Now Debating: Weird Al and Curious George

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    Al Gore has proposed that he and Bradley cancel their 30-second ads and instead meet every week to engage in another "debate." When he hears that, Bill Bradley rolls his eyes and shakes his pelican chin, and calls it "a ploy."

It's not a ploy. It's an idea so hideous that Gore cannot possibly be sincere in proposing it. Did you see Wednesday night's event in New Hampshire? Gore and Bradley have perfected their performance. They sound like a guy and his brother-in-law who are forced to get together at Thanksgiving and for some reason — old family history, or maybe it's that one of them beat out the other for president of the student council a long time ago — cannot refrain from whining at each other, just this side of nastiness, as they split hairs over health care in a manner that reduces already tedious policy-wonking to "Did so," "Did not," "So's your old man!"   

     Political commentators, in their theme-of-the-week, have pronounced that Al Gore has been transformed from his former soporific self to a master of the martial arts, all fiery aggression, while Bradley has declined from the thinking Democrat's alternative to a condescending loser, who, though we do not wish to make too much of it, has that fibrillating heart.  

     It is time for the pair to disengage. Or let them go to a marriage counselor and see if they can works things out. Let them run all the negative ads they want. But let the public be spared further debates.  A debate is supposed to have some discipline and sobriety about it. If Gore and Bradley were trying out for a Jesuit high school debating team anywhere in America, neither would make the cut. They are not even up to that standard of seriousness, let alone to the standard of, oh, Lincoln and Douglas, or Nixon and Kennedy, or even Reagan and Mondale.  

     The real story, in any case, is not Gore's fight in the primaries against Bill Bradley, but rather Gore's battle with himself — his struggle to subdue his demon of weird things, the dybbuk that, for example, made him wear that necktie last night (it looked like a poisonous snake from Brazil, or a a preschooler's Crayola work) or that prompts him to claim, from time to time, to have invented electricity, Velcro, or the fax machine.

      If Gore wins this struggle with himself, he might go on to make a good president. Of all the candidates, it may be plausibly argued that he has the most extensive and relevant experience, and is the most in touch with the future directions of technology and the world economy. If he does not subdue the Weird Al, and wins the White House anyway, it is going to be a peculiar four years.   

    It's curious that each of the two major candidates — George W. Bush and Al Gore — harbors his own most serious opponent.     

   Gore has his devil of weirdness, this peculiarly uncomfortable internal something that reminds one, at odd moments, of a shinier, buffed-up version of Richard Nixon and his sweating upper lip and the disconnect between his words and his flashing, inappropriate smile.   

    Bush, on the other hand, must subdue the frat boy Caliban who lives inside him, the airhead who expresses himself in the famous smirk that makes W. look, at times, like Mel Brooks as Governor Lepetomane in "Blazing Saddles."  

     Bush, too, might turn into a fine president, for he obviously has certain action virtues that transcend his inability to name obscure heads of state off the top of his head.   

     Maybe it would be a good idea, in both cases, to summon an exorcist.