By Peter Fusco
The 2000 presidential election really hinges on one issue, dignity. If, as a nation we want to restore dignity to the highest office in the land, we have no choice but to elect George W. Bush. Not because he is a super-dignified person, but because we know Al Gore does not measure up, at least to the traditional standards of dignity necessary for the President of the United States before Clinton.
If we forgive Al Gore his silence during the past eight years on matters of Clinton's profound immorality and gross illegalities (some in which he is alleged to have participated), then we might as well forgive those Nazis who, while having nothing directly to do with Hitler's activities, stood silently by even as they had a chance to rally the German people against such monstrousness.
People have an obligation to speak up when their elected representatives (Clinton was never really a leader) move and live along lines that fly in the face of traditional, heartfelt, honorable values. In the case of Bill Clinton, speaking up and out should have started with Al Gore, but he failed to perform his duty. He preferred loyalty to a man and a position rather than loyalty to his country and its people. His actions display a grave lack of courage in his soul, but he is not the only one. Indeed, he is but a reminder that we see ourselves in the people we elect to public office.
Why has there been no unified voice condemning such profound egregiousness on the part of the Clintons and all their associates? It is because there is a vein of cowardice that runs through this, the Vietnam generation. Not in the men who actually fought the war willingly or unwillingly, but those who did not, especially those who stayed home and comfortably consumed drugs while protesting the conflict. They are the very same people who ultimately gained power in the last decade of the 20th century. Their brand of cowardice is the same as that cowardice stifling outrage, the fuel necessary for igniting public outcry. Good, decent people have been afraid to speak up against the prevailing evils for so long now the evils have become acceptable, sometimes attaching themselves seamlessly to an otherwise honorable national community.
This is the case for Al Gore. He was never part of the solution, so we have no choice but to understand him as part of the problem. As Vice President he cannot, with any semblance of veracity, stand before America and lay claim to a new vision of honor and dignity simply because when he had the chance and it really counted, he refused. His being Vice President aside, as a common man with access to the bully pulpit he had an uncommon opportunity to strike a blow for honor, decency and dignity, yet he ignored it even to the point of publicly bestowing undeserved accolades on a singularly undeserving man. This so as to toady in lock step to the beat of prevailing polls. He never displayed the courage to speak out against evil when he knew truth was at an incredible premium, it is foolhardy and dangerous to think he will ever have the courage to make a stand against more serious threats to this country.
In the last election character was an issue. It takes more than character to be president now, it takes dignity which comes not in small measure from courage. Al Gore has no such quality at this point in his life and there is a case to be made for his never having had it before.
For good or ill, America is defined by its elected representatives. Because the President is the only one elected by us all, he is a reflection of the entire nation. When we peer into the looking glass on January 20, 2001, what will we see?
Peter Fusco last appeared in Enter Stage Right in January with his essay January 20, 2001. He has written for The Utica Daily Press, Recycling Today and Summit Magazine and is putting the finishing touches on a book called "The Conservative Gentleman, A Primer For Men in the 21st Century".
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