From: Wayne E Baisley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri Oct 06 2000 - 10:30:27 PDT
Al's exaggerations have caught the attention of the newspaper of
record. The final paragraph is priceless. Devastating, even.
Tendency to Embellish Fact Snags Gore
October 6, 2000
By RICHARD L. BERKE
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 For years, his political opponents have groused
that Vice President Al Gore has trouble with facts. They pounced on
statements he made about his service in Vietnam, about his record
in Congress and even about the price he has to pay for his dog's
On Tuesday, they got even more ammunition: Several of Mr. Gore's
comments in his debate with Gov. George W. Bush set off a fresh
outcry over what even some of his supporters acknowledge is a
tendency to embellish anecdotes about his roles in events.
"It's a weird pattern that has emerged," Karl Rove, the chief
strategist for Mr. Bush, said in an interview. "We have these
episodes in which Gore is playing Forrest Gump or Zelig."
Mr. Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney, issued a statement saying he
was "puzzled and saddened" by Mr. Gore's misstatements, while the
conservative New York Post trumpeted "Liar! Liar!" as its main
While many politicians are prone to spice up a story here and
there, Republicans and Democrats say Mr. Gore's shading of the
truth has become so frequent that some politicians are no longer
dismissing it as sloppy oratory from a candidate under the glare of
This predilection of Mr. Gore's is all the more surprising because
it often involves trivial matters ones that could easily be
checked such as how Mr. Gore recalled a childhood lullaby that
did not exist.
Even as he tried to defend Mr. Gore, Art Torres, chairman of the
California Democratic Party, could not come up with an explanation
for the misstatements. "I have no idea," he said. "I'm not a
But Mr. Torres said it was unfair to dwell on Mr. Gore's comments,
asserting that it was far more important to focus on substantive
issues. "Those debate situations are pretty strenuous," he said.
"With so many activities, so many campaign stops, you might not be
able to totally remember the facts."
Mr. Gore's most recent troubles began with the first question of
the debate. The moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, noted that Mr. Gore
had once questioned whether his opponent had the experience to be
president and asked him what he meant. Mr. Gore denied that he had
ever raised questions about Mr. Bush's qualifications for the
presidency. The truth is, he had. In a speech to the American
Society of Newspaper Editors in April, Mr. Gore cited Mr. Bush's
call for a tax cut and posed this question: "Does he have the
experience to be president?"
Then there was Mr. Gore's story of a 15-year-old girl in Sarasota,
Fla., who he said is such a victim of school crowding that she has
to stand in class. The fact is, the girl has a desk, and went
without one for only a day.
At another point, Mr. Gore said he had traveled with James Lee
Witt, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to
inspect fire and flooding damage in Texas in June 1998. In fact,
Mr. Gore went to Texas, but not with Mr. Witt.
At another point, Mr. Gore said he "took a risk" in asking the
former Prime Minister of Russia, Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, to become
personally involved in negotiating an end to the conflict in
Kosovo. In fact, President Boris Yeltsin of Russia had two weeks
early designated Mr. Chernomyrdin as a special envoy to the Balkans
and the diplomatic mission that Mr. Gore described had been
initiated by other top officials in Russia, Europe and the United
In an interview last weekend, Mr. Gore volunteered that PBS had
never invited him to be appear on a documentary about presidential
debates. But officials at PBS said he had been invited personally,
and the vice president's own spokesman said the campaign had
rejected the offer.
Mr. Gore, in an interview today with a television station in Grand
Rapids, Mich., sought to deflect accusations that he is an
embellisher by turning the tables on Mr. Bush.
"In the debates, when he said that I spent more in my campaign
than he has, the numbers show that he has spent twice as much as I
have," Mr. Gore said. "But I don't seize on that as evidence of
some character flaw. He made a mistake, and I'm not going to attack
In another interview months ago, Mr. Gore tried to make light of
questions at the time about his exaggerations, turning to the
reporter and blurting, "I think it's an exaggeration!"
But then he suggested that the press was at fault for a newfound
tendency of overblowing offhand remarks, saying, "Part of it is
modern." Reporters, he said, operate with "a hair trigger on."
Rather than explain Mr. Gore's misstatements, one of his aides,
Mark Fabiani, focused on Mr. Bush, saying, "We've never attacked
Bush for his numerous crimes against the English language."
In and of themselves, many of Mr. Gore's embellishments can be
excused or seem quite mild. Unlike the times that President Clinton
has twisted the facts to get himself out of a humiliating scrape or
scandal, Mr. Gore's slip-ups appear to be far more unnecessary.
People who know Mr. Gore have suggested that he was reared in a
political family where embellishments were part of life. And Mr.
Gore spent his childhood in a way that was intended for use in a
His mother, Pauline, used to tell reporters that she would have
dinner with her son no matter what else was going on. "Nothing
lonelier than a meal eaten alone," she would say. The truth is, Mr.
Gore was alone a lot.
Whatever the reason, the vice president's tangled recollections
have begun to draw attention because there are so many examples.
Another reason is that they are curiously at odds with his
reputation and the image he is trying to project as a
politician of great intelligence who is a stickler for the facts.
Several prominent Democrats said privately that they were worried
that Mr. Gore was giving ammunition to his opponents. Indeed, Mr.
Bush and the Republicans have gleefully seized on Mr. Gore's
"The press has been too easy on him on this," said Bill Pascoe, a
spokesman for the Republican National Committee. "If the only thing
you knew about Al Gore was what you read in the press, you'd think
he was just a charming fellow who loves his wife."
Robert Schmuhl, a professor of American studies at the University
of Notre Dame, said Mr. Gore should take greater care to watch what
"It's reaching a point where a stereotype might form and we might
think of Gore as someone who is prone to exaggeration," Mr. Schmuhl
said. "That's a real danger for someone who is trying to run for
president without the strain of character questions or problems of
But Chris Wetzel, a professor of psychology at Rhodes College in
Memphis, said he was willing to give Mr. Gore the benefit of the
doubt and did not believe he had sinister motives.
"Why would someone say something like this when it can be so
blatantly discovered?" asked Mr. Wetzel, who has taught a research
course called Detecting Impostors and Con Artists. "I think it's
like the false memory syndrome when people end up believing that
they were abducted by aliens."
I don't buy the argument that Gore simply misspeaks. This is the big
one. The campaign for the POTUS. Gore is Mr. Detail, and he's not
going to go into a debate without having all of his facts checked out
ahead of time.
I've just about concluded that Al's doing these on purpose, as
smokescreen for the real issues. Like when he was studying to be a
Buddhist nun (and inadvertantly collected some checks in the process).
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