Shakes gives Howard Fineman the righteous reproof he deserves for this pissy little anecdote:
In Washington the other day, I got a chance to tell Al Gore something I’d meant to say for a long time, which was that I thought his real strength, his real contribution, was as an observer—writer, explainer, outsider—and not as a politician.
The new movie about him was evidence of that, I said. He gave me a blank, dismissive look, and an “umm” for a verbal response.
I’ve known and covered Gore for decades, so maybe his reaction was inspired by Groucho Marx, who always said that he would never join a club that would have him as a member. But I think the brusque reply carried a different message: don’t assume that I’m ready to be put out to that pasture just yet. [MSNBC]
I think Al Gore would make a very good president. He'd probably even run a good campaign.
However, I think Gore's supporters are underestimating how much the pundits hate Gore, and how much the pundit popularity contest matters in American presidential politics.
In 2000, Gore ran a decent campaign as the VP of the most popular president in living memory. Yet, somehow the election was still close enough for the Republicans to steal in Florida.
Gore's public persona wasn't as polished as it could have been, but the real problem was that the mainstream media wouldn't cut him a break. They decided early on to cast him as the stiff, arrogant, geeky, unlikable, stuffed shirt.
When Gore didn't do anything wrong, the press made up "fibs" to pin on him. Gore never claimed to have invented the internet, or to have inspired Love Story. Yet, the press kept repeating these truthy little chestnuts, even after they had been debunked. At first they warned him against being cold and haughty. Then when he followed their advice and warmed up his demeanor, they slagged him for being phony and desperate.
The media sandbagged Gore the first time around, and they still hate him.
The Fineman anecdote that brought down Shakes' wrath is a continuation of the same silly high school narrative. Fineman deliberately put Gore in an awkward position, just so he could write about how Gore seemed awkward.
Gore fans love the idea of payback. It is satisfying to imagine a good guy like Al Gore finally getting his due, after all those years in the wilderness. However, if you can understand the appeal of this narrative, you can also see why the press will fight Gore every step of the way.
They decided a long time ago that they didn't like him, and that we shouldn't either. They didn't like riding his bus. They didn't like paying attention to his "wonky" speeches. They didn't feel like reading his policy papers or analyzing his arguments. It was more fun to spin fables about the Eastern Stiff facing off against the Texas Everyman. So, they undermined him.
If Gore run in 2008, he'll be seeking payback from the press as much as from the Republicans. He'll be setting out to prove the media wrong, and the media won't like it one bit.