Jewish World Review August 29, 2000/ 28 Menachem-Av, 5760
AlGore wants to be his own
man -- does he know who that
SMALL TOWN, AMERICA | The best analysis of
Al Gore's sudden bounce in the polls may have come
from Politically Incorrect host and comedian Bill Maher.
"We're babies," he recently told CNN's Larry King.
"The last thing we saw, that's what we want."
In the week after the Republican Convention, voters
wanted George W. Bush. In the week after the
Democratic Convention, voters wanted Gore. Just like
Or perhaps just like consumers who watch an
ice-cream commercial and, next thing they know,
they're in the car, making a run for some Ben & Jerry's
Or maybe it's a little of both, for consumers and babies
have this in common: Their responses are primarily
visceral. No matter what the polls say between now
and November -- no matter how many ways the
pundits dissect the issues -- most voters ultimately will
vote their guts.
Right now, the undecideds are a little queasy. Out here
in the bushes (no pun intended), people still don't like
Bush's smirk, though it's getting better, but there's just
something about Al. He seems like a nice guy. He looks
good on paper. His wife's great. He's just, well, um,
what is it?
It's "it." Gore doesn't have "it," and absent "it," he
should have left himself alone. Voters might have let "it"
go, but Gore has tried to fake "it," and there's nothing
more non-"it" than faking it.
You know what "it" is. It's not a tangible, quantifiable
thing. It's an understood thing, a felt thing, a sense of a
person's rightness. You know it when you perceive it,
for sometimes it isn't merely seen either. Bush has it.
Clinton has it. Tipper Gore has enough for both parties,
D.C. and the suburbs. Hillary doesn't.
What causes one to have It and others not?
I know, I know, I'm not talking about that kind of
honesty -- about telling the truth under oath or "losing"
records or exaggerating military performance. I'm
talking about knowing who you are, being comfortable
in your skin, conveying the sort of confidence that
comes from owning your own psychic space. Seeming
natural, being real.
The trouble with Gore is he's so uncomfortable in his
skin that he makes other people uncomfortable. I was a
wreck during his convention speech. Like any audience
member, I privately wanted him to do well. I squirmed
when he gestured too grandly for the content; I cringed
when he "laughed" to demonstrate his fabled sense of
I worried for days about Tipper's lip when Gore laid
that faux-passionate, hard-toothed bruiser on his wife's
mouth just before his acceptance speech. Whatever that
was supposed to be, it wasn't persuasive. It seemed
contrived and fake, and, well, it was.
Al Gore at his core may be a fine and decent man. He
may have always been a little awkward and stiff --
everybody says so -- but he was essentially good,
wanted to do good, wanted to be good. How, then, has
he come to be perceived so differently? A once-good
man who comes across as dishonest, contrived and
Charitably, we may assume he has become corrupted
by bad advice, by stage handlers who have told him to
wear more browns, to look more casual, be more
relaxed, be funnier, more passionate, looser. Is it any
wonder he seems ill at ease?
Gore says he wants to be his own man, to show
America who he really is. The problem is, after all these
years, campaigns and conflicting advice, he doesn't
seem to remember who he is anymore. Too bad. Even
babies can't be fooled
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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