Al Gore or George W. Bush? No, no. Here are the real choices facing America: Fleetwood Mac or Rage Against The Machine? Bill Clinton or a punk in a black mask? Hillary Clinton's shouting, cyborg-like rhetoric or truncheons and rubber bullets?
I'm thinking...I'm thinking.
President Clinton gave a magnificent speech at the Democratic National Convention on Monday night. Magnificent by Clinton standards, anyway. It was filled with bluster and hooey, and maybe a quarter of it was true. He only bit his lip a few times.
He spoke of the accomplishments of the last eight years. These include: an expansion of the nanny state, the greatest federal seizure of state and private lands since the first Roosevelt Administration, military misadventures in Haiti, Iraq, and Yugoslavia, incremental nationalization of health care, more federal red tape in state and local schools, and various and sundry affronts to the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the name of "safety," "real freedom," "leaving no child behind," and "putting people first."
He didn't put it quite like that, of course. But the delegates cheered him on anyway. Are you really better off now than you were eight years ago? Aside from exchanging freedom for safety and "benefits," the economy is going great guns, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average clawed its way back over 11,000 the other day. And that Constitutional crisis from a couple of years back? A distant memory. A bad dream.
The reporters in the gallery burst into laughter when the President appeared on the video screen, strutting down the hall toward the stage, looking the thinnest he's ever looked in his life. No matter. If the President had his way, he would be running for a third term. "You know how I feel," he said. If the cheering multitudes in the hall on Monday night had their way, he just might win.
But this convention isn't supposed to be about Bill Clinton. It's about Al Gore. (Tell that to the President.) "He's thoughtful and hardworking. But I can tell you personally, he's one great leader," Clinton said.
The President closed his address with a blast of old Clinton favorites urging the crowd to "keep putting people first, keep building those bridges, and don't stop thinking about tomorrow." Oh, no.
And then the music started. Not just any music. That song.
You remember that awful song. Clinton and Gore made it the theme of their '92 campaign. They were the candidates of tomorrow. George Bush was yesterday, and "yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone."
Tomorrow is now. Or is it yesterday? And where is that bridge to the 21st Century? Is Clinton yesterday? Then why isn't he gone yet? Where is the exit? Where's the bus?
The President stuck around Los Angeles last night to hobnob with celebrities and other beautiful people. (I left my invitation in my other pants.) California Gov. Gray Davis even gave him an Oscar at a party later that night one of the missing Oscars? an honor which the President quite deservedly has earned.
But where does all this leave Al Gore? Is he "tomorrow" or "yesterday" in this metaphor?
The punks stationed outside the Staples Center think Gore not to mention Clinton, both Bushes, and the whole "racist AmeriKKKan prison-industrial complex" is way yesterday.
Right around the time the President was waxing eloquent about how America faces no great external threat (China? Russia? Anyone?), 10,000 or so punks, anarchists, freaks, potheads, and tinpot revolutionaries were rocking to the decidedly un-dulcet tones of Rage Against The Machine. "Rage," as the kids call them, may be the most anti-American band around. Their hero is Marxist icon Che Guevara. One of their songs is called "A Bullet In The Head."
More than one punk got a rubber bullet in the head last night. And the leg. And the arm. And the back. But as much as the ACLU might complain on Tuesday morning, Los Angeles did not turn into a replay of Chicago circa 1968 last night. The LAPD isn't messing around. As soon as the black masks started heaving concrete blocks and bottles, and setting fires, the cops let fly with bean bags, rubber shot and peppergas. A snootful of that stuff will send the most hardened anarchist crying for his mama.
I would like to say that I saw the melee close enough to get a sinus-clearing whiff of pepperspray myself. But I didn't. I heard about it from my father, who called my cell phone as I sat on an idling bus packed with delegates. Oh, and there were police on horses, too.
Not surprisingly, there was little talk among the passengers about the speeches. "Why not just punch the throttle?" one delegate from Illinois demanded. "Just a few hundred speed bumps," another chimed.
Ah. Union members.
I sat next to a nice older lady from Lake Forest, Illinois. She had a blue "Hillary" sign with her. What did she think of Los Angeles? "Do you really want to know?" she answered. "I remember the 1992 convention in Chicago," she said. "It was nothing like this." She didn't mention 1968, and I didn't ask.
Speaking of Hillary, she is a terrible speaker. She shouts. In fact, most of the speakers on Monday seemed to forget they were talking into a microphone. But Mrs. Clinton was uniquely awful. She has a kind of robotic, sing-song delivery. "The...most impor-tant...thing...I can say...is THANK you...Thank you...for let-ting me work...at home...and a-round the world...for children...for women...and...for families." (Where's poppa, by the way?) Synthesized elevator voices have more emotion.
One last thing about the convention so far. There can be no doubt that the liberals are running the show. Monday's rhetoric was unashamedly liberal pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-union, pro-gun control. Anti-school choice, anti-tax reform, anti-Republican.
Don't believe it? Gov. Davis said that "only a Democratic administration" could sustain "lasting values like decency and compassion and fairness and justice." Because Republicans hate decency, despise compassion, scoff at fairness and thumb their noses at justice. And that's before breakfast is served by Filipino housemaids who probably aren't even getting paid minimum wage.
They even paid tribute to Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter: He only lusted in his heart.
And it's only going to get worse. On stage tonight: Ted Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, and Bill Bradley.
Outside: more cops with rubber bullets, more anarchists with black masks.