Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

Al Gore: Liar or loon?

Deroy Murdock

Liberzine July 25, 2000

New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps News Service and a Senior Fellow with the Atlas Economic Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia.

"'Gore is pretending that he's not pretending,' says Dr. Jeffrey Schaler, a psychologist who lectures at Johns Hopkins University and the American University School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. 'Some people call that denial'... "

NEW YORK -- As self-help guru Stuart Smalley once said on "Saturday Night Live," "Denial is not just a river in Egypt." These days, it is a mental condition that seems to have gripped Albert Gore.

In an astonishing July 16 interview with Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press," the vice president insisted that his April 29, 1996 visit to the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple was no fund-raiser.

Gore made this claim despite a briefcase full of documents Russert presented showing that Gore's entire entourage knew exactly what was afoot at the Southern California temple where it was illegal both to raise campaign money and launder it through sham donors, namely Buddhist monks and nuns sworn to poverty.

A Secret Service record described this event in advance as a "fundraising luncheon, 150 attendees." An April 15, 1996 e-mail between two National Security Council personnel discussed "a fundraising lunch for about 150 people in the VP's honor." In another memo, White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes predicted the shindig would haul in $250,000.

Unlike so many reporters, Russert hurls strikes rather than Nerf balls at his interviewees. "John Huang was there. Maria Hsia was there," he reminded Gore. Huang and Hsia were Democratic fund-raisers who Gore knew well. They both went on to earn felony convictions for their federal campaign finance violations.

Russert even confronted Gore with an e-mail in which Gore himself wrote the day before Hsi Lai: "If we've already booked the fund-raisers, then we have to decline" another invitation.

Asked directly by Russert, "Do you believe to this day it was a fund-raiser?", Gore simply could have replied, "It was a mistake for me to be at that fund-raiser, Tim. I wish I'd spent that afternoon with my family."

Instead, Gore pondered these documents, looked Russert in the eyes and said that even today, "I believe it was not" a fund-raiser. "I believe it was not."

Gore added that "There was no request for funds. No money changed hands." Since people either paid in advance or sent in checks after the fact, in Gore's mind, these were not fund-raising events. This is akin to saying that airplane tickets are free-of-charge since there is no in-flight request for funds. Similarly, a visit from the cable guy must be gratis because no money changes hands until the bill comes at the end of the month.

Gore also attended 37 of the 103 so-called coffees held at the White House and Old Executive Office Building. Guests invited to those events poured some $7.7 million into Democratic party coffers before the 1996 election, even though soliciting campaign cash on federal property is illegal. Still, Gore insisted to Russert: "they were not fund-raisers."

"Gore is pretending that he's not pretending," says Dr. Jeffrey Schaler, a psychologist who lectures at Johns Hopkins University and the American University School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. "Some people call that denial." Schaler nonetheless believes Gore must take responsibility for his actions, no matter how much anxiety that may cause him. "Are there consequences for pretending that something true is false? Yes," Schaler adds. "Is Gore likely to suffer those consequences? Yes."

If indeed Albert Gore is mentally disordered, he deserves America's prayers more than its votes.

Of course, it could be that the veep is not loony but simply lying through his Tennessee teeth. Unlike President Clinton, who Senator J. Robert Kerrey (D - Nebraska) once called "an unusually good liar," Gore is not convincing when he tries to trample the truth.

Adding to the suspicion that Gore is dishonest rather than demented is the burgeoning case of the evaporating e-mails. Over 100,000 White House e-mails, many apparently to and from Gore's office, somehow vanished while they were among the items under subpoena in the Zippergate, Filegate and 1996 campaign funny-money probes.

Career White House aide Howard Sparks declared in a sworn affidavit last month that in 1993, he and another technical specialist offered to archive Gore's e-mails on computer tapes for possible use in "potential legal proceedings." As the Washington Post explained, Sparks said that Michael Gill -- a Gore political appointee nicknamed "the Mad Deletor" -- "essentially told us to get lost, that the Vice President's Office would take care of its own records." Sparks, who believed he was "in no position to contradict a top political aide to the new Vice President," dropped the issue.

Three Northrop-Grumman contract employees testified under oath on Capitol Hill that White House staffer Laura Crabtree Callahan offered to imprison them if they ever discussed the missing e-mails. According to Northrop's Robert Haas, Callahan told him that "there could possibly be a jail cell with my name on it" if he mentioned the e-mail glitch. Callahan denies these threats.

The depths of the White House's foot dragging was exposed in a July 10 evidentiary hearing before federal judge Royce Lamberth in Judicial Watch's Filegate case. Defying last February's promise that it would reconstruct these elusive e-mails and deliver them to investigators by this month, the White House, Lamberth said, "has not yet copied any tapes, much less extracted any e-mail thereon, despite the fact that it has now had 20 weeks to do so." He dismissed White House excuses as "preposterous."

Gore and his allies have every political (and likely legal) reason to keep sliding like slugs until, say, Thanksgiving, long after the voting machines have returned to their warehouses.

Perhaps Albert Gore has such trouble facing these painful facts because he resides in his own alternate universe. Or maybe he just can't tell the truth. Pity the Democrats who are about to nominate a man for president who is either deceptive or deluded. --30--

New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a Senior Fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia.

Copyright, Scripps-Howard News Service, 2000