||Tucker Carlson is a CNN political analyst and contributes to The Weekly Standard and Talk magazines. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN allpolitics.com during the election season.|
Tucker Carlson: Gore's insulting, and sudden, agreeability with Bradley
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The most insulting thing Al Gore said during the Democratic debate in Los
Angeles Wednesday night was, "I agree with Bill Bradley."
Gore has spent months savaging his opponent as a dangerous radical whose policy proposals
would drag America back to a darker age. As recently as last week, at the
Apollo Theater in Harlem, Gore implied that a Bradley presidency would be a
disaster for black Americans.
By Wednesday, the vice president's tone had changed dramatically. Gore couldn't seem to
say enough kind things about the former senator from New Jersey. At times he even seemed
to admit that, in fact, he and Bradley share almost identical views on most issues. Gore's
graciousness was the surest sign yet that Bradley's presidential campaign,
while still twitching, has died. Gore could afford to be kind because he has
already won. The 90-minute program felt more like a denouement than a debate.
A pat on the back from Al Gore is the political equivalent of a Mafia
death kiss, and he gave several of them to John McCain. Gore declared himself
heartily in agreement with McCain's positions on campaign finance reform, and
otherwise made the Republican senator sound like an ideological amigo. McCain
himself did not watch the debate, though he sounded distinctly unimpressed
when told about it the next day.
Why do you suppose Gore was being so nice to
you? a reporter asked the Arizona senator as his campaign bus headed to the
Los Angeles airport. McCain grimaced. "Did he say anything about his friend
Maria Hsia?" McCain responded, referring to the Gore fund-raiser recently
convicted on five felony counts.
In other words: It isn't over yet. Al Gore and I are still competing for the
McCain's more immediate challenge, of course, comes from Gov. George W. Bush.
While McCain is running well in New York and New England, he continues to
trail Bush badly in California, the South and several delegate-rich
Midwestern states. By last night's debate, McCain was feeling the pressure.
For a man who has successfully bailed out of four disabled airplanes, McCain
seemed strikingly nervous in the minutes before he went on the air, by remote
from a television studio in St. Louis. As it turned out, the debate probably
changed few votes.
As usual, the night's most memorable lines came from Alan Keyes, who
immediately launched into an attack on Bill Clinton as a "shameless, lying,
oath-breaking president." Keyes can be amusing. Overall, however, he was
insufferable. He whined about not being interviewed on the broadcast
networks. He once again accused the media of racism. He even went after CNN,
whose air he was polluting.
Alan Keyes is a bully, and incredibly unpleasant.
Keeping Keyes out of future televised debates would be a welcome piece of
McCain and Bush, meanwhile, both gave serviceable performances, though it was
Bush who won the Most Improved Debater award. Apart from his smirk, which
appears to be involuntary (last night he actually laughed during a question
about the death penalty), Bush has managed to get control over most of his
less appealing tics. He now looks, if not quite presidential, far more
serious and credible than he did in earlier appearances. Bush is a better
politician than he was six months ago, and he has John McCain to thank for