God, Gore: not a divine combination

(U-WIRE) CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — As a general rule, newspaper columnists choose not to focus on vice presidential candidates during a major campaign season. The reason for this is obvious. Vice presidents generally do not play a major role in the administrations of their ticket mates.
A vice president does not directly have the responsibility to do anything, save preside over the Senate and await the president’s death. However, in the case of the 2000 Democratic ticket, the vice presidential candidate has assumed an almost omnipresent role.
He has helped to resurrect the seemingly lifeless Gore campaign from the tombs of political irrelevancy. In fact, what this vice presidential candidate has done amounts to nothing less than a miracle. I refer, of course, to God.
To be truthful (He’d want it that way), God doesn’t hold the official vice presidential post with Al Gore. That spot currently belongs to Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman. However, that fact shouldn’t fool anybody. While Lieberman functions as the current earthly veep nominee, Gore would like to convince the all-powerful one Himself to join forces with the most qualified presidential candidate since Adlai Stevenson.
For those who might think that God would never want to involve Himself in a political campaign, Team Gore thinks otherwise. After all, imagine the press conference for such an announcement. They could probably even convince Jimmy Carter to attend.
Furthermore, think of the new campaign signs. Of course, Gore’s name would stay on top, but God’s name would just fit perfectly on the sign. Despite how good a guy he is and all, Lieberman’s name is a bit long. God just fits much more snugly.
For those thinking this idea might be a bit of a lark, Lieberman has shown Gore’s desire to have God campaign with him at almost every speaking engagement. Joe can’t let a moment go by without invoking a psalm, a piece from the Talmud or some sort of religious text.
Team Gore may even have God’s endorsement for a few policies. On “ABC This Week,” Lieberman was quoted as saying that the Democratic prescription drug plan agrees with the Bible’s commandment to honor thy father and thy mother. One can’t get a much stronger endorsement for policy.
If the sarcasm has not adequately permeated this column, allow me to clarify. What the Gore team has done over the past month with regard to instilling religion into the daily, public operation of a political campaign has been nothing short of disgusting. Prior to selecting Lieberman as his earthly vice presidential nominee, Gore found himself at the losing end of every national poll, despite being in office during one of the nation’s strongest periods of economic growth. The reason for such a lack of support was fairly clear — Gore lacked character.
More specifically, his attachment to President Clinton and his ludicrous abuse of the truth (“I created the Internet” and “no controlling legal authority” among them) hurt him significantly. Enter Joseph Lieberman.
Prior to his nomination, Lieberman’s convictions in following his beliefs as an Orthodox Jew contrasted sharply with Gore’s own aforementioned character problems. With his religious credibility, Lieberman literally brought Gore out of the depths of the Clinton brothel and into a more sanctified, respectable light. Although Lieberman’s pick was clearly a political one designed to distance Gore from Clinton, it is an understandable choice.
The Gore campaign, however, has crossed the line of respectability in its almost daily use of Lieberman as the token religious guy. Knowing that Americans, by and large, like the notion of God in a broad sense, Gore has appeared virtually nowhere without his trusted religious friend.
Recently, Gore stated, almost awkwardly, that he thought about the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” before making policy decisions. (As George Will stated on Sunday’s “ABC This Week,” “What would Jesus do about ballistic missile defense?”)
In these cases, the Democratic Party has elected to instill questions of religion directly into a campaign, so that a voter might choose between the issues on health care, education and whether or not the president and vice president will go to Hell. This is not a good thing.
Although religion (or lack thereof) plays a part of everybody’s daily life, it should not be something of a constantly public nature. While the public is entitled to hear of the principles (religious or otherwise) that will help shape politicians’ viewpoints, the candidates themselves do not need to invoke the name of God in reference to every other issue or action.
In the past, Republicans have scarcely mentioned the name of Jesus without unleashing a Gomorrah-like storm of controversy. The standard of leaving religion as a largely personal matter has made sense in the past. The Democratic ticket should place less of an emphasis on attempting to convince voters of their piety and more of an emphasis on convincing them of their sincerity and commitment to a list of attractive issues.
Seth Wood’s column originally appeared in the University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily on Sept. 6. Send comments to [email protected]