Al Gore's 'New Populism'


Yup, Al Gore wrote his own speech, all right. Don't you love the instant cliches? "He did what he had to do."

The conventional wisdom decided not to be knocked out of the park by it (mandatory cliche) but agreed that he did what he had to do. But how will the American people respond to the news that he did what he had to do?

The American people, perversely paying no attention at all to any of this, preferred The Daily Show's take on all this on the Comedy Channel, a shrewd programming choice.

My favorite line of the convention was from Jim Miklaszewski of MSNBC. Sitting in the midst of the California delegation on the first night, he looked around pop-eyed and said: "You know, I have to say, there's more diversity in this one state's delegation than there was at the whole Republican convention."

Here's some more good news for Gore, who did what had to be done. Some merry pranksters in the Texas Democratic Party think they've figured out how to solve Gore's problem with Ralph Nader. They're rounding up a bunch of Yellow Dogs (derivation: ancient wheeze -- "He'd vote for a yella dawg if h'it was runnin' as a Democrat"). These congenital Democrats in Texas are willing to trade their Gore votes in November for a Nader vote with anyone living in a swing state.

Since Texas' electoral votes will go to George W. Bush in any case, this does Gore no harm and still helps Nader get the Greens the 5% that he needs to qualify for federal funding, should the country survive until 2004.

Last time I checked, it was still illegal to offer anyone an inducement to change his vote, but the pranksters claim that the law is mum on straight swap. Glad someone is having fun with this.

Speaking of fun, I'd like to credit Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party with the shrewdest veep pick in history. His running mate is a black, female John Bircher, so she brings with her the entire black, female Bircher vote. A stroke of genius. Let's insist that she be included in the veep debates.

And how pleased we are that Monicagate continues to drag its weary way through the justice system. Just what we've all been dying for: more legal proceedings about the president's affair. I, for one, can't wait to learn even more about it. As Joe Lieberman says, "Is this a great country or what?"

I'm fascinated by the male gender gap on Bush and Gore. One guy played football, went to Vietnam and is notoriously emotionally constipated, listening seriously to women who tell him to get in touch with his emotions but clearly hopeless at it. The other guy was a cheerleader who got into a National Guard unit through family influence, lost money in the oil business, traded Sammy Sosa to the White Sox and is now sliding through a presidential race on his charm. Do I not get American men or what?

Not that being president of your fraternity and governor of Texas isn't a wide political resumé. Isn't it?

Not to nitpick the cineaste's art, but of the two convention bio films, the Spike Jonze look at the lighter side of Gore ("My wife keeps going around barefoot -- it's messing up my image as a stiff guy") was so much better than Mark McKinnon's confection of pallid platitudes from Bush delivered against a wide Texas sky that it was sort of embarrassing. But then, Jonze is the guy who made Being John Malkovich, while McKinnon is the guy who made ... uh, some Texas political ads.

So here are the Democrats, stuck trying to sell the steak, not the sizzle, of the sizzleless Gore, while Republicans attempt to tap-dance their way through with the vaguest of pink-cloud plans and a likable candidate.

My favorite criticism of the Gore speech was the one affecting not to understand what the man meant when he said he would fight for families against the special interests. "Populist rhetoric" is the put-down for such heretical thoughts.

Who could Gore have meant?

The drug companies that keep sneaking patent extensions through Congress so they can keep overcharging you? The insurance industry and the HMOs that keep telling your doctor how to treat you? The communications industry that bought a major deregulation through Congress in 1996, leading to an ungodly concentration of ownership? Electric utilities now ripping you off? Auto companies stalling against environmental requirements? The financial industry slavering for billions in commissions if Social Security is privatized?

I would continue, but I'm out of space.

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