Kausfiles Special

Gore’s Speech: The Clintonian Reading

The past seven years have conditioned American citizens to pay extremely close attention to the precise wording of presidential utterances. (“I did not have sexual relations,” etc.) Would President Gore be any different? There is reason to suspect not. Earlier this year, for example, Gore declared, “I’ve always supported Roevs.Wade. I have always supported a woman’s right to choose,” language carefully chosen to avoid denying (or admitting) that Gore also had supported the Siljander Amendment, which would have pressured hospitals into refusing to perform abortions and which defined “person” to include “unborn children from the moment of conception.” Indeed, Gore repeated this careful I-support-Roe formula in his acceptance speech last Thursday.

It’s worth reviewing the rest of that speech with a wary, perhaps paranoid, lawyer’s eye, to see what other escape hatches Gore may have left himself. As usual, italicized passages are from Gore’s text, followed by context and perspective from a deeply suspicious kausfiles staff:

I feel so strongly about this, I promise you that campaign-finance reform will be the very first bill that Joe Lieberman and I send to Congress.

Which campaign-finance reform? Gore didn’t say it would be the McCain-Feingold bill banning so-called “soft money.” It could be something weaker (though Gore also said he’d “get all the special-interest money–all of it–out of our democracy,” implying he’d go beyond soft money to ban Political Action Committee [PAC] money as well).

For revolutionary improvements in our schools. For higher standards and more accountability. To put a fully qualified teacher in every classroom, test all new teachers. …

Key word: “new.” Old, already-employed teachers, you’re home-free.

We will honor the ideal of equality by standing up for civil rights and defending affirmative action.

An alert kausfiles reader e-mails to point out that the phrase “affirmative action” is highly ambiguous. It might mean mere outreach efforts aimed at drumming up college applications from underrepresented minorities. It might mean preferences based on class, not race. This seems like a loophole Joe Lieberman is more likely to exploit than Gore–but Gore didn’t specifically commit himself to racial preferences, did he?

And I will not go along with any plan that would drain taxpayer money away from our public schools and give it to private schools in the form of vouchers.

What about a private-school voucher plan that didn’t drain money away from our public schools? It’s not hard to conceive of one. What if the government kept public-school budgets undiminished, but on top of that offered vouchers or other subsidies to kids who wanted to escape to private schools? What about a plan that would drain money, and give it to private schools, but not “in the form of vouchers”? Tuition tax credits, for example.

And I know: For that waitress carrying trays, or a construction worker in the winter cold, I will never agree to raise the retirement age to 70.

69? … 71? … People who are not waitresses or construction workers? … Construction workers in the spring? …