By Jamie Stiehm, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Why does an Arkansas Senate primary make me want to cry the beloved country? Because it reminded me that Al Gore would have won the 2000 election if not for his foolish pride. You know what I'm talking about. After yesterday's election and recent news of Gore's separation from his wife Tipper, let's send Gore to the millennial doghouse to stay a while.
Blanche Lambert Lincoln, the Southern Democratic senator with a little Scarlett O'Hara in her, won her primary race because she gladly accepted help from the political grand master--to wit, William Jefferson Clinton. In the state of Arkansas. Bill Clinton knows the hustings, the precincts, the diners, the parades, the first names and whose granddaddy is whose. Arkansas is his provenance and planet, even to this day. Go to Little Rock if you don't believe me and strike up a conversation with anyone at the airport--for example, the rich widow from the small town. Whoever you happen to meet, nobody's a stranger to Bill. Mostly, they love him.
So what if the former president is a lovable rogue? As the famous Gone With the Wind line goes, frankly, Lincoln didn't give a damn because she knows Arkansas well enough to know he'd deliver the difference--if he campaigned for her. Just like Scarlett borrowed money from Rhett Butler to start a business in the ruins of Atlanta after the Civil War. It's just horse sense, people. Nothing you need a Nobel Prize to understand.
As Lincoln basked in her victory over Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, Clinton bequeathed his old nickname to her, saying to her, "Blanche, you're the new Comeback Kid." Good for her for fighting hard to win, contrary to the conventional wisdom that she was soon to be gone. [See who supports Lincoln.]
Gore displayed no such smarts. I'm simplifying history, but as you recall, Gore dissed the sitting president in 2000 and acted like they were strangers. All because of that tiresome impeachment flogged by the "Dirty Dozen" House Republicans led by former Rep. Henry Hyde, an admitted adulterer. During the 2000 campaign, Gore as the Democratic nominee virtually disowned the Clinton record of peace and prosperity, declaring he wanted to run as his own man. He kissed his wife Tipper as if he was Rhett Butler at the Democratic National Convention--in front of millions watching. This staged kiss struck me as a bit much and ungracious to Bill and Hillary Clinton, then trying to put their marital troubles to bed. It was as though Gore was setting up an invidious comparison between the domestic tranquility of the Clintons and the Gores. Hey, sad to say, but the only person on the scene more sanctimonious than Gore was his running mate, Joe Lieberman (then a Senate Democrat.) [See which industries donate the most to Lieberman.]
The unforgettable and unforgivable part: Gore did not let Clinton campaign for him in Arkansas, something he'll have to explain one day. Clinton was livid, and why not? That's like keeping Secretariat in his stable on the day of the Derby. As a result, Gore lost Arkansas and ergo, the entire election. If he had won Arkansas, he would have beat George W. Bush then and there, fair and square, without the ordeal of vote recounts in Florida.
Had Gore been elected a decade ago in a clear outcome, he likely would have governed better than he campaigned. At least, he would not have plunged into a chaotic war of choice against Iraq, which has done so much to hurt the economy and our moral standing among other nations. We might not be watching the poisoned waters of the BP catastrophe right now. The Supreme Court would certainly not be in the clutches of men aggressively at odds with our democratically elected and Democratic president. Gore's dissing of Clinton was more than a disservice.
Al Gore's pride caused a fall for the nation.