»  National Review Online

November 28, 2000

   America's Narrow Escape


It has been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life, by God!
                     — The Duke of Wellington, speaking of the battle of Waterloo

It is now clear that America has had a very narrow escape. The victory of George W. Bush in this recent election can today, I think, be taken as final. The Democratic Party have yet to select from among themselves the orderlies who will be delegated to drag Al Gore struggling and howling from the public stage, but that is a formality. It's over, and we have had a mighty close shave. We have escaped, very narrowly, having Al Gore at the head of our executive branch. And that is a very fortunate thing for this country, because Al Gore is a man with a serious problem.

The problem is located deeper in the Vice President's psyche than I care to look, but its chief external symptom is chronic and repetitive lying. I cannot claim any originality for this observation, of course. Gore's lies have been chronicled in detail over several months by my colleague John J. Miller in National Review, and widely discussed in the public sphere. I have read all that stuff, and heard it spoken of, and nodded and said: "Yeah, the guy's a liar. Hung around the Clintons too much." The size of Al Gore's problem with the truth didn't come home to me until 8:55 this evening, though, when I sat down to watch him give his "We must stand and fight!" speech. It was mesmerizing, and not a little scary, to watch the lies go by one after another, like telegraph poles seen from a train window.

Note that Al Gore's second sentence in that last lie actually makes no grammatical sense. "[A]rbitrarily … because it's too difficult to count them."  The setting aside would be arbitrary only if there were no reason for it. The fact of them being too difficult to count is a reason. You may not think it a good reason, and you may be right; but the fact of there being a reason means that the setting aside was not "arbitrary."

Quite a lot of what Gore said was grammatical gibberish — a sure sign that one is dealing with a disturbed mind. Try this: "Whoever wins, the victor will know that the American people have spoken in a voice mighty by the whole of its integrity." Since "integrity" means "wholeness," that last phrase is equivalent to "the whole of its wholeness." Even if we grant that a voice can possess "wholeness" — what would part of a voice sound like, I wonder? — what is signified by the whole of its wholeness? Could the voice have been made mighty by only a part of its wholeness? Or could it only have been made puny thereby? We are gazing into the abyss here.

Similarly with this sentence: "In the end, in one of God's unforeseen paths, this election may point us all to a new common ground." This might approach close to having meaning if the second "in" were replaced with "by," but it would still be an ugly mess, like the mind that engendered it. Which presumably was Gore's: we are told that he writes really critical speeches himself.

Our first shot of the podium at the National Naval Observatory from which Gore made his speech showed no fewer than six American flags in the background. Six flags, and it sure has been a great adventure for Al. Now it's over, everything but the wormwood and the gall, neither of which Al is quite ready to suck down yet. We have had one last, chilling look into the mind of a man who, far from "bringing this country together," would have taken us into a whole new dimension of division, dishonesty, rancor, disorder and mistrust. I say again: America has had a narrow escape.