He was wrong. Gore's record was full of fiscal responsibility and government efficiency, but Bush had found a vulnerability nonetheless in the Gore campaign, whose strategy was to beat Bush on individual issues — prescription drugs, Social Security, Medicare, HMO reform. To turn the spotlight on Bush's vulnerability — lack of specificity and weakness with facts — our campaign made a lot of detailed proposals which allowed Bush to paint Gore as a candidate who had a government answer to every problem.
That's not all the Republicans did to Al Gore in September.
During a stump speech on prescription drug prices in Tallahassee, Florida, on August 28, Al said that Lodine, the arthritis medicine used by Tipper's mother, was the same medicine used to treat the Gores' dog, Shiloh, and that the drug was three times more expensive to buy for his mother-in-law than for his dog.
Three weeks later, The Boston Globe published an article pointing out inaccuracies in Al's statement, but also concluding that "Gore's overall message was accurate — that many brand-name drugs are much more expensive for people than for pets." The Republicans immediately flooded reporters with faxes of the Globe article and e-mails questioning Al's credibility. The media ate it up.
Introducing her husband, Dick Cheney, at rallies during the following days, Lynne Cheney told the cheering crowds, "I once wrote a book called Telling the Truth, and I am sending an autographed copy to the vice president." The Bush campaign hired a college student to climb into a dog suit, hung a sign around his neck that read "Lodine the Canine," and sent him to Gore events.
At the same time, after a very smooth and positive entry into the race, I began to come in for my share of political flak. The Bush campaign was circulating misleading information to the media that I had changed my position on Social Security, privatization, and affirmative action. I had not. The Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman intensified his criticism of my expressions of faith, complaining that I was "hawking religion." Then I appeared on an African American radio network and was asked whether I would meet with Louis Farrakhan, which a few leaders in the African American community whom I greatly respected had urged me to do. They said his bout with prostate cancer had changed him, and I should seize this moment to reach out to him. I said that although I had been deeply offended by Farrakhan's racist and anti-Semitic statements in the past, I was open to meeting with him on the chance that he might have changed. That brought another wave of criticism from the Republicans, the ADL, and some newspaper columnists.
Next, Bill Bennett, my comrade-in-arms in the culture wars, accused me of going soft on Hollywood after a Beverly Hills fund-raiser where I had said I would never support censorship of Hollywood but would continue to "nudzh" them to produce better entertainment with less violence and less sex. Bennett criticized my use of the Yiddish verb "nudzh" as too gentle. My response was that, based on long experience being "nudzhed" — particularly by members of my family — I would define the verb as "persistent criticism until one changes one's behavior." That seemed exactly like what he and I had been doing to the entertainment industry. In any case, I did not benefit from the exchange.