A Lifetime of Lies

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A Lifetime of Lies It's time to hold Al Gore accountable.

BY WILLIAM J. BENNETT Wednesday, October 11, 2000 12:01 a.m. EDT

Albert Arnold Gore Jr. is a habitual liar.

I realize that in the political culture in which we live, making such a charge--even if it is true--is considered to be mean-spirited, in bad form, indecorous. Nevertheless, as the Founders understood, almost nothing matters more in a chief executive than his public character and trustworthiness, his truthfulness and integrity. And on these grounds alone, Mr. Gore should be disqualified from being president.

Mr. Gore's defenders dismiss his reputation as an "embellisher" as unremarkable. Shading the truth, they say, is what almost all politicians do, and Al Gore is no different. Let us assume, for the sake of the argument, that from time to time most politicians do take liberties with the truth and distort the facts. Still, among major political figures in the past quarter-century, Al Gore and his boss, Bill Clinton, are in a league of their own.

The vice president lies reflexively, promiscuously, even pathologically. He lies on matters large and small, significant and trivial, when he "needs" to and when he doesn't, on matters public and private, about his opponents and his family. When asked to come up with an explanation for Mr. Gore's "misstatements," Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party, said, "I have no idea. I'm not a psychiatrist."

Mr. Gore has told so many lies, over so many years, on such a range of issues, that to recount them all would require far more space than this page can allow. But it is useful to recapitulate some of what we know. Most recently, Mr. Gore lied about traveling to Texas with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and about whether he'd questioned George W. Bush's experience to be president. In a speech during which he received the endorsement of the Teamsters, Mr. Gore claimed that as a child he was lulled to sleep by the union ballad "Look for the Union Label"--even though the tune was written when he was 27 years old. His campaign initially said Mr. Gore meant a different song; a few days later they said the vice president was telling a joke.

These examples are recent, but the pattern of lies is not a recent phenomenon. It is, rather, the habit of a political lifetime. Consider the following:

In 1997, Mr. Gore told investigators that fund-raising calls he made from the White House were made only in order to raise (legal) soft-money donations. When a memorandum later surfaced and disclosed that the vice president had attended meetings in which discussions about (illegal) "hard money" accounts took place, Mr. Gore told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he was sometimes inattentive and that "he drank a lot of iced tea during meetings, which could have necessitated a restroom break."

Former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said in a deposition that he remembers Mr. Gore "attentively listening" to the hard-money conversations, and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes testified that whenever the vice president left the room, he, Mr. Ickes, stopped the meetings. In light of the evidence, FBI General Counsel Larry Parkinson wrote to the assistant attorney general that there was "sufficient evidence" to prove that the vice president made a false statement to investigators on this matter.

In an April 18 deposition conducted by Robert Conrad, the chief of the Justice Department's campaign-finance task force, Mr. Gore was asked if he had any recollection of conversations he had with his old friend, Democratic fund-raiser Maria Hsia, about a 1996 fund-raising breakfast for Asian-Americans at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington. "I have none," Mr. Gore responded. He was then asked if he recalled being seated at her table. "No, I don't," he answered. In fact, as photos show, Hsia (convicted of illegally raising $25,000 for the Democratic National Committee at the breakfast) was seated right next to Mr. Gore.

During the same April 18 deposition, the vice president denied having a "concrete recollection" of his attendance at any of the more than 30 fund-raising coffees he hosted or co-hosted between January 1995 and August 1996 (Mr. Gore later said he misunderstood the question). He claims that he did not know at the time that a 1996 event at a Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles was an (illegal) fund-raiser. He says this despite the fact that the Secret Service, the National Security Council, the White House deputy chief of staff, staff members, and his own e-mail referred to it as a fund-raiser before the visit occurred.

In November 1999, Mr. Gore claimed to be a co-sponsor of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform legislation. But that bill was not introduced until three years after Mr. Gore left the Senate. And during the same month the vice president claimed to be the author of the Earned Income Tax Credit. In fact, the EITC law was enacted in 1975--two years before Mr. Gore entered Congress.

The misleading statements predate Mr. Gore's term as vice president. They include his claims about his service as an Army journalist in Vietnam; his work as a reporter at the Nashville Tennessean; his view regarding Senate hearings on music lyrics; his position on the nuclear test ban treaty; his assertion (made during the 1988 presidential campaign) that half his staff were women; and his role in Hubert Humphrey's 1968 convention speech. These and other incidents led Mr. Gore's own staff to warn him about his propensity for "exaggeration" and for making claims that "may be impossible to back up."

One might think that the Gore campaign would be vaguely embarrassed about his record of deception. But Gore aide Mark Fabiani refuses to explain it. Rather, he says, "We've never attacked Bush for his numerous crimes against the English language." This is a revealing statement; the Gore team views poor syntax as the equivalent of compulsive lying. And Mr. Gore himself dismisses concerns about his veracity as an "ad hominem personal attack." We hear this argument made all the time, that "attacking" an opponent's character is a way to avoid talking about the "real issues." If Mr. Gore invokes this defense in tonight's debate, how should Mr. Bush respond? First, by pointing out that persistent lies by a person in high public office are not merely "personal"; they have to do with the public interest. Public office is a public trust, and people who violate it ought to be held accountable--particularly if they deceive federal investigators.

Second, if the people can't trust your word, why should they trust your proposals? Mr. Gore's primary opponent, Sen. Bill Bradley, uttered the single most devastating line of the 2000 campaign: "Why should we believe that you will tell the truth as president if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?"

Third, if an individual is a habitual liar, it will manifest itself in all sorts of ways. As Mr. Clinton demonstrated, a person who has utter contempt for the truth is likely to have utter contempt for the law.

Fourth, the American public's loss of trust in government is a vital national issue. We don't need another president to deepen further the people's cynicism.

Finally, whether you're talking about a police officer, a teacher, a doctor or a car mechanic, it matters greatly whether that person's word is good. If it matters for all these people, then it surely matters in choosing a president.

James Madison famously wrote that men are not angels, and nobody is insisting that the president be a saint. But with Mr. Gore, one begins to suspect that his lies are symptomatic of something fundamentally disquieting, and quite relevant. This is, after all, an individual who has been warned repeatedly to take care not to lie, embellish, or misstate the facts and his own history. He is acknowledged to be a master of details. Yet the problem persists. His lying appears to be incorrigible. And it is a matter of public record. If the Clinton years have taught us anything, it is that character matters in a president. And Al Gore, like Bill Clinton before him, is manifestly lacking in that regard. As the public considers for whom it will vote on Nov. 7, it should recall the old adage: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Surely the past eight years of persistent half-truths, lies and lawlessness have been enough.

Haven't they?

Mr. Bennett is co-director of Empower America.

-- Laurie in WI (CountryGirl518@moose-mail.com), October 12, 2000


Perhaps Gore and Clinton are really a couple of demoralized actors and story tellers who took up politics as a way to break into theater while awaiting their big break.

Seriously though, I am sick of it all. This idea that the American people don't want to know the truth and the condescention they have for the intellect of the owners of this country is appalling....on both sides, GW and Robo Gore. For instance on GW's side, Gore keeps scoring against him and his tax plan because GW seems to think that people can't understand percentages and relativity. Why can't he just say, "If you paid $100 in taxes, you get back $20, and if you paid $10 you get back $2."?????? What is so God awful frightening about saying that, if that is indeed the TRUTH?

Frankly, I am afraid that Gore might win, because people are so ill informed and have been successfully dumbed down, so I refute my own argument! I honestly would like to avoid a bloody civil war over firearms in this country, but with Gore or Bush I think it's coming anyway. Gore will just make it quicker.

-- Doreen (animalwaitress@yahoo.com), October 12, 2000.

Remember Rebecca on Cheers? Remember how she would say anything to succeed? Al Gore reminds me a lot of Rebecca. I truly believe that Mr. Gore has a mental disorder that makes him lie that much. He even lies when there is no benefit to be gained from it. He certainly is NOT what we need as president.

-- Green (ratdogs10@yahoo.com), October 12, 2000.

Perhaps think of this in another way. If you do believe this record of a lifetime of lies, at least their is a lifetime record of something! Bush's record? No fair counting his daddy! Loved the info last night that Texas is 49th in children with health insurance, 48th with women with health insurance, oh but gosh darn I may have those two mixed up, is that a lie? And let me say again, you want his education policy, we have such good results in Texas from the TASS testing because they exempt Tom, Dick and Harry from taking it! Yes by all means let the states all have control of the inviornment, no need to have any governmental legislation on this, I mean look how great Texas has done, lets all follow their lead! Houston is 1# in number of polluted days, over Los Angeles. Bush isn't about to change policy here in Texas unless forced to, because who put him in office to begin with, and who continues to pay those bills! The oil companies, and that is exactly who will get the majority of the tax breaks. Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh (vickilonesomedoe@hotmail.com), October 12, 2000.

Vicki- How about Al's record? Voted prolife all his years in the house and senate. "I've always been for a womans choice" Supported Clinton in his veto of partial birth ab ban. Said he would support such a ban if it included Mothers safety, etc. One problem w/ that is according to C Everret Koop "There is absolutely no medical indications for a procedure such as this" In other words moms safety, etc is all a big smoke screen for this murderous proceedure.

Environment- Al has a zinc mine under his farm. nets $20,000 per year from it. This mine has been in violation of the EPA standards for the last 5 years and is polluting the Cumberland river Bason w/ heavy metals. Trust him w/ the rest of the country when he dumps on his own neighbors?

Big oil- Guess where his farm came from? Armund Hammer. Ever hear of him? Founder of Occidental Petrolium. Also noted commie sympathizer and finanial patron to the american commie party. Mr. Hammer bought that farm for $160,000, and sold it to Al's dad one year later for the same price. Fair enough? except the deal included the mine royalties. So free farm in 8 years and Royalties for life. Not bad!! Wonder what Al sr. did to earn that?

More big oil- Who do you think is W A A Y big in the US Strategic oil Reserves? Occidental. Guess what, Al owns 500,000 shares!!! These shares may be in a trust right now, but tell me they don't influence his thinking.

Read his book "earth in the balance" I was going to go on about this but hey, just read it and let his own words convince you that Al truly is stranger than fiction.

Does your national security mean anything? Think China and what the Clinton-Gore team has done for you and your kids. China can now reach and target accurately US turf. And they've been given the tech to get even better. The dough those buddist monks gave Al came directly from the Chinese Military.

I will agree that W. Bush wouldn't be my 1st choice for prez either, but Al would be my last choice.

-- John in S IN (jsmengel@hotmail.com), October 12, 2000.

One of many reasons to vote for the third party candidate of your choice, we definitely do not need more of the "same old, same old" to continue. I personally favor ( yes, I'm a fanatic I admit!) the Libertarian party ticket for it's upholding the Constitution above all else, but some of the other third parties are sound in their reasoning also. Don't think of your vote being thrown away if you don't vote R or D, but that your'e starting a NEW party, one we all can be proud to stand behind, not apologetic! Annie in SE OH.

-- Annie Miller (annie@1st.net), October 12, 2000.

Before one jumps to judgement, consider this please:

For those people who fret over Al Gore's propensity to tell it like it isn't--to exaggerate and embellish and fib it up a bit--and who insist this is a matter of character and integrity and God only knows what else, I offer a two-word rebuttal: Ronald Reagan. No one could match the Gipper when it came to concocting whoppers.

It was Reagan, you might remember, who told an annual meeting of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society about a World War II B-17 commander who elected to stay with a wounded crewman rather than bail out of his stricken plane. "He took the boy's hand and said, 'Never mind, son, we'll ride it down together.' Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously awarded."

Actually, Congressional Medal of Honor never awarded. There's some dispute about where Reagan got the story. Some said it was from the 1944 movie "A Wing and a Prayer" while others cited a Reader's Digest item. Whatever its source, Reagan's account was not true.

That incident was hardly unique. The Gipper was forever mistaking fiction for fact. He told Israel's Menachem Begin that he had been present at the liberation of a concentration camp when he had only seen a film of the event. The 1951 movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still" fixated Reagan on the notion that the United States and the Soviet Union would be forced to cooperate if our little planet was faced by an invasion from space. Even Reagan's advocacy of the so- called Star Wars program probably got its inspiration from his 1940 movie "Murder in the Air." It featured an "Inertia Projector," a kind of ray gun.

In Reagan's case, these stories were dismissed by his supporters and characterized as charming eccentricities. Yet, some of the same people and editorial organs now get the vapors when confronting one of Al Gore's exaggerations. Gore, for some reason, is a liar while Reagan was just a marvelous storyteller.

I am not going to sit here and defend Gore's exaggerations. I wish he wouldn't make them. I wish he did not say he had been to the Texas fires when he hadn't. (Maybe he ought to have said concentration camp.) I wish he had not compared his dog's prescription plan to his mother-in-law's. I wish he had been a bit more modest about his role in developing the Internet or, way back, in describing his Vietnam War experience.

Gore's burden is his association with Bill Clinton, whose behavior was largely overlooked by the press until it could be overlooked no more. So now we study Gore for the telltale signs of a larger problem. But what could it be? He has been vice president for eight years, a senator and congressman before that. No one who has worked with him calls him a liar. He is just an exaggerator.

But to listen to GOP politicians or to read the semi-official GOP press, you would think Gore was a pathological liar. The New York Post headlined "Liar, Liar" and the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, the Rorschach of the Right, called Gore's bad habit "an issue of serious concern"--a bit of exaggeration right there.

Gore's abiding, overriding and maybe insurmountable handicap is that he is no Reagan--he lacks the man's charm. Where Reagan could dismiss his critics with a wave of his hand and some disarming joke, Gore just digs in more, tries harder and smiles like the groom at a shotgun wedding.

It seems true that Reagan sometimes could not distinguish between what he had seen on film and what he had experienced firsthand--and so his stories, strictly speaking, were not lies. With Gore, it's not clear if he gets confused or knows at the time that he's taken things too far. But the outcome is the same: False is false.

And if Gore seemed to base too much on a single incident in Florida in which a high school student was temporarily without a desk, it cannot be compared to Reagan's repeated use of a single welfare cheater, Chicago's own Linda Taylor, as a "Welfare Queen" who represented the moral bankruptcy of an entire system.

So, yeah, I worry a bit about Gore and what seems to be his compulsion to stretch things a bit too far. But I worried about Reagan, too. Now, though, the ex-president is a GOP saint, his confusion of fact with fancy just part of his tremendous charm. I wish Gore would simply stick to the truth, but if, as is bound to happen, he feels compelled to exaggerate, he might as well make it a whopper.

Al, tell one for the Gipper.

-- Earthmama (earthmama48@yahoo.com), October 12, 2000.

Earthmama, what a refreshing post. Hope to read more from you.

-- sheepish (rborgo@gte.net), October 12, 2000.

Yes, Earthmama, I enjoyed reading your post. I was thinking about Reagan too -- but you certainly said it much better than I would have!

-- Joy Froelich (dragnfly@chorus.net), October 13, 2000.

Oh Garsh!! I wish I could take credit for this perceptive little essay, but I didnt write it. I thought I included its credits, but apparently I cut the bottom portion off. It was written by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. Glad to see it was enjoyed by some of us though!

-- Earthmama (earthmama48@yahoo.com), October 13, 2000.

I feel sure that someday, some political scientist will get up the cods to actually come right out and say it--Ronald Reagan was a half- assed president and had Alzheimer's while in office. He is no star in my book. Neither is Al Gore or G. W. Bush.

John in IN had Gore right. But did you know that Armund Hammer, the communist, also paid for Al's education? Mr. Gore is a communist in Democrat's clothing. Oh, wait, I forgot--Democrats and Communists are interchangeable, aren't they? And don't forget the Green party. They are also built heavily on the Communist plank.

-- Ann (silentrunner_now@hotmail.com), October 13, 2000.

Laurie, Has anyone ever heard of an honest politician? I was interested in politics from age 10 to 20, the realized they all promise you the moon and stars and then do whatever the guys with all the money tell them to do.

-- Karen Mauk (dairygoatmama@hotmail.com), October 17, 2000.

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