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Al, continued from page 20 innate capacity for cunning for being “real.” Bush’s penchant for giving reporters nicknames is an effective example of that cunning. Media handlers know that journalists are exceedingly human meaning insecure, lazy, and vulnerable to flattery. \(As a reporter for many years They also know reporters move in packs, like wolves, and are always subject to the discipline of the pack and of their editors, who in their day roamed in packs, too. According to a Pew survey, half of all journalists mention peer pressure as a reason to avoid covering otherwise newsworthy stories. George Orwell’s observation in 1948 that the literary intellectual “lives and writes in constant dreadnot, indeed, of public opinion in the wider sense, but of public opinion within his own group” easily applies to, say, today’s Washington press corps. In the fevered climate of 24-hour cable and Internet news, journalists and their editors know at all times what the competition is reporting, and events become Nothingnot even inaccuracyearns more disdain in the business than pursuing or re-evaluating a story that has acquired the fishy taint of “old news” because by definition, that’s not news at all. This is partly why second acts are difficult to pull off in American politics. Not because the public’s memory is so long, but because the story line, for many reasons, is so resistant to change. And because some public figures are not permitted that freedom. “It’s possible to change your mind and be credible, but with Gore, it’s almost temperamental,” says Will Saletan, political writer for MSNBC’s Slate. “It doesn’t feel authentic. Gore for all these years has been a moderate with his finger in the wind … a lifelong Democratic Leadership Council apparatchik. The rap on him was exactly that he re-invents himself. He cannot turn away from the DLC without validating that rap on him.” Translation: Gore is by nature a phony, and everything he does is inauthentic, so he should just… go away. People like Gore, Saletan says, are unsuited for the presidency. “Take \(House Majority face for the party, he’s a vile person. He’s much better suited to where he is now, not running for president… If the person is a bad messenger for issues and ideas, he should get out of the way.” A more straightforward explanation is that Gore is the opposite of phonyhe’s simply a terrible actor. In fact, everyone agrees that Gore is nowhere near as “nimble” as either Clinton or Bush. “Clinton can have a million reinventions,” says Maraniss. Not Gore. “He’s not a natural campaigner or even a politician in some sense. He’s a good guy funneled into the wrong place by expectations. If he had followed his own heart, he’d probably be a professor.” Maybe. But the heart is a complicated organ. And the books of history and mythology are full of Seabiscuit-type tales of men and women who overcame their innate limitations and staunched their wounds, who returned to us from the abyss of defeat, despair, dangerous ordeals. We love those stories. Isn’t it possible that one of them is unfolding before us? We have only sketchy details of Alfred Albert Gore, Jr.’s personal and political journey since the breathtaking election of 2000. For the first year, he taught college, vacationed with his family, licked his wounds, watched the Bush administration closely. By September 2001, Gore was ready to get back in the game with a critical speech he planned to make in Iowa. Then the World Trade Center towers fell, and Gore bit his tongue. Six months later, he found his public voice in a speech to a Democratic gathering in Nashville. The voice was subdued, supportive of Bush on the war against terrorism, critical of his economic and environmental policies. By September 2002, that voice had changed. Before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Gore challenged the rush to invade Iraq, noting that Bush had pulled a bait-and-switch from the war on terrorism. He said pre-emptive war posed a dangerous break from past foreign policy, and that the failure to build the international coalition Bush’s father had raised for the first Gulf War meant, among other things, that U.S. taxpayers would be stuck with an astronomical bill. While most in his party were still dithering, Gore became the first Democrat of national stature to speak unequivocally: No international law can prevent the United States from taking actions to protect its vital interests, when it is manifestly clear that there is a choice to be made between law and survival. I believe, however, that such a choice is not presented in the case of Iraq. It was a sober, carefully crafted speech. Yes, as a senator, Gore was one of the few Democrats to support the first Gulf War, but that war was different, and here were the reasons why. No, he wasn’t saying the United States should ignore imminent threats to its security, but that Saddam Hussein didn’t pose such a threat and there were better ways of dealing with Iraq without compromising U.S. security or moral authority. The language was precise, but an ordinary person listening to Gore’s arguments could easily follow his reasoning. Conservative commentators exploded with gibes about Gore’s hair \(Sean Han”Al Gore, Wimp” read the editorial headline in the New “He’s sweating profusely, right? He seems very angry at different points in his speech. He doesn’t look presidential”HanEverywhere in the media, discussion of what Gore actually said was supplanted by why he might have said it. Prevailing wisdom characterized the speech as politically motivatednever mind that polling showed two-thirds of the American public favored war against Iraq. There was much brow-furrowing over how Gore’s views on the first Gulf War jibed or didn’t jibe with the position he was taking now. \(Note: As Eric Alterman wrote in The Nation, “Something about Al Gore brings out the worst in people and nowhere is this truer than in the so-called liberal 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7/2 /04