Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Gores

This article by Howard Fineman in Newsweek about the Gores sheds light on what might have happened.

The Odd Couple Finally Splits Up

Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, always seemed slightly mismatched.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Tipper Gore stands behind Al Gore during an October 2008 presidential debate in Nashville.

They were an odd couple from the start, a teenage romance that tried—and, after 40 years, failed—to bridge the divides that were inherent in it from the start: political versus nonpolitical Washington; pure, driven ambition versus another day at the beach; a need to internalize and intellectualize versus the drummer in the band.

I've known Al and (less well) Tipper Gore since the early 1980s, and always thought that their marriage was the quirky, unstable leftover of their youths in the capital. Gore was as "federal" as you could get, the princely son of a senator living at the Fairfax Hotel and commuting up Massaschusetts Avenue to prep school at St. Albans. Tipper was all local, the fun-loving daughter of a well-to-do Arlington, Va ., businessman (and who gave the young couple the suburban house they lived in). It had to have been thrilling—and an act of teenage rebellion for them both—when they literally crossed the river for each other.

But the driven Gore—whose father reared him with the expectation that he would be president—was, after a fitful start (reporter, theology student)—focused intently on a political life. His wife, by contrast, always seemed unsettled in the role of the Good Wife, the dutiful, careful, and absorbed political spouse.

She did her best. In the old days, the Gores used to have a Christmas party at their Arlington home when their kids were young; Gore staffers would dress as Santas and elves. Al tried to enjoy these events (even though he wasn't much for easy social chatter), but I always thought that Tipper, genial as she was, seemed a bit nonplussed by the use of her home for such a mix of public, political, and private life.

Tipper loved to take photographs at events—a way to express herself artistically but always a way to distance herself from them.

The two sometimes could seem yoked together like the figures on a wedding cake. When, as vice president, they hosted Halloween parties, they dressed in elaborate costumes (provided by the Walt Disney Co.) that some years completely hid their identity as individuals. It was a kind of goof on the whole enterprise: guests had their pictures taken with "hosts" no one could identify. I didn't think the Gores were enjoying themselves in the heavy armor of costumes.

A visit to the vice presidential mansion in the Clinton-Gore years—I went there a couple of times for interviews—never yielded much if any time with Tipper. You were there to talk politica and policy with Al, and Al only. It's not that Tipper was hidden away; she just wasn't part of the equation.

The Gores had more than their share of challenge and tragedy. Al lost his beloved sister to cancer; Tipper had depression issues; their son Albert III was nearly killed in a traffic accident in front of his father's eyes.

Al Gore is a worthy, earnest guy. He was ahead of his time on many issues, and right about much more than he was wrong

But no one would ever call him spontaneous; you always got the sense with Tipper that she was one eye roll away from giving up on the whole enterprise of living a public life.

And this article has some stories about the other side of their marriage.
Tipper would also send "lascivious" (her words) messages to Al, which annoyed staffers but tickled her husband.

Tipper's moods provoked some grumbling in the Gore camp. She upbraided staffers if her holding room was not stocked with Slim-Fast shakes. But no one denied that Gore needed her and used her as an escape from the constant coaching and handling that presidential candidates have to endure. Tipper, for her part, was not shy about advertising their means of diversion. To AP reporter Sandra Sobieraj, she related this mildly steamy e-mail exchange between her husband, who at the time was rehearsing in Florida for the first debate, and herself, back at the vice president's mansion in Washington. Gore was typing on his BlackBerry messenger while he stood at the podium:

Al: I love you. How are you doing? I'm in the middle of debate prep. Paul [Begala, his sparring partner] is talking. They're wondering what I'm doing.
Tipper: Oh, I know what I'd like to be doing with you right now. [Tipper writes something she describes as "a little lascivious."]

Al: I'm losing my concentration now. We have to stop.

Still, there may have been signs of trouble. Sometime this spring, the Gores bought an $8.875 million mansion on a sprawling lot in Montecito, a Southern California playground for the rich. A house far away from the Gores' Nashville base could be the groundwork for a separation.


froggy said...

When I heard this yesterday I wondered about Al.3 - how old he is now and if he had become settled and strong for this.