L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 101, December 4, 2000
Sparing Us the Emperor Al
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
Holman W. Jenkins, in his Nov. 29 "Business World" column in The Wall Street Journal, pointed out that since the presidential balloting in Florida amounted to a statistical dead heat, any success Al Gore may have in convincing the courts to award him the state -- and thus the presidency -- would be "a statistical accident."
Yet according to Mr. Jenkins, those familiar with Mr. Gore report "his Fido-like persistence arises from his belief that he really 'won' the state. ... He apparently believes that when a small fraction of unmotivated, uninformed voters fail to follow the instructions of the Democratic operatives who drag them to the polls, it's tantamount to robbing him of a prize he's duly earned."
Jenkins concluded his column by pointing out that, should Gore persist in such tactics, "It would become clear, both to history and his own voters, that he was the wrong man all along. Support is already falling away fast for the candidate who is showing himself willing to belabor our most important institution merely to finagle his way to the prize he craves."
This is not merely about Al Gore -- though I'll admit there's something about a man who would pose as a fiscal "moderate" to win election from conservative Tennessee, a spoiled son of Washington privilege and wealthy tobacco heir who would turn cigarette prohibitionist and even use his own sister's tobacco-related death for political gain, a beneficiary of a huge trust in Occidental Oil stock who sidles up to the public-employee collectivists and proves willing to publicly embrace the most bizarre Luddite and Marxist environmental quackery, a man who will even modify his dress, speech and deportment in response to the way he's portrayed each weekend on "Saturday Night Live," that doesn't inspire my deepest trust.
Nor is this about George W. Bush, another child of wealth and privilege who will blithely take the oath of office -- as has every American ruler at least since Calvin Coolidge -- without pausing a moment to contemplate that he fully intends to violate the very principles of limited government which he is swearing before God to protect and defend, preferably within the next hour and certainly a thousand times before the month's out.
I harbor no delusions that George W. Bush will be a great president. I didn't vote for him. I don't even have a hankering for a great president. (Why does "greatness" always involve sending other mothers' sons to die in unpronouncable places?) I'd be much happier with a man who takes long naps in the afternoon and does little or nothing but host pleasant dinners for visiting ambassadors except on those rare occasions when the safety of our freedoms is truly at stake.
The notion that George W. Bush will prove a closet libertarian, working with a Republican Congress to repeal thousands upon thousands of unconstitutional post-1912 enactments and hosing out the thousand bureaucratic ant farms erected along the shores of the Potomac (starting with the IRS, the DEA, the FBI, and the BATF), is a chimera. It will be business as usual for the Imperial Bureaucracy no matter which of these front men is finally allowed to sleep in the Big Bed.
But between the two men there does emerge one increasingly apparent difference of character. George W. Bush has made it clear on a number of occasions that his future happiness does not rest on achieving this office -- if defeated, he has a nice ranch and gratifying gig in Texas and would probably have a more enjoyable next eight years, all things considered.
Al Gore, on the other hand, is a man driven by ambition. It is increasingly apparent he will do almost literally anything to succeed.
Imagine for a moment you could choose one of these two men to take the oath of office on the sad flight back from Dallas in late November of 1963. Within a few months, which would be more likely to start pouring endlessly more men and materiel into the doomed and divisive rathole of Vietnam, vowing -- as our larger-than-life villain, Lyndon Johnson, actually did vow -- "Dammit, I'm not gonna have them say I was the first American president under which this country lost a war!"?
Then again, maybe Al Gore would just be seeking a court ruling that he'd won the Vietnam War.
The way we choose our presidents is deeply flawed. The parties used to nominate senior statesmen of unquestioned stature, their positions on the issues of the day well established, who then "stood" for election. With the exception of a few major addresses -- lengthy speeches of substance; after 100 years we still recall William Jennings Bryan and his "Cross of Gold" -- their "campaigns" generally took the form of politely receiving reporters for interviews on the porch of the family home.
Given the choice that confronted us this fall, can anyone seriously suggest the massive union and corporate bribe-funded potlatch and baby-kissing contest which we now know as the "presidential primary season" is providing us with better leaders than the old "smoke-filled room"?
What's most poisonous about today's process is that merely to become a finalist in the presidential sweepstakes, the press and pundits now demand a fellow have such a "fire in the belly" to control the lives of millions that he would be -- in any other walk of life -- judged certifiably megalomaniac and insane.
I believe Al Gore qualifies.
And through I don't yet have much else good to say about him, I sense that George W. Bush does not.
By some miracle, the process designed by the founders did manage to spare us President Aaron Burr. It now appears to have done its work again. Somehow, it appears it will also spare us The Emperor Al.