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For a guy with an admirable record and a credible plan, Al Gore's embrace of artificial campaign tactics is annoying.

First, there was a change of attire to earth tones; then the new "What would Jesus do?" strategy. . . . Then came the TV challenge to Bill Bradley: Why don't the two of them cancel all TV and radio ads, Gore suggested, putting out his hand, and debate twice a week?

The vice president didn't say what unfortunate network would get to broadcast these snoozathons, and when Bradley correctly labeled the suggestion a "ploy," Gore's impression of a wounded idealist . . . was unconvincing. Afterward, Gore's people admitted they had expected Bradley to turn down the challenge. But what if Bradley had shaken the vice president's hand, and other candidates followed suit? Without 30-second spots, could the nation even have a presidential campaign?

How would we know which candidate is "fighting for us" or "helping parents teach our children responsibly"? Wouldn't we miss those earnest voices telling us that the other guy wants to gut Social Security, deny working families unemployment benefits and give tax breaks to the wealthy? . . . Not to worry. It wouldn't take long before our minimum daily requirement of slick would be transferred to the so-called "debates," complete with misty photographs and heart-tugging slogans. . . .

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