You may recall the old Jackie Gleason TV show in the 1960s, when Gleason, holding his dainty teacup, would declare, 'I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Miami Beach audience is the greatest audience in the world.'
The audience would go nuts, whistling and stomping. Never mind that the audience members were all tourists and probably none of them lived in Miami Beach. And never mind that the good folks in front of the TV sets back in Pittsburgh were left wondering why they didn't measure up.
It's the same for presidential candidates. The trick is to tell every audience what it wants to hear.
Vice President Al Gore played that card when a youngster at a school in Arizona asked him what his favorite car is. Gore replied 'Jeeps,' according to a National Public Radio report. And then, ever mindful of wooing labor union support, Gore said, 'I like cars made in America, preferably by the UAW.'
You can almost hear the whistling and stomping of appreciation.
But what car was the vice president really referring to?
You can assume right off the bat that he wasn't longing for a Lexus or an Infiniti because they're imported. No Italian sports cars. Nothing from France. Nothing from Porsche.
And despite Gore's interest in all things green, he obviously wouldn't be looking at the Toyota Prius hybrid or the upcoming environmentally sensitive Honda Insight, both made in Japan.
His environmental leanings probably would make him reject the new Ford Excursion and any of the other gas-thirsty sport-utilities that upset people in the Northeast.
He did say 'Jeeps,' but what does that really mean? Some people consider the Suzuki Vitara a 'Jeep' - with a small 'J' and a total diregard for trademark infringement.
Besides, sport-utilites are trucks. Gore used to be a newspaper reported. Let's assume that when he said 'cars,' he meant 'cars.'
So it's and American car built by the UAW.
That apparently would include the Mitsubishi Galant, built by the people of UAW Local 2488 in Normal, Ill. A couple of weeks ago, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association released a survey in which 63 percent of those questioned believed that a Japanese-name-plate car built in a U.S. factory is a U.S. product.
So Gore could drive a Galant, or the sporty new Mitsubishi Eclipse that is built at the same plant. If he considered those cars 'non-American,' he probably would also dismiss the idea of driving a Dodge Avenger or Chrysler Sebring coupe. Local 2488 also builds them at the same factory, but it's owned by Mitsubishi.
It's a sticky business.
Gore might be daydreaming about the Mazda 626, built in Flat Rock, Mich., by UAW Local 3000. He might be thinking about the Toyota Corolla, built in Fremont, Calif., by UAW Local 2244.
If we could see his list, there no doubt would be big pencil marks crossing out the fetching Chrysler 300M, the ever-youthful Pontiac Firebird, the classy Buick Regal or the roomy Ford Crown Victoria. Unfortunately for the Veep, they're not UAW products. They are built in Canada by members of the Canadian Auto Workers.
Nationality is a gray issue in the auto industry. Maybe he meant American in teh sense of 'an American brand.' Like the brands of Germany-based DaimlerChrysler. Does Mercedes count now this is relate to Chrysler? Or does Gore have to exclude Plymouth and Dodge since they are related to Daimler?
Or what about Jaguar and Volvo, since they now show up in Ford Motor Co.'s annual report? Their cars aren't built in America by the UAW, but Ford is counting heavily on selling them. That means a lot of retired Ford UAW workers hope for big dividends as a result of Volvo's success here.
It's hard to figure. But there is probably at least one car Gore is not co