July 6, 2000
Gores past keeps coming back to haunt him. Unlike Bill
Clinton, who can wriggle out of any squeeze Clinton is the O.J.
Simpson of American politics, right down to the DNA samples Gore
has no skill in shaking off embarrassments. His gaffes become running
gags. His old fibs hang in the air like bad gas. Its impossible to
hear the phrase Buddhist temple without thinking of Gore and his
clumsy attempts to deny knowing what everyone else knew.
Mechanical, transparent, and
aggressive, Gore inspires no liking or loyalty. He has the worst speaking
style of any politician since ...
After several minutes of ransacking
my memory, I cant finish that sentence. Names like Dukakis, or
even Romney, just wont do. Gore makes them all seem like
But, party politics being what it is,
hes the Democrats presidential candidate, thanks not to
merit but to heredity and seniority. His father was a senator so Al became
a senator too and, though still young, he has been running for president for
such a long time that hes already his partys
unchallengeable prince and heir apparent.
How did this democracy get so many
dynasties? Any boy can grow up to be a president, governor, or senator,
but history shows that his chances of being the peoples choice are
sharply increased if his name is Adams, Harrison, Roosevelt, Taft, Lodge,
Long, Rockefeller, Kennedy, Byrd, Bush, or Gore. Maybe all men are created
equal, but bloodlines still count.
So does money. Familiar names
attract money, so the sons of successful pols have an edge over others
when they go into politics. The Communist oil tycoon Armand Hammer
pal (and agent) of Lenin, Stalin, and their successors
decided that young Al, as a senators son, was a good prospect early
on and generously offered to fund his political career.
Hammer also kept Als father
on the payroll, a fact discreetly omitted from old Alberts
laudatory obituaries last year. I kept trying to imagine how those
obituaries would have read if Hammer had been as tight with Hitler as he
was with Stalin. Somehow I think the tone would have been rather
different. I doubt that the Hitler connection would have been
For that matter, I doubt that Al would
have enjoyed such polite press coverage throughout his career if
hed been bankrolled by a Nazi. He has never been forced to explain
his friendship with and dependence on Hammer. This is one part of his past
that doesnt seem to embarrass him, because it doesnt
interest the media. Exposing links to Nazis is investigative
journalism, but exposing links to Communists would be
McCarthyism and guilt by association.
Hammer was that interesting
phenomenon, a capitalist who invested in Communism. He wasnt
what Lenin would call a useful idiot; he knew what he was doing,
and he did it enthusiastically and very profitably. Canny Western
businessmen figured out that one great advantage of doing business with
the Workers Paradise was the absence of labor problems: they
found cheap labor, and there were no bothersome strikes. Some of the
profits from Soviet slave labor eventually trickled down into the pockets
of the Gores.
The columnist Robert Novak reports
that Gore continues his lucrative intimacy with
Hammers company, Occidental Petroleum, and still favors legal
exemptions for it. For many years, Gore was getting more than $300,000
annually from the company through a sweetheart deal, even after Hammer
Gores favoritism to Occidental
has become a potential scandal for his campaign, since he assails Junior
Bush as the candidate of Big Oil. But the campaign
isnt worried about the Communist links in his past, only his
capitalist links in the present.
Hammer himself might understand. He
never got into trouble for befriending Stalin; he got into trouble for
befriending Richard Nixon. He was convicted of making illegal
contributions to a Nixon campaign. The obvious moral is that you can play
footsie with Communists, but those Republicans will get you into the soup
Even so, Hammers munificence
made him friends in both major parties. He eventually received a
presidential pardon from the father of George W. Bush.
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