The Magazine

Al Gore's Risky Theme

Apr 17, 2000, Vol. 5, No. 30 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Every journalist from the lowliest wire-service stringer to the New York Times's William Safire in a recent "On Language" column has by now noticed Al Gore's favorite term of abuse for any George W. Bush initiative: "risky scheme." The phrase was a favorite of Gore and Clinton in their 1996 campaign against Bob Dole, who himself had used it earlier that year to mock Steve Forbes's plan to privatize Social Security.


The question is whether "risky scheme" will continue to work its demagogic magic for Gore as he uses the phrase with ever greater frequency this year, or whether it will become as cloying to voters as it already is to campaign junkies. In mid-March, Los Angeles Times reporters noted that at one Florida appearance, "Gore called [Bush's tax-cut proposal] a risky scheme a dozen times in 20 minutes," which may be a record.


A Gore 2000 press release on April 4 (headline: "Bush's Risky Tax Scheme Endangers the Future of Social Security") comes close to equaling that high-water mark. Here are excerpts: "Gore has a plan to keep the economy booming. . . . George W. Bush, however, will return to the Bush-Quayle era of deficits and recessions with his risky tax scheme. . . . It is not time for a risky tax scheme that could turn back the clock. . . . Gore will oppose risky privatization efforts that would jeopardize Social Security benefits. . . . BUSH'S RISKY TAX SCHEME ENDANGERS SOCIAL SECURITY [caps in the original] . . . BUSH'S RISKY TAX SCHEME EXCEEDS SURPLUS . . . BUSH SUPPORTS RISKY PRIVATIZATION SCHEME . . . Bush favors a risky privatization scheme for Social Security . . . Bush's risky scheme could jeopardize Social Security benefits."


THE SCRAPBOOK counts at least eight "risky schemes" in this particular press release and invites correspondents to submit similar Gore transcripts or press releases to scrapbook@weeklystandard.com. Submissions that exceed the robotic dozen-times-in-20-minutes or eight-times-in-one-press-release benchmark will receive suitable airing in THE SCRAPBOOK.