The Case for Gore
This is an election about who flies the plane
I mean no disrespect to the Undecideds or the Occasionally
Decideds, or to the non-Republican faithfuls who have come to
the conclusion that George W. Bush should be President of the
United States. But, are you kidding?
Here is a choice between an apparently amiable fellow who talks
about bringing people together and a man with 24 years'
experience in national government and international affairs who
is extraordinarily competent, clear-headed, fair-minded,
egalitarian to the bones; who will enact policies that retain and
make the best use of our astonishing prosperity; and who is--as I
know personally--big-hearted, honest, loyal, devoted to his wife,
children and friends and (does one really need to say this?)
Why is this election so close? Because too many people see money
up, crime down and their own gardens in bloom, and thus conclude
that matters of public policy have no connection to their life.
So they focus on nonsense. They tilt toward Bush in the debates
out of some adolescent response to powerlessness and ineptitude.
They tilt away from Gore because he appears to know that he's
intellectually superior to and more civic-minded than his
opponent. He is.
My fellow Americans: It's not about likability. It's about who
keeps the checklist, who flies the plane.
On this wonk business: I spoke with Gore in his hotel room the
week before last. Having completed a day of Regis, Oprah,
Saturday Night Live and the Al Smith dinner, and set to wake up
at 5 a.m. to do the Today show, he stretched out and had a beer.
It was close to midnight. He should have been exhausted. Instead,
in answer to my questions, he sailed into exquisitely detailed,
many-referenced and well-over-my-head explanations of the
economy, the arms race and anything else his mind embraced.
Why? Not to impress me, I assure you. It's simply that he loves
traveling in academic territory. If his tendency to sometimes
talk like a monograph comes off as bullying, it's a flaw of
style. Live with it. When he is President, we will all smile it
off as a treasurable quirk.
Or do you prefer George W.'s response to the 34-year-old single
woman in the third debate who asked how his tax plan would
affect her: "You get a plan that will include prescription
drugs... You're going to live in a peaceful world... It's less
likely that you'll be harmed in your neighborhood"? Is it for
thinking like this that Bush has received a press pass to the
You may agree more or less with Gore's support of gun control,
abortion laws, gay rights, affirmative action or his
assertiveness on foreign policy. But on matters affecting the
public good--which have relevance for even the most prosperous
among us--the differences between the candidates are night and
HEALTH CARE Gore will use $253 billion of the budget surplus
between now and 2010 for prescription-drug coverage for the
elderly under Medicare. Bush devotes $110 billion to overhaul
Medicare and relies on the as yet undemonstrated goodwill of
insurance companies to provide a drug benefit. Whenever Gore
brings up this subject or Social Security or any threat to the
elderly, he's accused of scare tactics. I should hope so.
EDUCATION Bush advocates school vouchers, which offer little more
than a down payment on private-school tuition and draw tax money
away from public schools. Gore will give $115 billion over 10
years to increase the federal contribution to state and local
governments. Today's generation of students is the largest in
American history, and 97% of them go to public schools. The
nation survives on learning. Is public education worth saving?
Let's have a show of hands.
THE ENVIRONMENT A new U.N.-sponsored study came out last week
stating that global warming is worse than anyone had thought and
that human pollution is a substantial cause. Gore pledges a
remarkable $171 billion in tax credits and subsidies over 10
years to wean us off our reliance on oil and gas and get rid of
polluting factories. Bush--who knows or cares nothing about this
subject--finds it convenient to deny that people have anything to
do with pollution and wants to solve our oil problems by drilling
on pristine lands. In a major speech this week, with swing states
like Michigan in the balance, Gore plans to say, "Environmental
protections will be at the core of my presidency."
THE ECONOMY Gore's proposals derive from a view of the economy
that balances the budget, decreases the debt, reassures the
markets, keeps long-term interest rates low and employment
high--all of which have brought us to the very prosperity that
evidently has blinded some folks as to how we got here.
That night I interviewed him, I reversed Reagan and asked if
we'd be better off four years from now. Off the top of a
sleepless head, he spoke of even more jobs and health care for
every child. And then he said this: "America has a two-part
mission. First, to prove that freedom unlocks human potential.
Second, to prove that we have the capacity to rise above racial
and religious differences and hatreds. The suffering people of
the world, when they hope, look to us for a sign of their own
potential. I see a future, now near to us, in which we become
more consciously dedicated to fulfilling both our missions, so
that we may lead ourselves, and the world, toward humanity's
best destiny." Likable enough?
CHRISTOPHER MORRIS--BLACK STAR FOR TIME
If you're looking for substance over style, then Al's your man