The Man from Nowhere
August 17, 2000
you know a real Washington insider? Hes someone who has
seen the charming side of Al Gore. Those who have spent private time with
Gore swear he has one, and now and then it makes a fleeting public
appearance, only to vanish immediately.
But he cant seem to project it
at will. He comes across as the eternal grad student, droning theses and
dropping names. Its nice to have a vice president who has heard of
Descartes, even if he joins rather too glibly in tiresome Descartes-
bashing. But the private Gore seems to have no connection to the public
Gore. The tip of the iceberg bears no relation to the submerged mass.
Gore is a practitioner of rote politics.
He feels he has to adopt his partys orthodoxies as well as his
presidents kaleidoscopic positions. For him politics has always
been a set of mechanical gestures, leaving no scope for self-expression.
He has suppressed the inner man so long since youth, actually
that hes not there when he needs him. Habits of insincerity
have taken their toll, and the problem is compounded by his
self-consciousness about his stiff appearance.
Its further compounded by his
awkward groping for a self. He hires consultants to help him become an
Alpha Male, he changes his wardrobe for effect, and when word of these
efforts leaks out he only looks ridiculous. He needs professional help to
seem natural, but nothing seems to work. It dont mean a thing if it
aint got that swing.
Bill Clinton has that
swing; George W. Bush has a touch of it. Reagan had it, John Kennedy had it,
Franklin Roosevelt had it these were men who loved a crowd, even
if the crowd was an invisible and inaudible radio or TV audience. They
could sense the immediate reactions their words would produce. What
need had they of pollsters and focus groups? They had something better:
If you cant laugh with people,
people are likely to laugh at you. As a humorist, Al Gore is perilously close
to Mike Dukakis. He has something of Dukakiss deracinated quality:
he seems homeless, not in the current sense of destitute, but simply in
lacking any smack of having come from a real place.
Gore, the son of a senator, grew up in
a Washington hotel, and it shows. Most of his contact with ordinary people
apparently came from calling room service. He never acquired the
earthiness of his (technical) native state, Tennessee. He talks about the
earth a lot, but only in abstract ideological terms; he doesnt seem
to have made its acquaintance by personal contact.
Despite his flagrant inconsistencies
and occasional bald lies, Gore has an obvious distaste for politics. In fact
he probably fights dirty because he cant conceive of politics as an
elevated calling; he figures that if youre going to descend into it,
you may as well go all the way. At least Bill Clinton enjoys the sport of it;
Gore fights with the cruelty of a man who is deathly afraid of a fight and
feels he must win or die. Because he deems politics unworthy of him, he
employs unworthy tactics.
Its always painful to watch a
man who is out of his element. The truth is that Gore doesnt belong
in politics; and though the fact may be to his credit, he dutifully chose
or rather, imposed on himself a political career anyway.
And like so many men who are naturally unsuited for politics, he was
oddly suited for the vice presidency. Presidential candidates seek running
mates who wont upstage them, as a rule.
Its interesting that Gore has
departed from this rule by choosing a running mate who would upstage
him. The most exciting act of his career was his selection of Joe
Lieberman for his ticket, as if he hoped that Lieberman would draw
attention from himself. If that was his intention, it worked.
One thing is certain: this campaign
isnt going to be much fun. Gore will be suffering all the way, it
will be painfully obvious to everyone, and he may decide to make it
unpleasant for others too.
Archive Table of Contents
Return to the
SOBRANS home page