showed him gaining on his rival in the Sunshine State, Gore's phlegmatic approach to the whole process seemed both weak and petulant. Despite the fact that he probably did win Florida, and thus the election, he became Sore Loserman.

But that's not the worst of it. The worst of it was that either his ego prevented him from running on the highly popular Clinton record, or his political instincts were so bad that he actually believed all that crap about "Clinton Fatigue". Indeed, the choice of Lieberman represented an explicit attempt to distance himself from his boss, Lieberman having delivered a famous (and characteristically sanctimonious) speech criticizing Bill Clinton for his dalliance with Monica during that critical time when the Republicans were attempting their coup-by-sex-scandal.

Gore's refusal to embrace the Clinton presidency left him open to GOP charges that he was a tax and spend liberal in the Mondale/Dukakis mold. It also deprived him of the most salient argument in his own favor. The election of 2000 was most decidedly not a change election until Al Gore stupidly made it into one. And once that happened, Bush's line about compassionate conservatism trumped his opponent's rambling musings about Social Security lockboxes. In the big scheme of things, Gore is far more responsible than Ralph Nader for the ruinous Bush presidency.

So far, at least, the Draft Gore movement does not appear to be picking up any steam. Maybe it exists only in the fevered minds of cable TV anchors desperate to put some excitement back into a Democratic campaign held in suspended animation by the currently empty political calendar. But any Democrat who would seriously entertain this possibility might just as well avoid the middle man and send her contributions directly to the McCain for President campaign.