“You are a shade of your former self!” Paula Zahn exclaimed Sept. 26 to Bill Bradley on Fox News’ The Edge. This cruel greeting turned out to be a reference to Bradley’s weight, not his political stature, but Bradley set himself up for abuse by choosing this awkward moment to publish a new book, The Journey From Here. No mainstream politician on the scene today has an internal gyroscope so comically out of sync with the political calendar. Instead of planning his fall around helping Democratic nominee Al Gore get elected, Bradley is planning his fall around a book tour for The Journey From Here. Oh, sure, now and then he’ll find time to mention that Al Gore would make a marginally better president than George W. Bush. But that’s not what’s important! What’s important is to rehash, in book form, material from Bradley’s campaign speeches! (And incidentally: Have you logged onto his Web site lately? Yes, it’s still up!)
Chatterbox means no disrespect to the beliefs Bradley espoused during the presidential campaign and, earlier, during his years in the Senate. They were wise, informed, and in some cases, closer to Chatterbox’s own than those propounded by Gore. (Chatterbox likes Bradley’s health plan better.) For the most part, though, Bradley’s notions about changing the world were very similar to–in many instances, indistinguishable from–Gore’s. Yet the words “Al Gore” appear nowhere in Bradley’s book at all. Is Bradley, who didn’t get around to endorsing Gore until July 13, still pissed off about the rough (sometimes unfair) treatment he received from Gore during the primaries? Zahn tried to get Bradley to call Gore a liar on The Edge. Bradley wouldn’t take the bait. But having read The Journey From Here, Chatterbox is prepared to conclude that a subtle-but-important theme in the book is “I Hate Al Gore.”
Page 32: “It’s inappropriate and wrong to frighten senior citizens with the prospect of a Medicare collapse. … It need no longer serve as a political football.” This, of course, is precisely what Gore did during the primary campaign when he attacked Bradley’s plan to replace existing federal health programs with a new, universal program.
Page 97: “It takes discipline to avoid intentionally misstating your opponent’s record, because you know the press will never give the fact that it’s a lie the same coverage it gave the content of the lie.” During the primary campaign, Bradley accused Gore of lacking that discipline.
Pages 124-5: In describing the causes of the current economic good times, Bradley cites 1) sound monetary policy from the Fed; 2) flexible labor markets; 3) creative capital markets; 4) quiescent inflationary pressures; 5) falling computer prices; 6) increased capital flows into the United States; 7) “Finally, when it came to the role of domestic economic policy in an open world economy, one of the most overlooked facts was that Republicans and Democrats agreed on the economic fundamentals.” In other words: The economic policies of the Clinton administration, which Gore helped shape, were negligible and essentially indistinguishable from what a Gingrich administration’s economic policies would have been!
Pages 143-5: U.S. policy toward post-Communist Russia “has not only failed to achieve most of its large goals, but it has been perilously counterproductive,” focusing too much on divisive issues like NATO expansion and Kosovo. The Clinton administration’s view of China as a “strategic partner” is as lame as George W. Bush’s view of China as a “strategic competitor.” The Clinton administration’s foreign policy, which Gore helped shape, was pathetic!
Bradley’s carping in The Journey From Here is worse than ill-timed. It’s so obsessive and ill-mannered that it calls into question whether Bradley is really qualified to be president–this year, or any other. Politics, after all, is–to use a metaphor Bradley should be well acquainted with–a team sport.