Nothing has been more comical that Gore's "populist" posturings about the Republicans being the ticket of Big Oil, and he and Lieberman being the champions of the little people.

This is the man whose education and Tennessee homestead came to him in part via the patronage of Armand Hammer, one of the great oil bandits of the twentieth century, in whose Occidental Oil company the Gore family still has investments valued between $500,000 and $1 million.

At the Los Angeles convention, the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee were located on the 42nd floor of the Arco building, and the symbolism was apt. In 1992 Arco loaned the Clinton-Gore inaugural committee $100,000. In that same year, it gave the DNC $268,000. In the '93-'94 election cycle it gave the DNC $274,000. In the '95-'96 cycle it ponied up $496,000, and has kept up the same tempo ever since.

Was there a quid for the pro quo? You bet there was. Early in Clinton-time, the president overturned the long-standing ban on the export of Alaskan crude oil. Why that ban? When Congress okayed the building of the trans-Alaska pipeline in the 1970s, the legislation triumphed by a single vote only after solemn pledges were made that the North Slope oil would always be reserved for domestic markets, available to hold prices down. Congress had on its mind precisely such emergencies as this year's hike in prices and consequent suffering of poor people trembling with cold for lack of cheap home-heating oil.

With the help of Ron Brown and Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, Arco was also, at the start of the Clinton era, in the process of building refineries in China. Hence, Clinton's overturn of the export ban was an immense boon to the company, whose chief executive, Lodwrick Cook, was given a White House birthday party in June of 1994. The birthday presents have continued ever since to the favorite oil company of the Clinton-Gore era.

While the Democrats and mainstream Greens fulminate about Bush and Cheney's threat to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, narry a word has been mentioned about one of the biggest giveaways in the nation's history, the opening of the 24-million acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Back at the start of the 1990s, Arco's Prudoe Bay reserves on Alaska's North Slope were dwindling. Now, Arco will be foremost among the oil companies exploiting a potential $36 billions' worth of crude oil.

The fake populism about Big Oil is part and parcel of a larger mendacity that troubles many about Gore. What suppressed psychic tumult drives him to those pathetic stretchers that litter his career, the lies large and small about his life and achievements? You'd think that a man exposed to as much public derision as was Gore after claiming he and Tipper were the models for the couple in "Love Story," or after saying he'd invented the Internet, would by now be more prudent in his vauntings or even simple recollections. But no. Just as a klepto's fingers inevitably stray towards the cash register, so, too, does Gore persist in his fabrications.

In recent weeks, he's claimed to have been at the center of the action when the strategic oil reserve was established. In fact, the reserve's tanks were actually filling with oil in 1977 when Gore was barely in Congress, a very junior member of the relevant energy committee. The legislation creating the reserve had long been passed. At around the same time as this pretense, the vice president claimed to have heard his mother crooning "Look for the union label" over his cradle. It rapidly emerged that this little jingle had been made up by an adman in the 1970s, when Al was in his late twenties.

As a clue to why Al misremembers and exaggerates, the lullaby story has its relevance rather as a sad little essay in wish fulfillment. Gore's mother Pauline was always a tough character, far more interested in advancing Albert Sr.'s career than in crooning over Gore's cot. Both parents were demanding. Gore is brittle -- often the mark of the overly well-behaved, perfect child. Who can forget the panicked performance when his image of moral rectitude shattered at the impact of the fundraising scandals associated with the Buddhist temple in Los Angeles?

"He was an easy child, he always wanted to please us," Pauline once said of him. The child's desire to please, to get the attention of often-absent parents, is probably what sparked Gore's penchant for tall tales about himself. The tall tales now meld with the political fakery inherent in a career neo-liberal pretending to be a populist. But people mistrust a clumsy faker. George W. must be praying for Gore to fire off a few more specious boasts. They're his Achilles' heel.

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