The Breakfast Table

Tall Men Always Win

Dear Susan:

We have reached total consensus on racial preferences, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore’s pandering to Jesse Jackson, etc.

Speaking of Al Gore, I just did a column arguing that he was not really in big legal trouble over his campaign finance activities and alleged lying to the Justice Department about same, because the evidence of possible lying does not rise to beyond a reasonable doubt, and because whatever fund-raising sleaziness he got into cannot, in my view, be teased into a plausible criminal indictment.

But can Gore be forgiven for his emotional exhibitionism at the 1996 convention about his sister’s 1984 lung-cancer death? “That is why,” he said, “until I draw my last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking”. Then reporters pointed out that he had taken $16,000 from Big Tobacco during the six years after his sister’s death, while continuing to grow tobacco on his own land and rhapsodizing at a 1988 campaign rally about how he had “shredded it, put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it.” Gore’s explanation of this apparent inconsistency was a classic: “People are becoming more willing to give some respect to the importance of the way people feel and try to balance emotions and logic in a more artful way.” Read that twice, slowly, and ponder it, please. Then tell me: Where is H.L. Mencken when we need him?

You’ll get no argument from me about the TV talk shows failing to disclose the biases of their supposed “analysts.” But I think President Clinton could more plausibly be absolved of blame for Morris if he had stopped consulting him after his firing during the 1996 convention. He didn’t. Every time he was in trouble, it seemed–at least until Morris started publicly savaging the president this year–Clinton was on the phone to his amoral guru.

On the Hillary Rodham Clinton business, I wouldn’t be surprised if the people saying that her husband lied to her in January really were her friends. After all, the First Lady said in January, during her VRWC (“vast right-wing conspiracy”) number, that she didn’t believe the allegations that her husband had had an affair with Lewinsky; that they lies being maliciously spread by the VRWC; and that if a hypothetical president had done such a thing and lied about it, it would be an extremely serious abuse. There are two possibilities: She was cynically lying then; or she was a victim of his lies, and a credulous one at that, given his history. Which do you believe?

Dukakis: I’m not sure the reason he lost was his refusal to play dirty. At least, I hope not. Wasn’t he a lot shorter than the other guy? And wasn’t he fighting a long tradition of electing tall men as president? Especially during the Cold War, it seemed mandatory for our president to tower over everybody else on the podium, or our national prestige would have taken a dive. But the tall-men-always-win rule may not hold outside the presidential context. After all, if memory serves, I lost an election to you (among others) once even though I am, if recollection serves, much taller.

Could you check my horoscope too? I’m a Taurus. And I’m still hoping you’ll tell me who you would choose to be our next president, although I’ll understand if you don’t.

Best, Stuart