The Spine

Obama Or Gore?


Al Gore is on the cover of Time this week, with a long piece about him by
Eric Pooley. There's also an article about Gore by James Traub in
the New York Times Sunday Magazine. (Traub used to be a pretty good
reporter about educational matters. But he is suddenly full of himself
having written an adoring biography of Kofi Annan and won the plaudits of
those New York swells who thought that the secretary-general was so
charming, and his wife so white and Swedish and a friend of the queen, no
less, and they were such a marvelous couple that "oh, my God, why do you
always bring up Rwanda and Bosnia?" He did understand the Palestinians and
those nasty Israelis....) All of this truly irritating stuff about Traub
notwithstanding, he does seem to have good insights into Gore.

So is Gore a candidate? Pooley clearly thinks that Gore will forego "the
last temptation" and actually "let the cup pass." This, despite his
magnificent positioning as a popular hero who has a monopoly on a very
popular (and urgent) issue. Traub does not exactly come down on the other
side. But for those who are reluctant to give up (like me) and think that
Gore is more pertinent now, better positioned, and has integrated the wisdom of
his defeat by a haughty court, Traub seems to hold out some hope.

I am not projecting my thoughts onto Gore at all. Nonetheless, I believe
that Hillary will be unelectable. Obama would do better than
Mrs.Clinton in an election. He'd win actually if he were the presidential
designee but he will find many logs put in his path to the
nomination, and they will be put there by the truly nasty crowd surrounding
the Missus. If Obama can't make it within the party--and it becomes clear
that this is so--that's when Gore might strike. And he would kick the
living beJesus out of her.

In the meantime, I saw Barack Obama on Friday, the first time I've met him
face-to-face, and we talked for quite a time. He is immensely impressive,
smart on his feet, deep in what he knows, intricate in his understanding,
allergic to sloganeering, wry in his humor, and not falsely intimate with
people waiting outside his office for a glimpse. Almost everybody has
already said this but I'll say it too. He seems to me to be immensely
comfortable in his own skin. How can I know from an hour with him? But
there seem to be no ghosts tormenting him.

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