News outlets declared that Al Gore's decision to air ads on a nuclear test-ban treaty was brilliant politics. Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom Watch" cooed: "Cuts quick ad blasting GOPs [sic] on nukes. Even manages to look a little presidential." Time's "Winners and Losers" called Gore a winner: "Tin man cuts smart nuke ad."
In the ad, Gore declared: "This vote goes against the tide of history...I've worked on this for 20 years because, unless we get this one right, nothing else matters." But wouldn't that leave the impression that Gore has had the same opinion for 20 years?
The Republican National Committee has noted that Gore's statements in a 1987 presidential debate sound a lot like Senate Republicans on the floor a few days ago. He asked, "Can we firmly verify whether or not the Soviet Union is exploding low-yield tests on its territory?... Secondly, do we need continued tests in order to assure the reliability of our own nuclear devices?" Gore placed himself to the right of most Democrats.
In a Clintonesque fashion, Gore then denounced as unrealistic a proposal by the group sponsoring the debate to ban all flight testing of ballistic missiles: "This is a really bad idea....if both sides begin to lose all confidence to make their weapons work, then they'll lose any confidence in their ability to use them if they have to. Now that might be fine for a first strike, but we depend on our arsenal for deterrence. And if we do not have any confidence in the reliability of our deterrent weapons, then we have thrown away deterrence without having anything to substitute for it. Simply good will, good faith, or are we going to take a realistic approach to this?" [For more, see box.]
In the October 24, 1987 Los Angeles Times, reporter James Risen quoted Gore sounding like George W. Bush: "'I have aimed my campaign message at Democrats who believe themselves to be realists, and who look at issues one by one without applying ideological tests,' Gore said. 'The receptivity to that message is greater this year than ever before, both in the South and across the country, simply because there is such an intense desire among Democrats to win.'"
Risen wrote that Gore's stands weren't so far from other Democrats, but that it was his "strident tone in recent debates more than anything else - most notably his repeated charge that the party's other candidates support defense policies that would foster 'retreat, complacency and doubt' - that has won over Southern Democrats."
Where are the media on this story? Where are the fact-checking "ad watch" patrols to compare Gore's commercial with the public record? Fox News Channel reporter Carl Cameron is the only national journalist to go beyond cheering Gore's ad or playing pundit on whether it will sell. - Tim Graham