Al Gore, Kissing Beneath the Bouncing Shadow

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

Kissing Beneath the Bouncing Shadow

August 24, 2000


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Just in case you were wondering, there is no news today in the presidential campaign. There was no news yesterday, and there will be no news tomorrow. Instead, there are only symbols, metaphors, and the occasional simile. It is as if Campaign 2000 is being orchestrated by your high school English teacher.

Absolutely everything in this campaign is infused with instant meaning and instant analysis by the press, regardless of whether it deserves such treatment. Mere minutes after Gore finished his convention speech last Thursday, there was Dan Rather asking all his correspondents, "Did Gore get the bounce he needed from this speech?" Rather said it as if such a thing could be instantaneously quantified, as if there really was a little red Superball bouncing somewhere on the convention floor.

During the pre-game show before the speech, the questions were also bounce-related. Every anchor wanted to know how Gore could get a bounce in what was to be "the most important speech of his life." The experts agreed that most of all Gore needed to "be himself." Be himself? What? As opposed to last week when he was Amelia Earhart?

As luck would have it, Gore struck gold and managed to be himself for the entire speech. "This was the real Al Gore tonight," more than one pundit proclaimed when it was all over. Well, what a relief! I hate it when they use Stunt Al instead.

At one point, I even heard a commentator suggest that Gore seemed more authentic than usual, which begs the metaphysical question: If someone acts more authentic than usual, is that really authentic behavior? I'm not sure, but we had best not dwell on it. That's the type of question that can fuel about fifteen hours of Crossfire debate.

"But can't you see? Gore's obviously using this new authenticity ruse to deceive the public! Come on! We all know the real Al Gore isn't at all authentic, and it's time the American people were told this!"

Clinton's shadow was another big theme. One of Gore's main tasks, we were told, was to step out from under this shadow. From what I gathered, the President must have scarfed down more than a few Big Macs, because this was one massive shadow. Everyone was talking about it. Well, everyone except the American people, that is.

And so in the midst of a relatively good speech, we were presented with one of the most simplistic lines ever when Al Gore proudly announced, "I stand here tonight as my own man." Well, thanks for letting us in on that one, Al.

This is not something you would expect to hear from anyone who really was his own man, yet Gore had no choice. He had to include such silliness in his speech, because it's exactly what the media demanded. The pundits loved it. It was one of the most replayed lines of the entire speech. "Well, Dan, I think he really stepped out of Clinton's shadow tonight," all the pundits gushed. Somehow, just by declaring that he was his own man, Gore left the imaginary shadow behind. Imagine if governing were as easy as manipulating the press!

Perhaps silliest of all was the kiss. As Gore walked to the podium for his speech, he gave his wife Tipper -- in the words of one newspaper -- "a full-mouthed kiss." From all accounts, it was a pretty good kiss, even dare-we-say-it passionate. Believe it or not, this is news. For some commentators, the kiss was a reminder that unlike certain politicians Gore is a happily married man who apparently digs his wife. Along with the stunning "my own man" rhetoric, this kiss supposedly helped Gore to further step out from beneath Clinton's shadow.

Because of this, many speculated that the kiss must have been staged. On NBC's Today show Monday, Matt Lauer actually asked the Vice President of the United States of America the following question: "You really planted one on Mrs. Gore. What were you thinking?"

Gore replied that the kiss was "completely spontaneous." He further said that he was shocked by all the attention it received. Whether you like him or not, it's tough not to appreciate his response: "Somebody said, 'Are you trying to send a message?'

I said, 'Actually, I was trying to send a message to Tipper.'"

But was it the real Al Gore sending her the message? How about the bounce? Did he get the bounce he needed from the kiss? And what about Clinton's shadow? Was it getting any action? Tune in for the rest of the campaign, and unfortunately you'll probably find out.


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