Thursday, April 20, 2006

The best President we might never have

I've said before that I think Al Gore made some crucial mistakes in 2000, chief among them picking the Quisling from Connecticut as his running mate.

Obviously these mistakes didn't lose him the election, since HE WON! but I think they did make it closer than it ought to have been.

A much bigger factor in Al Gore's not becoming President in 2001 was the incessant negative coverage he received from the Media Elites coupled with the relative free-ride George Bush got. Maureen Dowd set the tone long before the campaign was underway.

I'm not sure that this cost Gore many votes, but it finally cost him the election in this way. The Media, having convinced themselves that Gore was a lousy candidate because of character flaws they'd invented or exaggerated, decided he didn't deserve to be President, and so they covered the Florida Recounts as if it was a boring exercise in petty politics, a waste of time Gore had inflicted on us because he was a poor sport. They covered it as if it was always a question of when Gore would admit the obvious and concede.

A few analysts looked seriously into the ways the Bush Leaguers were working to steal the election, but for the most part the coverage focused on how dull and pointless all the court challenges and questions about chads and overvotes and undervotes were. The Brooks Brothers riot was treated as comic relief.

And when the Republican partisans on the Supreme Court stepped in and openly declared that it didn't matter what Florida's laws or judges said or what the United States Consitution said, their boy would have been unfairly denied the Presidency if the recount continued, because, well, HE'D HAVE LOST!, the Media reacted with a collective sigh of relief. Thank God that's over, I was bored to tears...I mean, Hooray, the System Worked!

There was even a bit of CW knocking about that the fact that the Bush Leaguers were willing to do anything to win proved that Bush deserved to be President more than Gore did and would even be better at the job, as if qualifications for the office included a total disregard the expressed will of the People, a contempt for the law, an eagerness to use the organs of Government to advance personal political agendas, and a near criminal ruthlessness in pursuit of power.

Well, Bush turned out to have all those qualifications in spades and we've seen how well that's turned out for him and the country.

The Media Elites hated Al Gore, they openly rooted against him, and they were glad when he lost.

Bob Somerby and Avedon Carol have made this point over and over again.

The question now is do those journalists and pundits who despised Gore then regret it now?

Doubt it. Most analyses of the 2000 election I've read blame everything on Gore, including the Media's negative coverage of him. It was up to Gore to stop their criticisms and disprove the lies about himself they were reporting as facts, e.g. his supposed claim to have invented the Internet, a canard that still gets replayed as a fact. The most egregious recent example is the self-hating "Liberal" Joe Klein's new book

Shorter Joe Klein: If only Al Gore had not hired any political consultants. Then we in the Press wouldn't have misreported what his political consultants were advising him to do and found something else to beat up on him for...not that we lacked ammunition anyway.

Richard Cohen, though, wants Gore to run again, sort of, kind of, maybe, if Gore will promise to be a better candidate this time.

The trouble with Cohen's two cheers for Al op-ed is that in trying to tell us what's good about Gore, Cohen tells us why the Media hated him so much:

He is master teacher, pedagogue, know-it-all, smarter than most of us, better informed and, having tried and failed to gain the presidency, he has raised his sights to save the world.

Here it is, presented as a compliment, the Media's counts of indictment against Gore in 2000. Didactic and preachy, a smarty-pants, thinks he's better than the rest of us, self-aggrandizing loser.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the reason the Baby Boomer-dominated Washington Insiders in the Media hated Bill Clinton and Al Gore is that they were two fellow Boomers who made the rest of the generation look bad by being so much smarter and more successful than the mass of their demographic cohort, particularly that subset that works in Washington, DC as journalists.

Clinton and Gore made them all feel like slackers and dummies.

Clinton and Gore were what they all secretly despised themselves for not being.

I can't imagine that many journalists and pundits who hated Gore then have had any epiphanies about themselves since and I expect that if Gore does run in '08 he'll face the same kind of negative coverage again.

And he'll have to deal with the same Catch-22. The news stories will focus on what a bad campaigner he is and then the analysts will use them to make points implying that Gore's weaknesses as a candidate disqualify him from the Presidency.

Cohen, who says that the country needs Gore now---to which Avedon replies we needed him in 2000 too---predicts that Catch-22 coming back to bite him.

"Gore could be a great president," Cohen writes, "First, though, he has to be a good candidate."

Being a good candidate means pleasing Cohen's colleagues, the boys and girls on the bus.

Good luck, Al.

The fact that he would have to deal with a hostile press corps is not a reason for Gore to stay out of the race. It's not a reason for Hillary to stay out either, although it's often put forward as an argument against her candidacy. It is something both of them need to take into account and prepare for, but it's something they can overcome if they deal with it aggressively.

Steve Benan of the Carpetbagger Report, has a guest post at Crooks and Liars linking to a number of signs that Gore is gearing up for 2008. I don't know how I would feel about Gore running again, because I actually take him at his word that he doesn't plan to. I agree with Atrios who says:

My take on Al Gore and the presidency is that the 2000 election drove him sane and cured him of the basic level of insanity necessary to actually want to be president.

The point being that no sane person would aspire to such an impossible job and that actively pursuing it is a sign that you are either nuts, power-mad, blinded by an out of control ego, or so appalling naive that should not be allowed out in the world without your nanny...or in the case of the current President, all four. In short, the surest sign you don't deserve to be President is thinking that you should be.



Whatever I know about the Florida Recount fight I know from reading Jeffrey Toobin's Too Close to Call.

And this would be a good time to re-read Ezra Klein's American Prospect essay, The New New Gore.


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