1. Newsweek and Time offer weak defenses of Gore’s penchant for making things up. Jonathan Alter grumbled: "If these slips had been made by any other politician, they would have caused barely a peep." Margaret Carlson claimed: "In my warped view, Gore fell within the margin of political error by scoring 95% for anecdotal accuracy."
2. U.S. News owner Mort Zuckerman worried about the negative psychological impact of tax cuts on American voters. "A big tax cut like that proposed by Bush would very likely cause massive voter unease, raising questions about our ability to sustain the promise of Social Security for millions of older Americans."
3. Bill Clinton may be a lout, but he sure knows how to treat his wife on their silver wedding anniversary, reported
On the covers of this week’s newsmagazines: Time and Newsweek featured the end of the Milosevic regime in Yugoslavia; U.S. News & World Report wondered if we are getting enough sleep. Perhaps the funniest page in Time this week is Senior Editor Nancy Gibbs wondering about Al Gore’s polling plunge after "winning" the first debate. The headline whined: "Where Is The Love?"
A common theme in this week’s newsmagazines was their focus on Gore’s now well-known exaggerations and lies. One of Gore’s chief apologists on this issue, Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, continues his tortured defense of Gore’s misstatements and complains that the media is spending far too much time and space correcting them.
"Now none of this is the slightest bit unusual in politics. In fact, if you scan transcripts of presidential speeches, press conferences and debates over the past half century, they are studded with fabrications. Some are to protect national security (Ike on the U-2 in 1960), some are to protect the president’s own skin (Nixon, Clinton) and some are just boasting (Jimmy Carter falsely claimed to be a ‘nuclear engineer’). Ronald Reagan, who once claimed he had helped liberate Nazi concentration camps, practically turned falsehoods into an art form. Which brings us to Velcro Al, whose every misstatement sticks to him. Several of the reports of his lies have themselves been exaggerated. Take last week. After dozens of trips with FEMA chief James Lee Witt to other disaster sites, it’s understandable how he might confuse them, and say he had accompanied Witt to the Texas fires. (In fact, Gore was briefed in Texas by one of Witt’s deputies.) And the embellished story about the Sarasota, Fla., student who had to stand in class in her overcrowded school was the result of bad staff work; no one double-checked the original story. If these slips had been made by any other politician, they would have caused barely a peep."
Margaret Carlson’s article in Time on "Gore’s infuriating fibs" took Alter’s arguments a step further by making the outrageous claim that Gore’s false anecdotes were 95 percent accurate (if this were the case, why did Gore go on record the next day admitting he was wrong about going with James Lee Witt to the Texas fires?) followed by a slap at Reagan and concluded by claiming Bush is the worse liar of the two.
"Gore served up several juicy targets -- that standing-room-only classroom in Florida, Winifred Skinner's picking up cans to buy medicine, his being in Texas during the floods with James Lee Witt. Bush's truth squad quickly put the word out that Gore had not gone with Witt but with FEMA's regional director (although he had gone on 17 other Witt trips to disaster areas). In fact, Kaylie Ellis isn't still standing at Sarasota High School, but her lab built for 24 is squeezing in 36, and other students are still deskless. Kids at that other school Gore mentioned are eating lunch at 10 a.m., not 9:30. And when a well-off son appeared to cast doubt on Winnie's need to recycle aluminum, she reiterated her desire not to take charity from anyone. In my warped view, Gore fell within the margin of political error by scoring 95% for anecdotal accuracy, although I don't want to suggest for a second that his overall affect, especially the sighing, didn't make me want to shake him....For Gore, there's zero tolerance for anything but the literal truth. Reagan, the President who told the tallest of tales, won his debate by employing the famous line ‘There you go again’ against Jimmy Carter, who told the fewest tales. Reagan claimed he took pictures of Nazi death camps and was happy like other vets after the war to be able to finally ‘rest up, make love to my wife...,’ though he never left the country....In the end, Gore's fibs, which have to do with his life, should matter less to voters than Bush's fibs, which have to do with our lives."
In his back-page editorial, U.S. News owner Mortimer Zuckerman feared a massive taxpayer revolt if Bush ever attempted to make his tax cut plan a reality. Citing what he calls "massive voter unease" with tax cuts. He echoed Gore’s soak the rich philosophy and paints tax cuts as fiscally irresponsible while praising Gore’s new "populist" pitch:
"It may sound like shopworn rhetoric from the 1930s, but Bush has achieved the dubious distinction of boosting Gore's populist rhetoric through his tax cuts that lopsidedly favor the rich. No fewer than 10 times in the presidential debate last week, Gore charged that Bush's cuts would give the wealthiest 1 percent a tax break that exceeds all the new money that Bush proposes investing in education, health care, prescription drugs, and national defense combined.
In an entirely self-loathing stretch, Mort explained: "It's not hard for a populist to win votes by attacking a program that puts an extra $1,000 a week in the pockets of the people who earn more than $1 million a year. After all, for going on two decades now, it's those same folks who have been doing so much better than ordinary Americans. Those in the top 5 percent have earned 78 percent more, in inflation-adjusted terms, than they did 20 years ago. That's almost 61/2 times the growth of those with median income. Bush's proposed cuts, in other words, give Gore a priceless opportunity to frame the tax issue as one of the rich versus the working and middle classes.
Zuckerman loved how somebody’s polls found a rejection of tax cuts: "Americans may or may not respond to the politics of envy, but they surely reject the politics of risk. By almost 2 to 1, polls indicate that a majority of voters want the government to work within realistic financial limits to pay off the national debt and secure Social Security and Medicare before cutting taxes or increasing spending. By at least a 3-to-1 majority, they favor fiscal discipline over a tax cut. A big tax cut like that proposed by Bush would very likely cause massive voter unease, raising questions about our ability to sustain the promise of Social Security for millions of older Americans."
Finally, according to this week’s Washington Whispers in U.S. News, Bill Clinton has some "class" after all when it comes to his family life. "Say what you want, but President Clinton still has some class. To celebrate his silver wedding anniversary, the prez this week plans to squire first lady and New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Big Apple's hottest spot: Le Cirque, the eatery Zagat calls ‘elegantly trippy.’ Dinner will follow Mrs. Clinton's attendance at music producer Denise Rich’s fete for former Red Mikhail Gorbachev."
Certainly a lot more classy than intern Olympics in the Oval Office.
– Paul Smith