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Jewish World Review August 29, 2000/ 28 Menachem-Av, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

AlGore wants to be his own man -- does he know who that is? --
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 babies?

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 "Cherry Garcia."

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 humor.

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 fake?

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 forever.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


08/21/00: Dems manufacture emotions at convention
08/17/00: Hollywood divine? AlGore is miscast
08/08/00:Outreach: Good strategy and long-run policy
08/04/00: A sharp look back at the Vietnam War
08/01/00: Bush's choice of grown-up Cheney is a stroke of genius
07/24/00: Fired up and grossed out over stupid Canadians
07/20/00: Lack of judgment --- our critical flaw
07/18/00: 'Progress' for women often a step back
07/11/00: School essay watchdogs cannibalize our children
07/06/00: Youths fear marriage --- blame boomers
06/28/00: Eminem might just have a point
06/21/00: Bridging the day-care divide
06/15/00: N.Y. baby case ends up with multiracial scrambled eggs
05/31/00: The war only time wins
05/25/00: The opposite of sex
05/18/00: World War II gave us our true heroes
05/11/00: Boy Crazy! stacks deck against guys
05/09/00: Finding out where the boys are
05/05/00: A born Ms. Leader -- Barbie for prez
04/25/00: From here to paternity
04/14/00: Boys should be boys, not viewed as criminals in training
04/11/00: Oh, for a standard of what is socially, morally acceptable
04/06/00: Womyn's Contempt for Commitment --- and the bastards it creates
04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
03/28/00: Stay-home parents know that their kids need them
03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV
03/10/00: I made a mistake about trigger-locks
03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
02/28/00: Nasty politics? Americans like it down, dirty
02/14/00: College testing via Lego-building -- yeah, right
02/02/00: Bubba should spare us phony love theatrics
01/26/00: What sets off Those Who Speak for Women
01/13/00: Fools in love: Premarital counseling could help school kids
01/11/00: Who funds these studies!?
12/29/99: Grandparents' rights impinge on family autonomy
12/13/99: When did fathers become fair game?
12/09/99: Don't be stupid about at-risk kids
12/07/99: Pokemon is no substitute for a father
12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
11/09/99: Gore could benefit from a secret in Wolf's clothing
11/03/99: Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV?
11/01/99: Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
10/26/99: Children's needs must take priority in divorce system
10/19/99: The deadbeat dad is less a scoundrel than an object of pity
10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
10/12/99: Divorced dads ready to wage a revolution
10/04/99: A father's best gift? His presence
09/30/99: Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours
09/28/99: Science's new findings: Scary future for families
09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
09/21/99:Focus on more than baby's first 3 years
09/16/99: Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate
09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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