Time to get real 

If Gore can’t beat this bumbling governor of Texas with his horrific record, what good is he? —Ralph Nader, Oct. 29, 2000


Not much, indeed. Ralph had that much right. Which isn’t the point. The point is, what becomes of the rest of us if, next week, Albert Gore manages to lose to a man who has neither the credentials, knowledge nor values to lead this country?

Forget Ralph Nader. Yes, his positions on some domestic issues are better and more advanced than Gore’s. Yet — though virtually no one covering this election has bothered to point this out — he is entirely inexperienced at any form of government, and has only the sketchiest notions of the foreign policy aspects of the presidency.

And like it or not, there is a whole great wide world out there, much of which wants something from us, rightly or wrongly, and some tiny fraction of which would do us harm. As witness the hole in the side of the USS Cole.

Plus, even Nader concedes he has no chance to win. Yet the ol’ Corvair killer would argue that if a wave of progressive votes for him elects Bush, that’s just what the Democratic Party deserves. There’s something to that; witness the creatures who lead it in this state. But again, even if Mark Brewer and Steve Yokich deserve to be embarrassed one more time — do the rest of us deserve George W. Bush?

Possibly some progressives really believe a Bush Minor presidency would help liberals recapture the Democratic Party, or even result in Nader’s election in 2004. This sort of thinking is not new. Back in the 1930s, the European far left thought it was actually better to let the far right take power than have moderates running the show. Their idea was to sharpen the contrast so much that at the next election the good guys would be swept into power. That never happened; Hitler did.

Not that George W. Bush is a fascist. Nor is he really a nice folksy guy. He’s a spoiled rich kid whose main accomplishment has been to give up being a drunk. He was born on third base, decided he’d hit a triple and now wants to come home to the White House. The question is, are you going to let him? Because it is primarily up to you.

What we have just witnessed is a campaign in which, as no other before it, the media has been an active participant in the dumbing-down of America. Reporters and anchormen beat up on Gore for being too “overbearing” and “know-it-all” in the farces called debates, and talked of how warm and likable his stumblebum opponent was.

Personally, in my few lucid moments, I want to be able to think the president is smarter than me. And I don’t mind all that much his being a bit stuffy. I don’t want to go to the rodeo with him or have him paw my wife. I want to keep my job and have whoever gets the Rose Garden to keep us out of war or other disasters.

The national media, naturally, knows better, and so it has savaged the vice president for exaggerating minor details in anecdotes, and largely given Bush a pass on what, at last, the New York Times noted Sunday is a program “built on a stunning combination of social inequity and flawed economic theory.”

Though you’d never know it, Al Gore has a progressive record in many ways, enough so that the Bushwhackers are even now trying to paint him as an environmental extremist. Plus, the next president will appoint a bunch of Supreme Court justices. We could be living with the consequences of those choices for lifetimes to come.

Yes, we journalists have certainly lived up to our responsibility to inform the public. Incidentally, there seems to be common agreement that, if Bush wins, Dick Cheney will be the president for foreign policy. Cheney, who had several heart attacks in his 40s, has since gotten fat. Has any media outlet put the energy into trying to determine the true state of Cheney’s health as they did, two years ago, investigating Clinton’s pecker?

The truth is, the choice this year couldn’t be more clear.

Surprisingly good news:Two weeks ago, I believed Debbie Stabenow’s campaign was hopeless. To my amazed joy, I was dead wrong. Down 50 percent-36 percent earlier this month, she has now moved to dead even, with the momentum in her direction.

What happened? The Republicans’ problem is that Spencer Abraham is a goofy-looking far-right-wing clod, smart in a policy geek sort of way, but with the political sense and people skills of a dying woodchuck. Despite spending $15 million in TV advertising attacking her and trying to falsify his own record, it isn’t selling.

This is a critically important race; the pharmaceutical companies and other corporate greedheads have pumped millions of dollars into it to try to keep ol’ Spence afloat. Whether they succeed will send a very important message across this state and nation.

Even more good news: The crack-brained voucher proposal appears dead, perhaps because the voters actually began reading it. Personally, this causes me some minor sacrifice. I had plans to open the Politics & Prejudices Charter School of Pain in the abandoned Free Press building, where for your $3,000 voucher I would keep the kiddies entertained and informed with U.S. government instructional films all day, while my headmistress, the noted artist Niagara, kept them in line with the force of her personality and riding crop.

Such an educational experience would be incomparable. But I have to confess a minor prejudice against the complete destruction of a shared, civil society, which the voucher proposal would go a long way to accomplish. So, naaah.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for the Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com

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