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
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.