Politics & Policy

Al Gore Wants to Manage Your Web. Yup, He Does.; The Pot Calls The Kettle Black; Corrections Friday; Willie Horton’s Origins


William Clinton once claimed he was the only person to occupy the Oval Office who really knew anything about agriculture.

Bill Clinton spent his youth eating Moonpies, running errands for the Hot Springs crowd, and doing his homework in the back of an astroturf-lined pickup truck. Later, he went to Georgetown, Yale, and Oxford. So, it would only make sense that he would know more about farming than such farmer-statesmen as Washington and Jefferson. Or Abraham Lincoln, who said he was “raised to farm work.” Of course, he said this because he was.

But those are 19th-century guys. Maybe the president meant recently? Well, there was Truman, who ran the family farm after high school and was a prominent member of the Farm Federation. In fact, he got so sick of farm life, he fought in World War I — let’s not even touch on how that compares to Clinton. Then there was, of course, Jimmy Carter, Mr. Clinton’s most recent Democratic predecessor. He was as a peanut farmer. Okay, okay. This is really a dead horse. Clinton lies. Surprise!

Now it looks as if President Clinton’s hand-picked successor has apparently learned a thing or two from his master. In a CNN interview the other day, Al Gore suggested that he invented the Internet. Now, I do not want to write about the history of the Internet. It might send a signal to certain people out there that I want them to e-mail me about the Internet. I do not. So I will try to do this quickly: 1) The Internet wasn’t created by Al Gore. 2) If the Internet had a recent “beginning,” it was in 1969 when the Defense Department started funding ARPANET — this was around when Al Gore was a reporter for Stars and Stripes, saving his dad’s floundering senate campaign. 3) Washington does not, cannot, and should not attempt to “create” things like the Internet.

Point 3 is the important one. For you apolitical cyber-libertoids out there, this sort of claim should be very disturbing. You should take notice. Actually, the first thing you should do is throw away those thousands of empty Diet Coke cans, take a shower, and change that awful T-shirt of the smiley face with the bullet wound in the forehead. But after that, and after you purge your hard drives of emulator software that lets you play Berzerk and Asteroids all day, you should take notice (Intruder Alert, Intruder Alert, Stop the Humanoid, Stop the Humanoid).

The reason why you should be concerned with Gore’s statement is that he probably believes he created the Internet. If not, he certainly believes that things like the Internet can be created by expert-politicians. That is horrifying. Libertarians and conservatives alike believe in what Friedrich Hayek dubbed the spontaneous order — the idea that an infinite number of variables can self-regulate and become more than their aggregate parts. That is where traditions come from. This natural self-regulation of society is where manners, culture, and language come from. This is what Edmund Burke called the “habitual order.” (To put it in terms you people understand — think of the Star Trek episode where Data identified the “emergent property” that was the sum of the Enterprise’s experiences).

If Al Gore believes he created the Internet, he also believes he can “manage” the Internet and other technologies (for an actual intelligent discussion of this, I highly recommend Virginia Postrel’s The Future and Its Enemies). You smelly guys on the ozone-generated vision quests, who are so pale you look like you’ve been handcuffed to the radiator in the basement for a year, don’t call the Internet a “frontier” without reason. Al Gore is like the suit from marketing who keeps coming down to your offices with a new memo explaining why you shouldn’t write the best code, but the best-selling code. C’mon guys, Al Gore is an Internet poseur, like me (but I admit it — what’s C++ again?). Like my programmer friends say of Bill Gates, he couldn’t write code to get himself out of a wet paper bag.

Conservatives have no such illusions about managing the Internet. The web has a life of its own, and within some extremely broad restrictions (no seducing children, no unsolicited snuff films, no real-audio players of Caddyshack Two) conservatives want to leave it alone. Conservatives view the Internet as another market, and we don’t like messing with markets except in dire circumstances. When Al Gore talks about “smart growth,” or creating the Internet, he is revealing the same mindset that allowed Bill Clinton to tell a room full of people a few weeks ago, that sure, we could cut taxes, but what if you spent your money wrong?


I am torn about this idea that George Stephanopoulos is a traitor because of his tell-all book. On the one hand, I think it is unseemly for people who owe their success to a president to badmouth that president while he’s still in office. I didn’t like it when Don Regan did it, I don’t like it now. But then, some people point out that loyalty isn’t inexhaustible. This president doesn’t deserve a fraction of the loyalty he has received. He throws people over the side like André the Giant in a 16-man steel-cage match.

But Stuffingenvelopes, as I immaturely call him, wasn’t betrayed by Clinton. And from what I understand, not having read the book yet, Stuffingenvelopes wasn’t even disappointed in the president until long after he signed his $2.75-million book contract. So I don’t know.

But I am fascinated by people like Geraldo Rivera, who seems to think that Stephanopoulos is a betrayer. Geraldo’s own tell-all book humiliated the woman he married by going into great detail about his affairs. Why does he get to judge other people about writing books at all?


Now, it’s only 7 weeks until the next Star Wars movie opens, so I have to hurry so I can get a good place on line.

Here are the corrections and clarifications for the last week:

I have no idea why I thought Nick Yamana from Barney Miller was Detective Woo.

I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know what I was thinking. It just doesn’t make any sense.

As for my less-than-exhaustive list of Asian-American actors, it was deliberate. But I should say, had I known that so many readers of the Goldberg File would take offense at the snub of Quincy’s sidekick Sam, I never would have left him off the list. I apologize. Sam was a class act. Now, who can tell me which actor from The Odd Couple was also on Quincy? (if any of you think I’m referring to Jack Klugman, I will drive to your house and shoot out your porch light).


Having reread my file from yesterday, I have absolutely no idea why so many of you think I said something inaccurate about Willie Horton. I guess some clarification is in order. I never claimed, nor thought, that Atwater “discovered” Horton. The Willie Horton issue, unlike the Internet, was created by Al Gore. Later, right-wing hatchet-man Floyd Brown was the point man for Republicans in 1988 on Horton, but that doesn’t mean that Lee Atwater didn’t use the issue too. He did. There was nothing wrong with it either. Willie Horton was an entirely legitimate issue. That’s all

And now for the real mea culpa. My readers’ poll was an unmitigated disaster. I asked some seven or eight questions. The questions were confusing. And the answers were even more confusing and the volume of replies blew me away. And now, to make matters worse, my AOL account has gotten rid of them. I do not know why.

So, I would like to start over and run another poll. But first I must talk to the webheads at NATIONAL REVIEW and ask them if they could help me figure out an easier way to do it, that is if Al Gore says it’s okay. I am very sorry, seriously. In the meantime, I will definitively answer the sweatiest movie question for Monday — which is what most of you seemed to really care about in the first place.


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