One of the most constant criticisms of Al Gore has been that he has too often reinvented himself. Republicans have criticized and even ridiculed him for recreating himself in various images. But this week the man who has tried to present himself as a repentant sinner, a born-again evangelical who has seen the error of his high-livin' Texas ways, showed another side of his own self. The morphing of Bush began during a campaign event when he spotted a reporter from The New York Times in the audience. Leaning casually over to his vice-presidential running mate, Dick Cheney, he called the man an anatomical expletive. Cheney seemed neither surprised nor bothered by the comment that was also captured on a live microphone. "Yeah, big time," he said in his best supportive vice-presidential voice. When informed the remark had been heard, Bush looked downright surly as he said he only regretted a private remark had been heard in public. So what's the problem? Bush has worked hard and long to present himself as one of the boys on the Christian right. His controversial appearance at Bob Jones University was just the beginning of a campaign to prove he is, in fact, a genuine Bible-toting conservative Christian. Memo to George W: Do not, under any circumstances use such an expletive while at Bob Jones U. Even in a private conversation, that word will get your fanny kicked off campus faster than you can recite the Four Spiritual Laws.
Bush's advisers include Marvin Olasky, the editor of the conservative World magazine, who was, himself, given quite a flattering profile in the very same New York Times. Bet he's not going around calling New York Times reporters expletives, even if he does probably believe they're all going to hell in a handbasket. Let's be honest. Not all conservative Christians are choir boys. In fact, some are even known to use synonyms for manure from time to time. But usually this comes when they've been mightily provoked. And if you were to stake out the halls of Christianity Today, wire it with mikes and wait for the most private conversations, you could grow old waiting to hear the word Bush used. But even if a card-carrying conservative Christian was to use the word, he would have the good sense to look embarrassed when caught and he sure as heck would apologize for it before God and his fellow churchgoers. He might even promise to get counseling for his problem. He would never, under any circumstances, look surly and defiant. So George W., get with the program. If you are now a mild-mannered, compassionate conservative, prayer-meeting-attending Christian, ditch that word. It just doesn't go with the image. And for heaven's sake, get that repentant thing down. That's not to say I am a big fan of Al Gore's. I am firmly planted in the undecided middle, and one more gross smooch could drive me to plaster a Bush bumper sticker on my car, no matter who he is. And before I could consider voting for Gore, he would have to solemnly swear he would never attempt to speak Spanish in public again. But if I do vote for George W., I would just like to know if I am getting a butt-kicking, tough-talking guy who might call a truly deserving person like Serbian president Milosevic an anatomical expletive, or am I getting a guy who might hand him a tract and pray for his soul? I'm not saying there's a right answer. I just want to know.
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