Friday, August 18

"The timing of this absolutely stinks to high heaven," said White House spokesman Jake Siewert, and for a minute we could have sworn he was referring not to the latest grand jury probe of Bill Clinton but to Tipper Gore’s pre-speech dance routine.

Tipper was introduced by her daughter Kristin as "one of the coolest people you will ever know," but when she launched into her shuffle-clap-flail interpretation of "Turn the Beat Around," we wondered if Kristin shouldn’t make an effort to meet more people. "I’m not sure what she was trying to accomplish there," frowned Peter Jennings as Tipper wound down. If you missed this magic moment, it’s worth watching here. Don’t worry, the jerky streaming video only enhances the effect of Tipper Gore, The Human RealPlayer. Perhaps she thought the song was called "Turn the Beat Inside Out."

But the evening belonged to Al Gore, who, upon his entrance, grabbed Tipper for the most off-puttingly passionate primetime kiss since Rick Rockwell met Darva Conger. Fortunately for the nominee, everything improved after that. He gave a speech vastly better than George W’s (or Joe Lieberman’s), though we did wonder whether he had left a taxi outside with the meter running. "We think the timing of this was wrong," said George W’s spokeswoman Karen Hughes, referring to the way Gore kept stepping on his applause lines. Oh wait, she was also talking about the grand jury. Our mistake.

"Sometimes you have to spend your popularity in order to pick the hard right over the easy wrong," said Gore, despite the fact that most of the speech seemed designed to convince the Democratic base that he wasn’t always going to pick the hard right. Not that it matters; Gore could spend all his popularity and it would barely buy him one of those Diet Cokes he mentioned. And where did that come from anyway? Did Coca Cola make a campaign contribution? Between that and Palm Pilot, Gore’s speech had as much product placement as Wednesday’s Bud Lite episode of "Survivor."

Now that the 150,000 red, white and blue balloons have begun to biodegrade (which is more than Cher will ever do), what lessons did we learn from the convention? "We ought to consider the possibility of shortening it," sighed Dick Gephardt. Of course he says this after we’ve already sat through the whole week. He’s right, but his timing stinks to high heaven.

—Daniel Radosh

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