Soft Gore

Where dirt is concerned, Turque is diligent and fair, and convicts on two counts. Once I had seen Gore describe his youthful marijuana use as "infrequent and rare" in a prepared statement (what, both?), I needed no convincing that he'd been weeded-out in his time: This book has the details, should you care. And the story of his cave-in to the polluters of the Pigeon River in Tennessee has not, until now, been widely enough known outside the state. But by this date, presumably, even the dumbest Greens have noticed that the Clinton-Gore administration is not truly, madly, or deeply environmentalist.

On Gore's role in the Clinton scandals, Turque follows the weird Beltway discipline of citing peccadillos at one end and "doubts" at the other. Of a memorandum from a White House fundraising meeting, on which Gore aide David Strauss scrawled "65% soft/35% hard," he writes that it "raised questions about the truthfulness of [Gore's] claim that he was unaware he had raised hard money." Yes, I'd say it did. And he describes as "stunningly blunt" Gore's advice to Clinton in September 1998: "Mr. President, I think most of America has forgiven you, but you've got to get your act together." One pictures Clinton wincing at this pitiless admonition, and perhaps calling for further spiritual counselors to attend upon him.

I have interviewed Gore formally on one occasion, and met him socially twice. I found him much wittier and warmer, and more politically astute, than his publicists claim. The explanation for his current self-torture, and for his reliance on unscrupulous associates, lies in the fact that he lost his self-respect and exposed himself to humiliation at the hands of a much lesser man, that he failed to heed his beloved mother's advice, and that this loss and lapse cannot be recompensed by another load of semi-tough but sentimental speeches. Win or lose, we have another hollow man on our hands.

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