Time to loosen up, Al

By Nicholas Sanchez
web posted August 21, 2000

Poor Al Gore. I must confess, I actually feel sorry for him.

The Vice President seems to be reliving a period of his life that each and every one of us has gone thorough and hated. Namely puberty.

You remember that awful time of your life, don't you? It seems as if you never looked right. You wondered incessantly whether or not you smelled funny. Your voice crackled more often than a fresh bowl of Rice Krispies. And through it all, your peers (and especially those who were closest to you) always seemed to have been immune to the physiological torments that afflicted you.

Well, Mr. Gore is going through another awkward stage right now. And that, more than anything, explains why he is running behind George W. Bush in the bid for the presidency.

Al GoreAll jokes aside about the wooden Gore or how Mr. Gore's version of the "Macarena" is motionless, it seems painfully obvious that Albert Gore, Jr., is a man who is uncomfortable in his own skin. The country has not seen a presidential candidate like this since Richard M. Nixon.

Nowhere was this more apparent than at the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, California. President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker of the evening. And as he confidently strolled to the podium, one could not help but wonder if he had two different speeches in his inside pocket. The one that he actually read, and another that went along the lines of "I accept your re-nomination for the presidency of the United States!"

Speaking to the conventioneers, Mr. Clinton proudly and loudly trumpeted his record of the preceding eight years. And as the cameras panned the convention hall during his locution, it was obvious that many a teary-eyed delegate was convinced that Mr. Clinton was speaking directly to them. It was also very clear that if the 22nd Amendment ("No person shall be elected to the office of President more than twice…") could have been done away with that night by a simple voice vote, it would have.

Contrast that to the interview of Mr. Gore following Mr. Clinton's speech. It showed him in a hotel suite flanked by his wife and his running mate, Joseph Lieberman, and Hadassa Lieberman.

Whereas Clinton looked smooth and comfortable -- in a sharp dark suit, French-cuffed shirt, and before a national audience of millions -- Mr. Gore, clothed in khakis and a polo shirt, looked as if the hotel couch he was sitting on was made of jagged rocks. His review of Mr. Clinton's speech was precise and calculated and sounded as if he had spent the previous hour practicing it in front of the mirror in the bathroom. And that is why voters are not responding to him.

Al Gore doesn't seem to know how to act in front of people. And it is really no wonder why: despite his futile attempts to depict himself as a Man of the People, a simple man, a farmer, he is a product of the elite class structure of Washington, DC. His childhood saw him raised in a DC hotel as he was ferried to and from private school.

Various accounts of his growing up show that his father, the late Senator Albert Gore, Sr., was grooming him for the presidency. And why shouldn't he? Joseph Kennedy did the same for his sons Joe Jr. and JFK. Any good father would want their son to make their mark in life.

However, in the case of Vice President Al Gore, it seems that he thinks he can win the presidency by making the best impression on the voters. And for Gore that means standing up straight, hair coifed, and forcing a smile--all while trying to look natural. Voters are not buying it.

The American people simply do not want an Eddie Haskel stand-in for president. Not after having Dennis the Menace for the past eight years.

George W., for all of his faults, seems to be a man who is comfortable with himself. He has said that while he does want to win the presidency and will fight hard for it, his life won't otherwise end in shambles. That characteristic alone makes him very attractive to many voters who are tired of choosing between candidates who seem to want nothing else than to be elected to something, anything.

For Al Gore to truly emerge as Candidate Gore, he needs not to break away from Bill Clinton (I've got news for you: after 8 years of saving Clinton's butt, he can't credibly do that), but rather he needs to break away from himself, from his persona.

To that end, I offer the following advice to Al Gore: Ditch the hyperventilating speeches. Eat a chili-dog, and spill some of it on your neatly pressed denim shirts. Learn to relax. And, in the meantime, remember -- we're not laughing with you, we're laughing at you.

Nicholas Sanchez is host of the Free Congress radio program "New Nation."

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