On a recent Thursday morning, not long after the Amadou Diallo verdict, Al Gore stopped by New York City's P.S. 163 to talk up his education proposals. Anti-Gore elves had been up early, stacking "Ask Al Gore" leaflets on tables at the entrance: "If you want to know how African Americans became identified ... as violent, gun-toting threats to society, ask Al Gore about his 1988 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Ask him what he said to Dukakis in the New York debate. Ask him how this was later picked up by the George Bush campaign as the 'Willie Horton' case."
In these early days of the Bush Restoration, it's easy to muster up the kind of sheer animus that so occupied the right when Bill Clinton eased into office on the strength of a bare plurality back in 1992. And it's not pleasant. Some days -- when W. nominated the sleazy Ted Olson as Solicitor General, for instance, or reinstituted the deeply offensive "gag rule" on foreign reproductive health providers -- some dark, feverish part of my brain fantasizes about a left-wing Rupert Murdoch or Richard Mellon Scaife arising from the ashes to drag W. through the mud. Perhaps a Texas Project to match the Clinton-era Arkansas Project? I know, I know, we've all had enough of that. But where's Ted Turner when you really need him?
In late April, the forces of compassionate conservatism issued notice of yet another battle won over the evils of Clintonism. "Bush Shows Strength in Pacific Northwest," proclaimed a press release from the Bush campaign in bold faux newspaperese. And indeed, according to two new polls, George W. Bush was edging Al Gore by one point in Washington and three in Oregon. But though the Democrats have indeed lost ground in the region, it's not Bush who's winning it: Garnering a surprising 7 percent in the Oregon poll was longtime consumer gadfly and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.