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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Sunday, September 29, 2002



Al Gore: Political Death Wish, or Terrible Staff?

Yes, I will accept (c), both of the above. I am marveling at this gem, highlighted by Stan ("The Man") Musil:

"As an amusing aside, Mr. Gore revived his old embarrassing campaign problem of asserting bizarre factoids which almost certainly will not check out once the inevitable investigative leg work is done by the media or Republican partisans:

[From the Washington Times]
Mr. Gore also said Mr. Bush's Justice Department and the FBI had spent more time and resources investigating a suspected brothel in New Orleans than monitoring bin Laden and his terrorist network. "Where is their sense of priorities?" Mr. Gore asked."


Or, from the WaPo:

"The warnings were there," Gore said. He contended the Justice Department had assigned only one FBI agent to monitor Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida, while 13 FBI agents were assigned to eavesdrop on a brothel in New Orleans.

"Where is the sense of priorities?" asked Gore.

He commented Thursday at a fund-raising breakfast for Delaware attorney general candidate Carl Schnee."


So, Gore throwing out a bit of red meat at a fundraiser. And where is this story likely to take the ever-astute "Big Al"? I have some thoughts:

First, will it check out? Of course not. The very best Big Al can hope for is that some aide will produce a puzzling organization chart showing only one Justice Dept. official assigned full-time to Al-qaeda. Maybe in the prosecutors division, at a time when no cases were being developed. Maybe. But the FBI was involved in the investigation of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, and the investigation of the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, so, eventually, we will learn that many Justice Dept. officials work on international terror full-time, and includes Al-qaeda among their responsibilities.

We will also be told that, if you want to criticize the Administration, you should criticize the relevant agencies. Both the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have been slackers in the pursuit of Al-qaeda; the CIA and the US Military have been quite diligent, since Al-qaeda operates primarily overseas.

We will be reminded that, unless Big Al can produce a memo from George Bush saying "right, then, we are putting too many agents on terrorism and not enough on brothels", Administration apologists will observe that, as of the summer of 2001, these were the priorities inherited from Clinton-Gore. Left to our imaginations will be the question of why Bill Clinton was so interested in New Orleans brothels. And, to round out the day, we will learn that this was not just any brothel - it was a Very Serious Investigation into Organized Crime or the War On Drugs, or anyway, Something Big.

So, having launched this particular ship, to what safe harbor might Big Al be sailing?

-- KIDDING! Hey, I was just having fun at a fund-raiser, gimme a break.

Hmm, Al Gore, the King of Comedy, riffing on civil liberties and the lighter side of 9/11. Insensitive and tone-deaf.

-- No fair, I was taken out of context!

Please. He had to know this would be a soundbite. If it requires four pages of footnotes and a bibliography, save your defenders a lot of pain and leave it out. Pedantic and inept.

OK, enough of the favorable scenarios. What else is out there?

-- Stare closely at the puzzling chart. Although, in a broader sense, I may be wrong, clearly there is a technical sense in which I am correct.

Don't defend this, Al. Put down the shovel and stop digging. If you really believe this, you are ignorant as to how the Justice Dept. is organized, and soft on crime to boot.

-- Ooops, looks like we made a mistake.

Ooops, it looks like you don't have the common sense of a housecat. If there was a nano-second when you actually believed you could get away with this FBI story, either you are a stone-idiot, or you take me for one.

And I think that is about it. So, what is happening with Big Al? Political suicide? Look, this would be a gaffe for anyone. However, Big Al has a rep for straying from the facts. Yes, I know, he didn't really say he invented the Internet, that was a distortion by an unsympathetic media and evil Republicans. But guess what? The media is still unsympathetic, and Repuplicans are still evil - Big Al shouldn't supply the dirt to shovel on his own grave.

But I think the problem goes deeper. In the 90's, there were Republicans who hated Clinton with such passion that their brains froze - "Clinton-lock" was the technical term. If Clinton said at breakfast that he enjoyed watching the sun rise in the East, you would see the rebuttals by lunchtime: "Clinton said the sun rises in the East? More lies. Everyone knows that the sun is the center of the solar system and it is only the rotation of the earth about its own axis that creates the illusion of a rising sun. More spin from the master of illusion...." Oh, you remember.

Anyway, I think Gore may have become a rally point for Democrats affected with "Bush-lock", and we are seeing the evidence in his staff work. Heaven knows, Gore may be afflicted himself, and with some reason. Perhaps the recent voting debacle in Florida pushed him over the edge. But if he and his staff don't stop loathing and start thinking, they are going to have serious problems during their short campaign. As to suggestions for a cure? Well, time, and the Marc Rich pardons, worked for me. For Big Al, I cannot offer hope.


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