Gore's Tangled Web

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WASHINGTON: What could go wrong with a photo-op friendly White House plan to hook every classroom and library up to the Internet? Plenty, as Al Gore is finding out. His connection grant program, which the FCC ordered phone companies to pay for, has become a victim of its own success. More than 30,000 schools across the country rushed to sign up, creating a $400 million shortfall. Now long-distance companies are threatening to add a $5 surcharge to every consumer’s bill. Critics are calling it the “Gore tax.”

Writing in TIME this Monday, Gore defends the out-of-control spending as essential to remove “one more hurdle for poor and rural communities” -- and in truly nebulous Gore style, reminds us of protests in ancient Greece over the importing of Egyptian paper. Privately, the Veep’s aides say they’re ready for a fight -- just like the one brewing over Big Tobacco -- that will make opponents look like they’re voting against children. But there’s more to this debacle of a scheme, such as an overpaid chairman who happens to be one of Gore’s oldest buddies. All in all, Al’s “reinvented government” is starting to look a lot like Version 1.0.