Observing US:
A column about America,
by Marylaine Block
originally published by
Fox News Online, 1998-2000

#106, September 26, 2000


by Marylaine Block

You know, Al Gore's campaign doesn't make sense to me. In playing up the future and downplaying the past, it's acting like Gore has no resume. I'm not one of Gore's biggest fans, but he does have accomplishments to talk about, and issues he's been involved with for many years. You'd think he'd use what he HAS done to convince people he'll do what he says he'll do.

The man's supposed to be an environmentalist, for heaven's sake, an issue voters care about. Why wasn't it Al Gore who announced the 18-month moratorium on new road construction in national forests? Why wasn't it Gore standing atop the Grand Canyon in January announcing the designation of three national parks as national monuments? Why wasn't he the one who showed up in Montana to encourage the firefighters and announce that army reserve units had been called up to assist in the fight against devastating wildfires? Why hasn't he been visiting salvaged Superfund sites like the former hazardous waste dump in Ohio that is now 7 acres of wetlands, home to plants and migratory birds?

Gore has been working for years on urban sprawl - the traffic congestion, long commutes, air pollution, loss of open space, and hollowing out of urban cores that have become major issues across the country, prompting many communities to vote for smart growth initiatives. So how come Gore isn't visiting communities that used rehabilitation tax credits and Community Reinvestment Act funds to revitalize their downtowns? Why isn't he visiting cities that used federal grants to turn brownfields into viable business districts?

Since Gore is advocating more federal assistance, in the face of a public that doesn't much trust government, you'd think he'd emphasize the work he did to make government more effective and responsive. You'd think he'd tell everybody that he made every single federal agency develop customer service standards ("Customer service? What's that?"). You'd think he'd talk about 16,000 pages of federal regulations eliminated by his National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

As a man who in fact had a good deal to do with making the internet not just a Defense Department tool but a universal communication system, why isn't he making campaign stops in some of the community technology centers his administration funded for low-income communities? Why isn't he staging photo ops in libraries that can only afford broadband access to the net because government provided special educational e-rates?

He's even missing bets that emphasize the Democrats' grand theme. If he's for the people, and they're for the powerful, why isn't he making a major issue of the minimum wage hike that's still stalled in Congress? Why isn't he pointing out that it's stalled because Congress insisted on adding expensive unrelated goodies to the package? Why isn't he mentioning that the previous minimum wage hike in 1996 didn't pass until tax benefits were added for companies that moved jobs overseas?

Why isn't he touting the administration's State Children's Health Insurance Program that fully funded health care coverage for five million children? After all, Bush is being sued for his long delay in instituting this in Texas. (The health insurance wouldn't have cost his state much at all, but it would have made qualifying families aware they were eligible for Medicaid as well.)

You'd think Gore would be talking more about the 15 million working poor who got money back under the Clinton-Gore Earned Income Tax Credit program, or about the millions of workers who took unpaid leave for medical emergencies and kept their jobs thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act Clinton and Gore fought for.

So, what's going on here? Are Gore's campaign people stupid, or are they somehow unaware of Gore's actual accomplishments? Is Clinton so intent on preserving his own legacy that he's not willing to share the credit?

Or is Gore so eager to distance himself from Clinton-the-lecher that he's willing to distance himself from Clinton-the-policymaker as well, even if it means downplaying his own accomplishments? Even if it means downplaying his key ace-in-the-hole against Bush: his years of public service, and his reputation as a serious thinker about government?

If so, you don't have to like Al Gore or agree with his ideas to think it's one of the dumber things a smart man has done.

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