And so that's what I'm focused on—not the contest, but our democracy. … What is at stake here is not who wins and who loses in a contest for the presidency, but how we honor our Constitution and make sure that our democracy works as our founders intended it to work.
I was at first skeptical of Gore's claim of high-minded indifference to whether he occupies the most powerful office in the world. But then a friend of mine in the Gore campaign—I can't disclose his or her identity—shared with me the following transcript of an Election Night conversation between Gore and campaign chief William Daley.
GORE: "So, how do things look?"
DALEY: "Well, California's in the bag, and I'm optimistic about Washington and Oregon, so it looks more and more like the whole thing hinges on Florida."
GORE: "And what's your sense of things down there?"
DALEY: "Well, actually, I've, um, I've got some concerns."
GORE: "You mean … you mean you think the final tally may not honor—"
DALEY: "Exactly. I'm worried that the final tally may not honor our Constitution. And if that happens, then … [voice trails off] "
GORE: [slowly, ruefully] "—then democracy won't have worked as our Founders intended it to work. [pause] I hate it when that happens. [longer pause] Somebody get me Warren Christopher on the phone, pronto."
Sorry to belabor the joke. But I think it raises an important question: When will Al Gore adjust to the fact that we are now several decades into an age of cynicism that shows no signs of abating? These days even genuine high-minded sentiments face credibility problems. Manifestly false ones don't have a prayer.