Commentary

Nurturer With a Mailed Fist

This article appeared in Copley News Service.

In between inventing the automobile, penicillin and electricity, growing up as a missionary on the Amazon and supporting his fatherless family of 13 as a bootblack, and inspiring hit musicals and epic poetry, Vice President Al Gore is acting as a commander in chief wannabe.

His role as propagandist on behalf of the administration’s disastrous war of aggression in the Balkans is reason enough to reject him in the year 2000. But his record on domestic issues is even worse.

The vice president’s campaign minions are saying that he is a tough leader who pushed for military action against Yugoslavia. Mr. Gore certainly is talking tough: “Milosevic has barely begun to incur the damage he will feel.”

Of course, Mr.Gore probably couldn’t do worse than Bill Clinton, who has bungled every step. Were the latter commander in chief during World War II, we would all be speaking German.

However, Mr. Gore is attempting to do more than score political points by warmongering for peace. Of late, he’s been battling airlines over compensation for lost bags and pushing to create a special phone number to call about traffic jams. For this, newly independent American Colonies created a national government?

A Gore associate explained that such measures will “add up to something more thematic, something bigger.” And they do. The vice president once said he believes government should be “like grandparents, in the sense that grandparents perform a nurturing role.”

But Mr.Gore prefers to “nurture” with a mailed fist. As former ABC correspondent Bob Zelnick puts it in his devastating new book, “Gore: A Political Life” (Regnery): “Al Gore Jr. was a child of government and a student of government who grew up to be a man of government.”

The vice president has been traversing the country telling audiences he embodies “practical idealism.” However, he has been able to cultivate the image of a moderate primarily because he once took more conservative stands on security and social issues. But 28-year-old candidate Gore ran a populist economic campaign - higher taxes on the rich, support for public jobs creation - to win election in 1976 to Congress from Tennessee.

He generally fit well within the Democratic caucus. He was a reliable supporter of new spending programs, whether business subsidies or redistributive entitlements; higher taxes, especially on the upper-middle class; increased regulation, particularly for environmental purposes; and social engineering schemes, such as racial quotas.

Mr.Gore was at his worst on taxes. Between 1981 and 1993, he opposed only one of 19 significant tax increases; he voted to collect an extra $9,000 per household. He supported a plethora of other tax increases, which failed to pass.

At least all of these measures required votes. The vice president also backed the multibillion-dollar e-rate levy (or “Gore Tax”) on phone service, which has been imposed without public debate by the Federal Communications Commission.

The vice president has placed himself on the extremist edge of environmental policy-making. In his book, “Earth in the Balance,” he declared: “We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle of civilization.”

He has pushed a variety of new energy taxes. He wants employers to subsidize workers who don’t drive to work. He advocates eliminating the internal combustion engine. He proposes banning packaging that is neither biodegradable nor recyclable. He advocates more foreign aid to Third World states for environmental purposes.

Perhaps Mr.Gore’s most important environmental crusade involves global warming. In no small part due to his efforts, the administration signed the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, which mandates substantial reductions in global energy consumption.

Yet years of scaremongering have proved to be inaccurate. Observed warming has been far below that predicted by the models upon which the convention was based. Even Mr. Gore admitted in 1995: “In truth, the scientists who are expert in this field will tell you that the precise causal relationship (between C02 and global warming) has not yet been established.”

The Kyoto Treaty, as yet unratified by the Senate, would impose huge burdens on the United States.

Yale University economist William Nordhaus figures the bill could run $2,000 per household every year. Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Associates estimates 1.8 million jobs could be lost; others predict losses of as many as 3 million.

Mr. Gore has attempted to disguise his statist bias by heading up the president’s program to “reinvent” government. However, his claim to have saved $137 billion is belied even by the National Performance Review’s own reports. Federal employment has not fallen due to his efforts. Mr. Gore has held press conferences rather than recommend eliminating useless agencies.

Commander in Chief Al Gore? It’s a terrible thought. But even worse would be President Gore running domestic policy.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.