What did Al Gore mean by a "side-wind"?

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April 16 2002 4:12 PM

What Did Al Gore Mean by a "Side-Wind"?

Al Gore delivered a memorable but mysterious line during his speech to the Florida Democratic Convention. Readers of the New York Times learned, without context, that Gore was "tired of this right-wing side-wind." What was Al talking about?

He was alluding to a Winston Churchill speech made in 1943. According to Gore, Churchill warned politicians against using bipartisan support for World War II as a pretext for pursuing their own partisan aims. Here's part of the Churchill passage that Gore quoted in his speech:

The principle that we work on is, "Everything for the war, whether controversial or not, and nothing controversial that is not bona fide for the war." That is our position. We must also be careful that a pretext is not made of war needs to introduce far-reaching social or political changes by a side-wind.

Then Gore took Churchill's expression and applied it to the Bush administration's domestic policies, saying, "I'm tired of this right-wing side-wind."

For those who are curious, Churchill wasn't the first to use the meteorological and nautical term in a political context. Since the 17th century, "by a side-wind" has meant by indirect, and possibly illegitimate, means.

(Click here for a transcript of Gore's speech, or to watch it in streaming video.)

Kate Taylor is the arts reporter at the New York Sun and the editor of an anthology of essays about anorexia, Going Hungry, which will be published next spring.