Al Gore reinvents himself . . . again
December 22, 2002
When former Vice President Al Gore reinvented himself as a late night comedian last weekend, I knew he wasn’t running for president in 2004 (but don’t rule out 2008). There he was hosting “Saturday Night Live” before appearing on “60 Minutes” as part of a month-long media blitz leading nowhere.
First, he cavorted with perky Katie Couric, yukked it up with David Letterman and knocked Larry King’s softball questions out of the ballpark. And then there were the lengthy, puff-piece interviews in the “mainstream” (translation: liberal) media, including Time magazine and the Washington Post.
After all of that media madness, I was somewhat surprised when Weird Al decided not to run for president in 2004. In my humble opinion, Gore’s decision is good news for the Democrats and bad news for the Republicans and President Bush, who couldn’t have hoped for a weaker candidate to run against.
I thought Gore would run with vice presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., which would have produced a GOP landslide. But now the Democrats have a chance to break away from the discredited Clinton/Gore axis and to choose a “new” face to run against President Bush.
I never understood why my fellow Democrats (yes, I’m still a registered Democrat) were sticking with Gore. With some new and interesting candidates on the horizon — including Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina and, yes, even Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — the Democrats can now seek a more credible candidate to lead them out of the political wilderness. The only way the Republicans could have countered the Gore/Clinton ticket would have been to resurrect the Watergate era team of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. And that would have been fun.
But what about the “new” Al Gore, who looks and sounds a lot like the old Al Gore? A Washington insider who grew up in a luxurious penthouse in Our Nation’s Capital, the newest encarnation of the ex-vice president is a “spontaneous” glad-hander who spouts the left-wing rhetoric of populism and class warfare. “Al Gore Breaks His Silence,” the Washington Post announced in a five-page spread. According to the Post, the formerly reserved Gore is now a gregarious, self-deprecating “negative celebrity” — “famous not for what he achieved but for what he failed to achieve. Famous not for what he is, but for what he almost was.” Was that an endorsement? Or what?
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“I didn’t have to stay quiet (after losing in 2000),” he told the Post. “I could have handled the whole thing differently, and instead of making a concession speech, launched a four-year rear guard guerrilla campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the Bush presidency, and to mobilize for a rematch.” But Gore bravely resisted such advice and turned himself into a temporarily reclusive, bearded university professor based in his alleged “home” state of Tennessee, which he lost to Bush.
I think CBS news analyst Dick Meyer understood what was going on. “The spectacle of this former vice president … sitting in a hot tub with a perfect Joe Lieberman imitator on SNL and then telling Lesley Stahl (of “60 Minutes”) that he was withdrawing from the presidential campaign felt like something we shouldn’t be allowed to watch,” Meyer wrote. “It was too personal. It felt voyeuristic to watch a stranger acting out so close up …. What it was, was depressing, whether you like Al Gore or not. It’s pathetic that his exit was prefaced by buffoonery. He should have treated himself with a little more respect.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Back to the print media, there was an eight-page spread in Time magazine quoting Gore as saying that President Bush “is leading America into deep trouble” and asking the question, “Is that a message that will win the White House in 2004?” Let me venture an answer: No! Can you imagine the wishy-washy Gore presiding over the War On Terrorism? Me neither.
Assuring us that the New Gore “no longer speaks as if every sentence has been pre-approved by his pollsters and handlers,” the Time puff piece featured photos of the ex-veep carrying his own briefcase on the sidewalks of New York and taking a Dr. Pepper break at an Iowa drugstore. He should take it easy on the Dr. Pepper, however, after blaming a soda pop overdose for his strange behavior on the 2000 campaign trail.
But with Gore, anything is possible. After all, he’s the politician who paid a feminist author $15,000 per month to tell him what to wear, and she recommended “reassuring earth tones” to change his outdated image. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work.
So how does Weird Al deal with the ceaseless lampooning he continues to face from columnists and commentators from as far away as Carson City. Gore explained his approach to the New York Observer. “That’s postmodernism,” he said. “It’s the combination of narcissism and nihilism that really defines postmodernism.”
“So that’s what it is,” the conservative Weekly Standard commented. “We thought it was just a reflection of the fact that Al Gore is a world-class weenie.” Ouch!
That wasn’t very nice but it illustrates Gore’s identity problem. Even if he successfully reinvents himself before the 2008 presidential election, we won’t have good old Al Gore to kick around in 2004. I’m disappointed, of course, but political life goes on. Bring on Al Sharpton. And Merry Christmas!
Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.
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