The Real Al Gore
June 1, 2000
Im afraid I dont care much
for your manner, a client says to Raymond Chandlers
wise-guy detective, Philip Marlowe.
Ive had complaints
about it, Marlowe replies, but nothing seems to
So it is with Vice President Al
Gores persona: nothing seems to help. He has tried everything to
correct his wooden persona: playing the farm boy, exploiting dead and
injured relatives, changing his wardrobe, taking alpha-male counseling,
undergoing intensive humor training, slashing at his opponent, George W.
Bush (the media call it negative campaigning when
Republicans do it), and now a gentler approach, with the beanballs
delegated to his surrogates. We may yet see him driving Michael
He has also tried to distance himself
from his boss, President Bill Clinton, but Clinton just cant help
himself: at every opportunity he grabs the limelight, upstaging poor Gore.
He is still the star of his own administration, and as the clock ticks on his
final months in office he wants all the attention he can get. His efforts to
help Gore only get in the way of Gores need to show hes
his own man.
Al Gore has been a familiar figure in
American politics since at least 1988, when he first ran for president,
and his problem now is the same one hes always had: hes
one of the most boring human beings who ever droned into a
If hes a human being at all,
that is: theres some doubt about this. Despite Gores earnest
efforts to save the earth, many suspect that earth isnt even his
home planet, that if you yanked off the rubber mask youd expose a
green reptilian face right out of some cheap old sci-fi movie.
At least Bill Clinton is a mammal, as
he has amply proved. Clinton has been quoted as privately marveling that a
man so lacking in people skills as Gore should make a career in politics.
But Gore got into politics via heredity: his father was a U.S. senator too,
and Al grew up in a Washington hotel, attending St. Albans and Harvard. He
never had to serve the usual apprenticeship at the grassroots. His chief
contact with ordinary people occurred when he called room service.
So the top priority of the Gore
campaign is to humanize the candidate. It isnt easy.
He generates no excitement even when he goes on the attack; his motives
are too transparent. How boring is he? If he committed an ax murder, the
witnesses would yawn.
Like many lonely children of
privilege, Al Gore has led an elaborate fantasy life. Among other things, he
has claimed credit for launching the Internet and for inspiring the
romantic novel Love Story. He has no idea how silly he
sounds when he makes such claims. His obliviousness to the impression he
makes only reinforces the impression itself as when he chanted
the phrase no controlling legal authority no fewer than
seven times in response to questions about his fundraising methods.
Many people remake their public
selves, but Gores efforts to do so seem like a feat of engineering
as mechanical as the self he is trying to remake. He may have a
fantasy life, but he has no inner life. We know this because we can see
through him as he tries to change the way we see him: the political
calculation is so obvious that it cant produce the desired effect.
The louder his words, the more hollow they ring.
In fairness, Gore is merely the most
boring of a boring lot. Todays politicians are hollow men who never
meditate and consequently never say anything memorable. The American
political tradition has had its full share of eloquence, but not lately.
In the first century of that tradition
our politicians were philosophic men whose words expressed their own
thoughts; the idea of hiring speechwriters never occurred to them, and
their words were studied, pondered, even memorized. They tried to
emulate the political oratory of Demosthenes, Cicero, Shakespeare, and
Burke, and they did a pretty fair job.
Todays politicians dont
aspire to emulate their forebears; they want their ghostwriters to
emulate John Kennedys ghostwriters. Al Gore is only the worst of a
Archive Table of Contents
Return to SOBRANS home page