Closer to President Clinton or President Heston?
It's tough to tell. (And that's the problem.)
"Since being elected to Congress in 1976 Al Gore has been there each and every time sportsmen and gun owners have needed a friend." -The NRA?nstate for Legislative Action, 1984.
That's Al Gore, THE Al Gore, they're talking about. Not George Bush, not Dick Cheney, but Al Gore, icon to many in search of a new liberal paradigm in the wake of the manifold Clinton crises. But does Al Gore fit the bill? Is he, both personally and politically, the man to lead the American left in its search for definition and political conquest? Is he the man to lead a Clinton-wary nation, a straight forward leader who says what he believes and stands up for his record, or is he a kinder, gentler version of his boss the Great Impersonator, himself waffling and reinventing himself more times in the past two decades than Madonna.
For the answer to this question, we can look right at the record. We can observe with wonder and concern how Al Gore's votes and views have moved from right to center to left, a movement, interestingly enough, almost directly proportional to his rise within the Democratic party, an upward movement away from Tennessee roots and into the national spotlight.
The more prominent Gore's role on a national level, the more liberal his views became on almost all issues, especially gun control. Democrats are already hard at work trying to portray a vote for Bush-Cheney as a vote for gun violence and irresponsibility. But while the DNC website criticizes George W. Bush for "let[ting] people carry real concealed guns --even in churches" in Texas, it promotes in Gore a candidate who, according to Congressional Quarterly voted on many occasions to relax restrictions on the ability of authorities to do background checks on gun dealers. While the Democrats try to paint a picture of the Republican ticket, and Republicans in general, as lawless, gun-loving fiends, their own candidate is a man whose convictions on an issue as important as gun control seem to sway with the political breeze. Gore's lack of moral authority on the subject of gun control, as well as his commitment to doing or saying anything to get elected, is epitomized by a comment made to a friend during his 1976 bid for the House.
Gore: "Look, I'm running in a district where people favor guns, and there's no way I can win if I take a position that indicates I'm going to take away their guns. It's as simple as that." (Recounted to Bill Turque in Inventing Al Gore, p. 119).
We're not sure which is more disturbing: the ease with which Gore waffles on this and most other issues, or his particular skill at saying and doing anything to get himself elected by the people, only to change his tune entirely, voting the way of liberal establishment as soon as he found himself safely within the national spotlight of the Democratic party. If Al Gore wins the White House in November, which Al Gore will take office in January? Will it be NRA Al or the Rosie O'Donnell version? Perhaps the fact that the question even has to be asked is itself an answer of sorts. Come November, will we vote for either a proven leader or a proven politician. Al Gore is certainly the latter, but in 20 years of public service, he has yet to prove himself as the former.