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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


With Governor George W. Bush studiously avoiding issues, handicappers of the 2000 presidential campaign have been forced into an obsessive preoccupation with an issue that will scarcely affect the security or prosperity of the nation f the hopeless woodenness in public of Albert Gore.

This ought to provoke the question of who is more of a fence post, Gore, who has stiffly babbled his position on everything down to suburban sprawl, or Bush, who has built a stockade around his thoughts, only allowing us an occasional peek between the boards to see that he is as resolutely opposed to abortion as he is to making it an issue in his campaign.

The principal quality for which President Clinton will be remembered is his extraordinary capacity to drive Republicans mad, to turn them into censorious, overwrought old biddies drooling for his ruin. Imagine them trying to work themselves into a similar moralistic fit about a woodpile like Gore. Or try to imagine Democrats being electrified into stampeding away from Gore by a figure like Bill Bradley, as opaque as three-quarter inch plywood on the issues, a man who gives the perpetual impression he has just awakened from, or is about to take, a nap. He's more relaxed than Gore, so much so that it seems a pity to disturb him. Talk about a lifeless ridge pole.

Putting Gore on a couch, injecting him with truth serums, might reveal that his resemblance to timber represents the conduct of a normal man acutely embarrassed by the absurdity of what people are forced to do to run for president. After all, most Americans would be mortified to go into a nonentity of a state like New Hampshire and tramp around ingratiating themselves with the local rustics. We'd stutter, gulp and behave with a self-conscious awkwardness that would make Gore seem like one of those garrulous good-time Charleys always called up to be toastmasters at a Moose lodge.

Gore's similarity to a lumberyard could be taken for down-to-earth decency and artless candor, an admirable distaste for self-promotion and artful subtlety. After all, in an age of plastics, wood is increasingly a material of quality, the choice of the discriminating, the preference of those who reject artificiality. What would be more appropriate than for a quality-seeking nation to elect a president of solid wood?

This will have to do as a strategy for Gore because the chances that he will be reborn at his late age seem remote. We'll just have to take the word of people who have met him that in intimate, unfilmed encounters, he is perfectly normal. Anyway, three of the worst and most successful actors of our time are Charlton Heston, John Wayne and Robert Redford. Who does Gore remind you of more than one of them playing some stick running for president?

We have had and survived presidents whose character had qualities of plastic, tin, Styrofoam and cardboard. We might as easily elect one who, on the stump, is the stump. Another woody Tennessean became immortal as "Old Hickory," getting his picture on a whiskey bottle and the $20 bill.

Robert Reno is a columnist for Newsday.