The Green Papers Commentary

Strange Revelations as Election 2000 Nears

Saturday, November 4, 2000

"The Green Papers" Staff

So we now know that Governor George W. Bush of Texas, the Republican candidate for President of the United States, drove drunk one dark night along the Maine coast nearly a quarter century ago, got caught and got fined. What does this tell us about the character of the GOP nominee? Answer: absolutely nothing. Assuming, of course, we all use our brains! (When we don't, it says more about our character as a People- as in "none whatsoever"- than about any political candidate)

Yet it was laughable (thus proving to "Vox Populi"-er Dan Stansbury that, yes, I do see the humor in these revelations of allegedly "deep, dark skeletons") to watch the major television news networks falling all over themselves trying to characterize the story as it was breaking Thursday evening (2 November). It was even more laughable, however, to watch Bush's defenders among present and past Republican pols (the Congressman Joe Scarboroughs and the former Senator Alan Simpsons of the world) busting their collective blood vessels in righteous indignation over the possibility that this story might have even come from... horrors!... the GORE campaign!!

I admit it has been a long time since I have seen so much valuable television air time wasted on so little substance as the Bush DUI story... it was 24 years ago, for God's sake!- the fact is that both Bush and Gore are "Baby Boomers": twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five years ago, they probably drank a little too much from time to time, experimented with drugs- both legal and illegal, maybe even took more than a few liberties with certain body parts of members of the opposite sex- for all I know... or care! But also for all you know or should care!!

I am not in the least surprised at Bush's DUI conviction any more than I am surprised that a childhood friend of the Vice President claims he and Gore smoked "lots" of marijuana, any more than I am surprised that it is quite possible Governor Bush snorted cocaine "back in the day". No, I am not the least bit surprised, nor am I at all shocked, about this behavior on the part of the two major Party candidates from the 1970s; I myself grew up in the 70s, came of age in the 70s: I knew what was going on around me in those days and, more importantly, have not forgotten it all to this day.

What is intriguing to me is how this still can be an issue here in the first four-digit year with a "2" as the first digit: how many of the Gore supporters honestly believe that this could turn the Election around (though, I suppose, as their candidate is in the process of blowing this Election as surely as the 1964 Phillies blew that big lead they once had in the National League pennant race that year, they must yet be able to cling to some hope!), how many of the Bush supporters are so shocked that an opposing campaign might have leaked such damaging information about their candidate this late in an Election campaign. I, therefore, also have to admit it has also been a long time since I have seen the incredible amount of whining displayed by the Republicans whose candidate has been the focus of this story about his long-ago past.

And, in the end, all I could say as I watched this spectacle unfold Thursday night was: SO [BLEEP]ING WHAT?! For, if the Gore campaign DID leak this Bush DUI story, their timing was pretty damn stupid. Early Thursday morning, I received yet another e-mailing from the "Democrats Press" people announcing a press conference that day in which Democrat Senators Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska- both Medal of Honor winners in two very different wars, both of them (as the e-mailing itself pointed out) "decorated veterans who lost limbs fighting for the United States"- were to denounce George W. Bush's not having served his military duty back during the Vietnam era. Think about it, all of you who e-mailed me in anger in response to my Commentary "LET THE NASTINESS BEGIN" a few weeks back: here was a perfect opportunity to bring the very story you-all wanted pushed to the very forefront of this campaign- pushed here by two highly-regarded Senator-vets.

So, what happened? Nothing. Not a word about the Kerrey/Inouye press conference did I see on the cable news networks as Thursday afternoon became that evening- but, if I ever expected to see a word about that press conference as that evening progressed, any such hope on my part was all but wiped out by the "Breaking News" boards on my TV screen followed by the news and the subsequent ponderous analysis about this 24-year-old transgression by the Texas Governor which surely pales by comparison to possibly having been AWOL a few years prior to that. And we were all left to watch the media responding to the proverbial "bread and circuses".

What comes out of all this falderol? I suppose, in the short term, something along the lines of that evening's e-mailing from "Democrats Press" with the headline "Bush DUI Exposed! Now Demand The Truth About His FUI!!!" (in which "FUI" stands for "Flying Under the Influence") and a first sentence that reads: "Back in 1976, George W. Bush was caught DUI near the family home in Maine. He pled guilty, paid a $150 fine, and lost his license. Four years earlier in 1972, Bush was grounded from flying because he refused to take his flight physical shortly after random drug testing began."... oh, so we're now back to milking that old "Bush used drugs while in the military" canard again... pardon me if I yawn: I've heard that old joke before and I've already long ago memorized the punch line. That story is not resonating among the voters and it is now even less likely to resonate in the final days of this Fall campaign.

In the near term, the Bush-bashers will continue to talk up "DUI, DUI" about as much as Ralph Nader talks about "the corporate structure": but these people were not going to vote for the Texas Governor anyway, even if he had been granted sainthood- so their cries will largely fall on deaf ears; "DUI" might give them yet another excuse to vote for the Al Gore they all were going to vote for anyway but it won't give that excuse to many others. Meanwhile, the Republican hierarchy will continue to trot out their minions to decry "dirty politics" which has produced an eleventh-hour "revelation" about a quarter-century old indiscretion; of course, few will notice the well-worn, dog-eared copies of Machiavelli's The Prince which the Bush supporters have long been reading, while waiting in the green rooms of so many news-talk programs during the course of this campaign, in an attempt to "better" themselves both as campaigners and politicians.

The American People will, in the end, decide this Election for reasons having very little to do with "dirty politics" or which side is most responsible for same: if they decide it on the issues, Al Gore ekes out a victory- for the polls show that Gore's take on most issues is closer to the bell curve of the American electorate than Bush's is (as would be expected of the candidate of a Political Party which currently holds the White House and which has, for the most part, enjoyed the benefit of little visible problems- whether economic or foreign policy- perceived among the Body Politic: it's always an advantage to be an incumbent when things are seen as going reasonably well); if- however- they decide it on image, the Vice President is "toast" (Gore's rather ugly performance in the Debates makes him that much less likeable: there are also times when Governor Bush is less than likeable as well but the Vice President cannot well claim any superiority in that department). It has always been Al Gore's election to lose- just as it was always his Party's nomination to lose: the Vice President, however, is on the verge of snatching Defeat from the jaws of Victory and revelations of quarter-century-old misdemeanors by his opponent are going to do rather little to stanch the Democrats' bleeding; there very well might be an envelope in Governor Bush's mailbox as I type this reading: "You May Already Have Won!"

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