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Tucson Weekly Gore Bore For Sure

The Veep Launches His Presidential Run. Yawn.

By Jeff Smith

JUNE 28, 1999:  MY DAD, WHO was born in remotest Maine and buried in the Arizona desert, never learned significant Spanish beyond the rudimentary, "I'd like three beef tacos and a glass of milk, please."

Dad grew up before the invention of bilingual education, and it was his personal purgatory that the two places he spent roughly equal halves of his life were the metaphoric heads and tails of the same coin. Aroostook County, Maine, the northernmost in that state, borders Quebec and New Brunswick, with their large populations of French Canadians. Dad's French was limited to punch lines of ribald jokes. Pima County, Arizona, as you may be aware, has large numbers of Spanish-speaking residents. We've already discussed my father's command of southern border patois.

Being in the farm machinery and irrigation business, Dad had frequent occasion to deal with farmers and ranchers from south of the line, and it was quite a rodeo to watch him try to do business with them. Like so many frustrated Americans who can't speak or understand a word of Spanish outside a Mexican menu, Dad felt--at some desperate, hypothalmic level--that if he could only speak loud enough, Mexicans would understand him.

You've probably seen this sort of thing yourself.

Gringo says to Mexican customer, "That'll be $98.50, plus six bucks for the governor."

Que?

NINETY-EIGHT-FIFTY, PLUS SIX BUCKS FOR THE GOVERNOR!

No entiendo.

I SAID, THAT WILL BE $98.50, PLUS SIX BUCKS...GODDAMMIT, WHY CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND ME?

My father was a wickedly intelligent man, with good formal education from the University of Maine, and street savvy won by a life of hard work, but under the stress of doing what did not come naturally, he did what all of us do when we're at our worst and weakest.

Which brings me to Al Gore. Last week Vice President Gore took his wife and his team of handlers with him to his hometown of Carthage, Tennessee, stood up before a hand-picked crowd of sympathetic Democrats and cynical political correspondents, and said:

"As your next president, I'm going to fight for America's families!"

Poor, dull Al has been trying to fight his image as poor, dull Al, even going as far as sending his wife, poor, dull Tipper, onto the talk-show circuit to make salacious hints at Al's behavior when the lights are out and their jammies are on. Nobody's buying it; indeed, press reaction has been that this is more information than we need. The more the Gores try to reinvent Albert as this hip, funny, sexy man of action, the more he comes across as this desperate, pathetic dweeb at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, trying to learn to tango. Every girl's mother wants him to ask her daughter for a spin around the floor, and every mother's daughter hopes he'll ask some other girl.

Al Gore no se habla charisma, like my father no speakee Español. So his presidential campaign announcement was scripted like a coach's halftime pep-talk, and delivered with the forced enthusiasm of a high-school debater who's been up all night on coffee and No-Doz, polishing his presentation until all the sincerity is rubbed off.

It was just awful.

I sat through it half a dozen times while I read the morning paper and caught up on my mail, with CNN Headline News on in the background. Then I caught the "highlights" (TV news term) on NBC's evening news, prior to the Spurs-Knicks game. First time I heard it, Gore's jagged intensity surprised me, and struck me as inappropriate to the words coming out of his mouth. You know how sometimes a TV news anchor will be giving it this up-temp lilt and a face full of teeth and the words are about a kitty that was rescued from a tree by a fireman, and then the words say, "...and in Hoboken, New Jersey, 500 nuns and orphans were eaten by rats in a housing project yesterday," but the tone and the teeth and the twinkle in the eye have not changed a scintilla? Like that.

Al's face was like the rictus of a Pompeiian caught by Vesuvius with one hand around his pecker and the other holding a Victoria's Secret catalog. Or the equivalent.

Each repetition on the hour and half-hour left me with other questions and answers:

Did they fail to read his chart before medicating him this morning?

No, it's probably just too many cups of French roast.

Is this Tipper's idea of a new, dynamic image?

Surely the Gore campaign could not have paid money for a makeover this embarassing and skin-crawly.

Can it be true that Sen. Bill Bradley is actually more boring and less magnetic than Vice President Gore?

No way.

And finally, where does this leave America, as of summer, 1999, with regard to the future of its Executive Branch?

Out on a limb.

Give me Al Gore on quaaludes before you subject me to any more of Tipper's Tiger on methamphetamines or even caffeine. Give me Knickerbocker Bill before either Al. You can keep your Dan Quayle, despite the mean-spirited good fun he affords those of us in the commentary racket, and as to George W. from Texas...

...Well, you won't find much in the way of presidential timber if you go hunting amongst the Bushes. All we've scrounged up so far is a bunch of presidential kindling.


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