Deja Vu in the "Year of the Apology"
By Sara McPeak
September 1998

The August Gore Watch explored Gore's Panglossian view of the Russian economy which has since been proven to be an "algor(e)ithm" of utterly foolish optimism. Russia is on the verge of financial collapse, the ruble is devaluated and perhaps the only path left open to Yeltsin is currency competition between the ruble and the dollar. The influx of capital from the Clinton-administration-backed International Monetary Fund has done nothing to halt the deteriorating circumstances in the Russian economy and we can only hope that global concerns will arrest any further misplaced trust in the notion that we should throw good money after bad into the failing policies of this Russian capitalistic endeavor. And yet, Gore is still optimistic that Russia's new reforms will somehow translate into new jobs in the U.S.!

Enough on that front, let's move on to new territory closer to home. This month's Gore Watch reveals an even more obvious algor(e)ithm -- the end justifies the means. In late 1997 and early 1998 Gore exhibited a "Clintonian refusal" to apologize for mistakes made in making telephone solicitations from his office for TV campaign ads in 1995 and 1996. Now, eight months later, Gore faces a resurgence of inquiry into his campaign fund-raising tactics. Gore insisted back then that he thought the contributions he was seeking were considered "soft" money (not for use on any particular campaign, i.e., Clinton/Gore '96) and he upheld his actions even though they violated the very campaign finance reform ideas to which he pays lip service.

Ironically, the January 5th issue of The New Republic called for an apology from Gore: "...not all of those who object to the phone calls are doing so in bad faith. And Gore is failing to engage them. In this sense, Gore's interviews with Shogren et al were a golden opportunity to make amends - an opportunity that Gore should have taken but missed. He could have simply said: "Look, upon reflection, I'm not proud of what I did. It wasn't illegal, but I can see how reasonable people might have legitimate qualms. I learned my lesson and I'm not going to do it anymore." Instead Gore reiterated how proud he was that his fund-raising efforts were instrumental in the reelection of Bill Clinton.

It is so obvious that refusals to admit blame and accept reprisals simply exacerbate the concerns of untruthfulness. The following comes from the August 27 Wall Street Journal: "...Mr. Gore could be in trouble if the agency [Justice Department] concludes he may have intentionally misled investigators. Even if the telephone calls weren't illegal, it is a crime to lie to federal investigators." Gore's credibility dilemma parallels Clinton's and both seem to be based on a common denominator -- arrogance. If Al Gore felt that his candidate Bill Clinton could not win the election without superfluous money raising efforts, then he chose his path of action with no concern as to the morality of his actions, but only a concern as to the outcome of those actions. And now, approaching the fourth quarter of the "Year of the Apology," perhaps it is too late for Gore to apologize. The fact that he is no longer making any of these phone calls is not enough to placate public opinion, and now a complete investigation seems necessary.

Janet Reno refused to appoint an independent prosecutor in the campaign financing probe last December. Since then she has been urged to reconsider by Charles La Bella (a prosecutor working with her office), as well as the director of the FBI. She faces a contempt vote by the House for her refusal to name a special prosecutor, not to mention her refusal to turn over the La Bella memo to Congress. Of course, this probe would entail far more than just the telephone calls of Al Gore and the veracity of his responses to investigators. But the underlying question concerning this administration seems to always fall into the same category, i.e., rules infractions, be they moral, constitutional or familial. Did Gore understand the concept of hard money and the fact that some of his office solicitations would be used for TV ads for Bill Clinton's federal reelection? Did he mislead investigators to cover his tracks? If wrongdoing occurs, then justice will, in the end, place blame. And 1998 may well be not only the "Year of the Apology" but also the "Year of Justice."
This article copyright © 1998 by Sara McPeak, and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.