Entry from June 3, 2010

To the admirers of Al Gore, the recent announcement that he and his wife, affectionately known as “Tipper,” are splitting up comes as a bolt from the blue, a stunning development that seems almost incomprehensible. “If you were going to bet a political marriage would fail, Al and Tipper Gore”s would have been about the last you”d pick,” wrote  Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts in The Washington Post. Mark Leibovich in The New York Times found the irony of it all irresistible: “In the baby-boomer psychodrama of the 1990s, Al and Tipper Gore supposedly had the enduring marriage while the union of the other half of their buddy movie — Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton — seemed not so likely to last. Yet the Clinton marriage, it turns out, has outlived that of the Gores.”

For many the mystery was summed up by “The Kiss” — Mr Leibovich calls it a “trademark moment” — which was a supposedly passionate smooch that Al gave Tipper on the stage of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in 2000. There was hardly a notice in the papers about the separation that did not mention it, as if it were an obvious indication that the Gores were a genuinely loving couple rather than an obvious indication that love took a backseat to ambition. But the media are heavily invested in the convention by which the they pretend to believe in the genuineness of anything that is done or said specifically for their own benefit — even though the fact that it is obviously done for the media’s benefit makes it (or ought to make it) equally obvious to those not a party to this convention that it is not genuine.

To the rest of us, the fact a man would use his wife as a stage property in so obviously cynical a way was a pretty good indication that the marriage was not a good one to start with. In the same way, at the two previous Democratic conventions Mr Gore had cynically used misfortunes that had befallen his son (1992) and his sister (1996) in order to gather credit to himself for his suffering and his compassion, and not a word of criticism could you find in the media on either occasion. As I observed at the time, his saying that he loved his sister “more than life itself” was an obvious lie, when he didn’t even love her enough to refrain from using her death for his own political benefit.

Such humbug was repeated in Al and Tipper’s e-mailed joint statement which called their split “a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration.” This is typically over the top. Have you ever known a break-up, let alone the break-up of a 40-year marriage, that was “mutually supportive”? If you believe that you’ll also believe that a big wet kiss in front of millions of people on TV betokens deep and lasting love. Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of people who do believe both things. I wonder why?

In today’s Washington Post, Ellen McCarthy sums up the shock felt by liberals.

Yes, famous couples divorce all the time. But we thought the Gores were different. We believed in them. Even if we didn”t agree with their politics, we admired their marriage — the way, after all these years, they still genuinely seemed into each other. . . So this doesn”t just make us sad. It makes us scared. It means that maybe marriage isn”t something we can conquer. That you can have all the necessary ingredients — romance, good morals, mutual respect and a healthy family — and still see this precious thing, built over decades, crumble in the end. It makes us frightened for our parents, our friends, ourselves. . .

Yet even now, she can’t accept that what seemed genuine to her obviously wasn’t. “And we never doubted they” — meaning Al and Tipper — “were real” — meaning genuine. “Forget the Great Convention Kiss of 2000,” she writes with a certain bravado. “That was politicking and theatrics.” The trouble is that nobody ever did forget The Kiss. Everybody mentioned it, while nobody else seemed to notice what, in retrospect, Ms McCarthy thought the more telling indication of the Gores’ permanence: “Look at the way he cradles her hand in their wedding photo, how she beams at him across the lawn of the Naval Observatory. You don”t fake that.” Ha ha. Yes you do fake it — and lots of other things too, at least if you are Al Gore. And those of us who have thought of Al Gore as a giant fake all along are accordingly a lot less surprised than those who have been caught admiring his perpetual fakery as “An Inconvenient Truth” for years.

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