Analysis: Getting up for Gore
By Calvin Trillin/TIME
I can't help wondering whether the powers in the Democratic Party
can sometimes see Al Gore turning into Walter Mondale before
their very eyes. As I imagine it, the Mondalian vision appears
before them early in the morning before they're fully awake.
Gradually it dawns on them that there is something familiar about
the rush to pile up a commanding lead in money and endorsements
for the party's putative presidential candidate--an experienced
and worthy and charisma-free Vice President who has paid his
dues--so that he can tie up the nomination and get on with the
business of losing the general election.
It's only natural for people suffering such disturbing thoughts
at dawn to scramble around in their minds for some reassuring
arguments on the other side. As the Powers in the Democratic
Party lie in bed, they take comfort in the fact that Gore does
not seem to have assumed any of Mondale's mannerisms. Then it
occurs to them that as Walter Mondale himself might acknowledge
during a characteristically self-deprecating moment, he is a
Minnesota Norwegian, and Minnesota Norwegians don't exactly have
mannerisms. They tend to associate mannerisms with Swedes and
other showy types.
This brings on another thought. Could it be that what is
sometimes described as wooden or stiff or robotic about Gore--the
quality that led me to describe him as "a manlike object"--is a
reflection of some hitherto-unrevealed ethnic heritage? If so,
maybe supporters who have grown tired of responding to comments
about Gore's otherworldly stiffness by saying over and over again
that he's good in small groups could switch to something like,
"He's Norwegian, you know." On the other hand, what good did that
So how do the Powers of the Democratic Party stave off unwelcome
thoughts and get out of bed to start the day? They reach for an
entirely different parallel: if you look at Gore from a slightly
different angle, squinting your eyes just a little, you may be
able to see him turning into George Bush the Elder instead of
Walter Mondale. George Bush the Elder was also an experienced and
worthy and charisma-free Vice President who had paid his dues.
Gore and Bush the Elder have other similarities--Ivy League
educations, for instance, and fathers who served in the Senate.
The Powers of the Democratic Party are relieved. Bush the Elder
actually defeated somebody in a race for the White House! They
smile, until they begin to calculate the odds on the Republican
Party's nominating Michael Dukakis in 2000.
Fighting panic, the Powers of the Dem-ocratic Party try to think
of a Republican nominee Al Gore might actually beat in 2000. A
vision of the Republican primary campaign appears before them:
George W. Bush defects to Cuba. Elizabeth Dole, purely on a whim,
drops out to run a bed-and-breakfast in Mendocino County, Calif.
With the rest of the field in disarray, Gary Bauer squeaks
through in California to take the nomination. Greatly relieved by
that vision, the Powers of the Democratic Party get out of bed
and go out to raise more money for Al Gore.
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Cover Date: June 14, 1999