an inconvenient personal truth…

Posted on Tuesday 27 February 2007

I kind of get it why Gore doesn’t want to enter the Presidential race, but I can’t exactly say why. I’ll bet he can’t either. Just because people want you to do something, doesn’t mean you should do it. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it either. And just because there’s a need for you to do something, doesn’t mean you should fill it. It has something to do with what the philosopher Hegel called desire. Hegel said that what human beings desire is the desire of others. Paraphrased, the way we know something is important to us is by a feeling, a felt desire. And the way we know that we are important, is to see that we are the object of the desire of another [others]. And things go best if what is desired is what we really are.

Long ago and far away, in 1970, during Al Gore Senior’s losing campaign in Tennessee, the Al Gores came to town. Al Senior was a genuine character with a visible twinkle in his eye – one of those charismatic old Southern politicians who also did the right thing when it was past time for the segregated South to change. Al Junior was cut from a different cloth – formal, stiff, not much natural rhythm [unlike wife Tipper, who had a sparkle all her own]. The young Al Gore struck me as almost "corny" with his formality and carefully chosen words.

I’d bet that the oft heard comment that he was raised to be President was true – the heady son of a soulful politician. And he did it. He went on to serve four terms in the House of Representatives; he won back his father’s Senate seat twice; he served two terms as Vice President. He even got himself elected President in 2000, but he didn’t serve. He spent 27 years in government doing what he was raised to do. It would hardly be over-psychologizing to say that he was the apple of his father’s eye, even after "the silver fox of Cathage," Al Gore Senior, was long gone.

What happened in 2000 finally freed him from being what he was raised to be, and allowed him to think about what he desired to be – where his passion lay. That’s what he said in his movie and I believed him. We now love him for it, like Sunday night at the Oscars. But what we love him for is for his passion. I think we’ve witnessed Al Gore’s growing up, his discovery of his own personal truth. He’s no longer just the twinkle in his father’s eye. We’ve all forgotten about his father. He’s become the twinkle in our eyes.

Says Richard Cohen in today’s Washington Post:

The last time I saw Gore was at a screening of his now-acclaimed movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." I wrote at the time that, on paper at least, he was the near-perfect Democratic presidential candidate — right on the war, above all.This observation, hardly original with me, is being echoed elsewhere, and it would be impossible for Gore to ignore it. Jimmy Carter said Sunday on ABC’s "This Week" that he thought Gore ought to run and had told Gore so insistently. "He almost told me the last time I called, ‘Don’t call me anymore,’ " Carter said. What Gore told me was something similar: "I think there are other ways to serve."

We’ll see. After all, Gore — the son of a senator himself — was raised for the presidency. But for the moment at least, he is showing all the irritating signs of a man at peace with himself. He abandoned Washington for Nashville. He has made a bundle in his investments, and he has set out to show that there is life after a failed candidacy, a purposeful life in which a man can do some good. His movie and his speeches are — to paraphrase what Clausewitz said about war — a continuation of politics by other means. He cannot make war but he can still make a difference.

I know — and so does Gore — that all this will change if he enters the race. Maybe that ol’ devil of uncertainty will come creeping out of his skin, and maybe he will become shrill, and maybe he will somehow throw his voice so that it seems to be coming from outside his body. But the woman I love tells me that life is a series of little lives, and no one has proved the truth of this better than Gore. With an Oscar in his fist and triumph on his face, Al Gore is a man you can tell your kid about. That, maybe, is even better than being president.

And I don’t think that he’s hiding from being teased for being what he is – formal, careful, unsure. I think he’s located his soul, the place where he’s free from all of that. When a guy finally finds his own road, he just needs to see where it goes.


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