The Redundant-Component Campaign

Vote for Gore, vote for Bush -- what's the difference?

Gore 2000 buttons were being marked down on Market Street after the vice president's speech Monday. "It's one for $3, two for $5," a hawker told a potential customer. "Or we can strike a deal," the political opportunist said, glancing over his shoulder in a conspiratorial manner. "I have to make sure my boss ain't around."

Al Gore's boss wasn't around on Monday, either, and Gore was ready to strike a deal with anyone who could vote. You want an economic boom? You got it. You want rhetoric that would please the old Moral Majority? You got it. The point man on the morality front is Gore's running mate, Joe Lieberman (yes, yes, we've heard -- he's Jewish and Orthodox). Lieberman is saying things that President Bill Clinton, or maybe even Gore, cannot say with a straight face.

"Long before it was popular, Al and Tipper were leading a fight for a more moral culture in America," Lieberman told the faithful at Kiener Plaza, referring back to the Dark Ages when Tipper was hot to crack down on naughty lyrics. Oh, if only prostate cancer hadn't done in Frank Zappa. But the prospect of the Tipster as first lady might be enough to resurrect him.

The Gore-Lieberman rally was about as spontaneous as a dress rehearsal for a trade show at a corporate convention. These two weren't preaching to the choir, they were speaking to the sanctuary. Nobody was let inside the barriers who didn't have a ticket. Whether you had a white, blue or red ticket determined how close you could get to the dynamic duo who plan to lead us over, or off, that bridge to the 21st century. Of course, the VIP section was even closer to the candidates. No signs were allowed, save for the Gore-Lieberman 2000 placards handed out to the crowd -- none of those messy aborted-fetus signs or pro-choice signs got past the sidewalk.

Lieberman started off with an awkward "joke" that involved a small boy and a minister, with the punch lines being "I'll be damned" and "Praise the Lord." Of course, there was political hyperbole to be made and running-mate sucking-up to be done. Speaking of Gore, Lieberman offered: "He has been, without question, the most successful and most effective vice president in the history of the United States." Gee, that's like saying Gore was the sexiest eunuch at the orgy. And what assistant professor of history is working on that book The Vice Presidents: What You Don't Know About Aaron Burr, Schuyler Colfax, Hannibal Hamlin and Spiro Agnew.

Gore again proved he's not the total android he sometimes appears to be. He can sweat. In fact, after their short political riffs -- let's not call them speeches -- Gore and Lieberman and their wives turned to the risers, where the national-media video and still photographers were poised for a shot of them, hands joined, with the Old Court House and the Arch in the background. As they raised their arms, the two candidates appeared human after all, sweaty armpits and all.

At the Republican National Convention, George W. Bush talked about "tearing down the wall" between the rich and poor in America, deftly co-opting the Ronald Reagan-to-Mikhail Gorbachev line about the Berlin Wall but putting a Democratic, egalitarian twist on it -- however fraudulent the promise might be. Then Gore picked Lieberman, a Bill Bennett in Democratic drag. If the two parties were soft drinks, blindfolded voters couldn't distinguish between them on a taste test. If they were corporate competitors, they'd merge, either through a buyout or a hostile takeover.

Looking at Bush and Gore puts one in mind of a certain NASA concept. On space missions, near-duplicate parts are included so that if one fails, the other one functions in its place. The virtually interchangeable parts are called redundant components. In an election where both candidates support the death penalty and mouth similar lines about crime, the economy and education, how are these two bozos not redundant components? The difference, maybe, is abortion rights and gun control. Roe vs. Wade survived 12 years of Reagan and George Bush the elder, and gun control is not significantly more stringent after eight years of Clinton-Gore, so what's the diff? And let's face it -- neither one of these guys could lead a charge up San Juan Hill. Who would follow them if they yelled "Charge"?

NO LONGER A PRIMARY CONCERN: One of the best post-primary quotes, in terms of sheer lunacy, was uttered by Russ Carnahan after his defeat of Jeanette Mott Oxford by 64 votes in the 59th District race for state representative. Carnahan was quoted in the South Side Journal saying, "I've always said that the name is not what's going to get you elected, you have to go out and meet people and talk about the issues." Oh, that's easy to believe. Say he had changed his name to Russ Lipschitz -- wouldn't have made a bit a difference. These second-generation inheritors should face it: Whether you're Joe Buck, John Carney, Jay Randolph Jr. or Lacy Clay, your surname gets you in the front door. If your progenitor is prominent, that helps you in politics, media and other forms of unwarranted celebrity.

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