By their Web sites ye shall know them. The presidential candidates have staked their places on the Web to raise money, to distribute speeches and position papers, and to show off their cybersavvy. Some sites are better than others. Here's a quick guide.
Lest anyone associate Gore with Bill Clinton's sex life, two of the departments you can click to from any page are "The Gore Family" and "Tipper Gore." And while other sites gloss over the legal rules for giving money, this contribution form requires donors to check boxes stating, "I am not a foreign national who lacks permanent resident status in the United States," and "The funds I am contributing are my own personal funds and not those of another." The "Agenda" amplifies proposals on a wonkish array of issues. (The Spanish site is almost as diligently detailed.) Gore underscores his fiscal discipline mantra with a pie chart that lays out how he would allocate the budget surplus. Gore's kid's corner seems geared toward budding geeks. An interactive seek-a-word puzzle takes 20 minutes to solve. Quiz questions include: "How many counties are there in [Iowa]?"
Bottom Line: Cybersprawl
Listen to the uplifting Webcasts of Lyndon wisdom. LaRouche on the American condition: "We've become a nation of cowards, who lie most of the time." A speech warns of the impending world financial crash and advises that "the German General Staff was a Jewish conspiracy!" " LaRouche's Exoneration" page explains how Henry Kissinger framed Lyndon on tax charges (the candidate served five years in federal prison). This page attempts to explain LaRouche's catchy campaign slogan--a call for "A New Bretton Woods." Don't miss LaRouche's campaign humor page. One gem: "By releasing water to permit his canoe trip… Vice-President Gore has dammed himself."
Bottom Line: Now we know who's buying all those drugs from the queen
No bunting—a simple mug shot of the candidate adorns the home page. Nader explains that he is running to undo the "excessive concentration of power and wealth" in the United States. He promises to take on the "two-party duopoly of Tweedledum and Tweedledee," "runaway harmful technologies," and "relentless commercialization." A volunteer page invites activists to hand out literature and hector their friends. And in case you've got any spare excessive wealth, Nader urges you to donate online.
Bottom Line:Green as grass-roots
This site takes personalization to the next level, asking for information in return for an individualized pitch. An " Issues" page focuses on Bush's favorite topics, such as " Faith-Based Initiatives." The "En Español" section offers several pages in Spanish, including this item, which touts Bush's corazón y visión. An audio message of the day communicates directly to supporters. The " Youth Zone" explains Bush's view of politics--it's just like baseball! The parties are leagues, the primaries are playoffs, and the general election is the World Series.
Bottom line: Prosperity with a surface
The site is utterly disorganized but lovingly maintained by Keyes' acolytes. Its audio and transcript archive of his speeches and radio shows is amazing. A slide show presents a series of Keyesian epigrams, including a screed against "tyrannical taxation." An issues section offers rhetoric but no programmatic proposals (e.g., Keyes on sex education: "Human sexuality is primarily a matter of moral and not physical health"). A " Students for Keyes 2000" area featuring photographs of Keyes with young supporters is so poorly digitized that the candidate looks like the Cheshire cat.
Bottom line: Grass-rootsfire and brimstone
When Buchanan switched parties, he also switched his Web site and logo. For a Reform candidate, he's surprisingly upfront about his pro-life plank, though " Cleaning Corruption Out of Government" is (more suitably) his No. 1 issue. His new book, which prompted critics to call him soft on Nazi Germany, is proudly displayed on his home page, so you can judge it for yourself (but first you'll have to buy it). The low-tech site lets Pat's peasant army contribute, join an e-mail list, and browse speeches, press releases, and policy statements.
Bottom line: Peasants with PCs
When you enter the site, a pot leaf signifying medical marijuana pops up on your screen. If you click the link to join Browne's exploratory committee, you get a form that begins, "Due to the complexity of FEC regulations, we are unable to accept on-line donations at this time." If you click "Join the Libertarian Party," you're required to check a box affirming that you "do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals"--just to make sure you're not Tim McVeigh.
Bottom line: Wild, Wild Web
A pretty logo with literally nothing behind it.
Bottom line: Inauspicious metaphor
Criticism and Parody
Clever parody site that captures Gore's ticks and shticks. Headline on the "Goretopia" page: "Envisioning a post-present future for the generations that will follow the children of our parent's generation." The "Socialized Medicine" page exults, "New treatments are slowing the development of acne." Gore also vows to "give each child a talking Chihuahua" and "reduce class sizes to 0."
Bottom line: If only Gore had such a light touch
The graphics bear an uncanny (and possibly actionable) resemblance to Gore's official site, but the content is weak. All jokes, all secondhand. Includes a "Bulletin Bored."
Bottom line: Stiffer than its subject
Meticulously maintained by campaign manager "Deep Throat," the site is based on the premise that Gore accepted the second spot on a Bradley ticket. A digitally altered photo of Al brandishing a bag of weed illustrates a "news" report that the veep auctioned pot to finance the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. A running tally reveals that the White House is a frequent visitor.
Bottom Line: Comedy Centrist
A serious site, light on graphics but heavy on content, with links to dozens of articles scrutinizing Bush and several plugs for itself from major news organizations. Calls itself "a non-advocacy site" and claims to be the "First George W. Bush Site on the Web."
Bottom line: Opposition research headquarters
Excellent libertarian-oriented, anti-drug-war site. Its theme is "Hypocrisy with Bravado." A stamp on the home page boasts, "DRUG-FREE SINCE 1974." A mock press release has Bush promising "to raise the age at which minors can be tried as adults ... to age 40." Best joke: Every picture of Bush includes a digitally-added white streak under his nose.
Bottom line: Best parody site of the campaign