John Podhoretz and Michael Waldman

Grandpa Gore
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Aug. 17 2000 2:30 PM

John Podhoretz and Michael Waldman

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Michael,

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I don't think Clinton is a frivolous man at all; I think he's the greatest politician of our time, greater than Reagan, because he kept getting dealt impossible hands and somehow managed to bluff and outplay everyone. But a pure politician is not a serious man, because he horse-trades his convictions and his views. I would have more respect for Clinton if he were the liberal he really wishes he were, rather than the triangulator he has proved to be.

I wonder if what you say about high rhetoric is true. Perhaps the culture is irony-drenched, but that may be the result of the unseriousness of our politics rather than a cause of it.

I expect that the Gore speech will be hailed as a triumph. All this talk about the speech of his life blah blah blah actually seems to be talking it down. If Gore shows a pulse and a smile, it will be judged a huge success. At the same time, Gore is the worst example of the way '90s politicians knit together the personal and the political--I really did think his exploitation of his son's accident in 1992 and his sister's death in 1996 were among the most repulsive public moments of my lifetime. And he did both in order to make public-policy points and humanize himself at the same time. It's fortunate for him in every sense of the word that he has no more family tragedies to mine, because he would be tempted to do so and it would be disastrous for him. As it is, I expect a lot of talk about his role as a grandfather and what he wants for his born-on-the-Fourth of July grandchild.

It's been a pleasure bantering with you. I'll be filing a column late tonight and on a plane early tomorrow, so this will have to be my goodbye. One day I hope to visit the Clinton Library when the Republicans convene in Little Rock.

John Podhoretz served as a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan. He's now a twice-weekly columnist for the New York Post and a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard. Michael Waldman, former director of speechwriting for President Clinton, is the author of the forthcoming POTUS Speaks: Finding the Words That Defined the Clinton Presidency (click here to buy it).

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