The new new Al Gore

Posted: Nov 27, 2002 12:00 AM
Al Gore for president in 2004? Sen. Dianne Feinstein summed up the doubts of many Democrats when she told The San Francisco Chronicle's Matier and Ross: "Too early to tell. I can't quite figure out yet who he is." Join the club -- a club headed by Al Gore. While George W. Bush is a man who clearly knows who he is, Gore, 54, recently told The Associated Press, "I've learned a lot over the last two years, including some things about myself." I can't figure what there was about Gore that he didn't know already. The question isn't who Gore is, as much as which of the two Al Gores is in charge of the former veep's psyche. You see, there are two Al Gores. There's the winning Al Gore. This Al Gore has just won office and planning on further victories. The Winning Al Gore will do whatever it takes to win. You've seen him before, the Al Gore who dialed for dollars from the White House, the Al Gore who paid Naomi Wolf $15,000 per month to advise him to wear earth tones and woo soccer moms as an alpha male. He's the man who -- as smart candidates do -- aggressively amassed a small army of pollsters and political consultants when he ran for the White House in 2000. Then there's the Al Gore who has lost an election -- a man America doesn't see very often, as he's only lost twice -- both times in bids for the White House. The losing Al Gore descends into a midlife crisis. It happened when he lost in the 1988 presidential primary. It's happening again. The losing Al Gore writes a book. After 1988, he wrote, "Earth in the Balance." This go-round, it's "Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family." The losing Al Gore then runs around telling everyone that he lost because he listened to political consultants instead of his own instincts. In his 1992 book, "Earth in the Balance," he wrote of his 1988 loss that he had begun "to doubt my own political judgment, so I began to ask the pollsters and professional politicians what they thought I ought to talk about." He then pledged to listen to his instincts first. Last week, Gore told PBS' Charlie Rose: "Where the consultants are concerned, I appreciate what they did, too. I think they did a great job. I think at times there were factors that they couldn't take into account where they were just inside me, and I should have trusted myself more and not go with all the strategy and all that." The losing Al Gore promises to be more genuine and principled. He wrote in 1992, "Now, every time I pause to consider whether I have gone too far out on a limb, I look at the new facts that continue to pour in from around the world and conclude that I have not gone nearly far enough." The new new Al Gore repeated that sentiment last week. He told USA Today, "I'm going to do my best to just tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may." His new slogan: "Let it rip." The old new Al Gore wrote in "Earth in the Balance" that the cumulative impact of cars "on the global environment is posing a mortal threat to the security of every nation that is more deadly than that of any military enemy we are ever again likely to confront." But as vice president and designated Clinton White House point man on the environment, Gore utterly failed to improve fuel-efficiency standards -- in fact, American cars guzzled more gas under Clinton/Gore than under the Reagan administration. Now you know what Gore means when he says, "Let it rip."