Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., a strong supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, today defended the former First Couple in this most recent controversy about her false story about flying into Bosnia — and his false defense of it — with a rather unfortunate comparison to former Vice President Al Gore.
"I think it was safe to say it was not a calculated political decision," Bayh said on MSNBC today, to Andrea Mitchell. "I mean, he loves her and he was trying to defend his wife from what he thinks is in some ways an unfair attack and I do think it’s fair to point out that all candidates — myself included from time to time — misspeak and all the other presidential candidates have done the same and sometimes these things take on a life of their own."
Bayh said, "I’m reminded of the 2000 campaign, when Al Gore every little statement was kinda of dissected and by the end of that you would have thought he was a serial liar of some kind. Inventing the internet, Love Story all those kinds of things."
"And he lost," pointed out Mitchell. "It had its impact."
"But now we know that’s not true, that was a caricature that was kind of stitched together," Bayh said, "and it’s the same thing with Hillary Clinton, she misspoke…and we need to move on."
The Gore analogy is likely not one the Clinton campaign would embrace. It’s also likely not one that Gore would embrace. Because Gore in some ways got a bum rap on all that (most notoriously with the "Love Canal" flap.)
For the young’uns among my readers, then-VP Gore in 1999 told CNN that "during my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." Experts acknowledged that was an overstatement, but that Gore deserved some credit. Said Vinton Cerf, the Stanford researcher who sketched out a design for the Internet in 1973, "It is entirely fitting that the vice president take some credit for helping to create an environment in which Internet could thrive."
As for "Love Story," Gore, during an off-the-record chat, had said that the character of Oliver Barrett in Erich Segal’s "Love Story" was based on him. The media laughed, but Segal has said that Barrett is an amalgam of both Gore and his Harvard roommate, actor Tommy Lee Jones.
But was it an altogether unfair meme? Even Gore’s own staffers would acknowledge their boss’s reputation for "puffery."
Either way, it enabled the Republicans to paint him as unhinged.
In October 2000, Dick Cheney referred to Gore as having a "compulsion to embellish his arguments or, as I mentioned the other day, his resume…(H)e seems to have this uncontrollable desire periodically to add to his reputation, to his record, things that aren’t true. That’s worrisome. And I think it is appropriate to point that out."
It can be argued that some of Clinton’s comments lend themselves far more easily to be used as paint for use in such a caricature.
Says a GOP strategist: "The foundation on Hillary Clinton is already set in concrete as opposed to Gore where it took some time to shape public perception. She has problems with the truth and is not viewed as honest or trustworthy by the American people. That will be next to impossible to change. … If Bayh thinks the primary’s been rough, then he may want to sit out the general.”