Chatterbox, who rarely disagrees with his Slate colleague Jacob Weisberg, a k a “Ballot Box,” must dissent from Weisberg’s view that Bill Bradley made Al Gore look like a jerk today on Meet the Press. As Weisberg rightly points out, the key moment was when Gore proposed to Bradley that they both agree to stop all television and radio advertising until the nomination is decided, and instead debate twice a week for the duration of the campaign. “That can get a lot of the money out of the presidential campaign and accomplish one of the best reforms,” Gore said. “What about it?” Bradley’s contemptuous response was to tell Gore, “Sounds to me like you’re having trouble raising money,” and to call Gore’s proposal a “ploy.” In Weisberg’s view, Bradley succeeded in making Gore “look like a complete ass.”
But to Chatterbox’s mind, it was Bradley who looked like the ass–or, to be more specific, the hypocrite. As Weisberg has rightly pointed out, Bradley’s grandiose plan for campaign reform, which requires a constitutional amendment, and which he trumpeted this week at a joint appearance with John McCain, is far less practical than McCain’s campaign-reform plan. It is also less practical than Gore’s. Bradley portrays himself as a candidate who sees campaign reform as a far more urgent issue than Gore does. But when Gore proposes doing something about the problem right now, Bradley mocks it as a stunt. Bradley can’t have it both ways. If the political process is as corrupted by cash as he says, then he can’t refuse an offer like Gore’s out of hand without looking like a phony. The fact that Gore’s motive was to make Bradley look like a phony didn’t make it any less wrong for Bradley to mock and reject Gore’s offer. Even if it was a bluff, Bradley ought to have called it.