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Let's begin with the beginning image of the Al Gore for president advertising campaign:


Perhaps you recall that file footage of Kennedy was practically the beginning of the Clinton presidential bid, too, in the "A Town Called Hope" bio spot back in 1992. But here's the deal: one invocation of Camelot per administration, please. Bill Clinton may have been credible as the heir to JFK's political-image legacy. Vice President Automaton is not.

I remember John F. Kennedy. John F. Kennedy was a president of mine. Al Gore is no John F. Kennedy.

Indeed, if the veep's notorious stiffness is an obstacle in his campaign for the nomination, this opening salvo takes him about four steps backward. The man doesn't need a TelePrompTer. He needs a defibrillator. Never mind the shoddy production values, he is trying to communicate passion, but he barely registers a pulse.

Nor will the voter, on this issue. Nuclear Test Ban Treaty? Good for Gore to begin with a substantive topic (the sleazy catfights will commence soon enough), but if he's looking for a hot-button issue to capture the imagination of the complacent electorate, this ain't it. The congressional Republicans may have yet one more time acted suicidally-this and the failed smoking legislation and Social Security present a general-election bonanza for the Dems-but it's not water-cooler conversation.

Worse, it fails to do what Gore most needs to accomplish: articulate a vision of why he believes he should be president, apart from the fact that he thinks it's his turn.

And, by the way, if he's trying to tell us that under a Gore administration we'll all be safe from Armageddon, it's worth remembering which president of the past 50 years brought us to the very brink of nuclear war.

Oh, yeah. That's right:

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