ad info >> TIMEwith TIME
    Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback  




Analysis indicates many Gore votes thrown out in Florida

Clinton's chief of staff calls White House over vandalism reports

Gephardt talks bipartisanship, outlines differences



India tends to quake survivors

Two Oklahoma State players among 10 killed in plane crash

Sharon calls peace talks a campaign ploy by Barak

Police arrest 100 Davos protesters


4:30pm ET, 4/16









Texas cattle quarantined after violation of mad-cow feed ban

CNN Websites
Networks image

"We raised him for it"

cover image

Gore's father wanted his son to finish what the family had started

February 21, 2000
Web posted at: 4:11 p.m. EST (2111 GMT)

Our parents mess with our heads long after the first gray hair appears. As much as Al Gore insists he is not living out his parents' dreams for him by running for President, he has followed dutifully in his father's footsteps since he learned to walk. When he was born, 10 years after his sister Nancy, when his parents had nearly given up hope of having another child, Congressman Albert Gore Sr. got the Nashville Tennessean to announce the event on the front page, as if an heir to the throne had arrived. When his son took office in 1992, his father boasted, "We raised him for it."

What the elder Gore didn't say was that his son was raised to go further than the vice presidency, to finish what the parents had started back in 1938, when Gore Sr. won his first congressional seat at age 30. That alone was a remarkable feat for the son of a hardscrabble farmer, who had to work the fields in dirt-poor Possum Hollow, putting himself through a state teacher's college and then a no-account law school. He met another striver, Pauline LaFon, who worked at a coffee shop to pay her way through Vanderbilt law school. They married and merged their formidable ambitions, Pauline becoming the brains and heart of his campaigns. He won office after chucking his long speeches on reciprocal trade in favor of playing Soldier's Joy on the fiddle. Fourteen years later, Gore Sr. boldly challenged the state's venerated Demo- cratic Senator Kenneth McKellar and whupped him. That made Gore Sr. a formidable presence even before he shouted, "Hell, no," to Senator Strom Thurmond when he tried to intimidate Gore into defying the federal desegregation orders.

A living legend can be a terrible thing to live up to, but by all accounts, Al Jr. was an earnest acolyte. His second-grade teacher said he was so mature that she wondered whether "he was a child or a man." He listened raptly as his father held up the phone while John Kennedy bullied the steel industry, sat through hearings on the transportation bill that would create the interstate highway system, and was invited onto Vice President Nixon's lap when he presided over the Senate. At St. Albans, an elite prep school, Gore was a diligent student and athlete. Once when the other boys were roughhousing on a class trip to Andrews Air Force Base, the little man asked the chaperone whether it was time "to be rowdy."

Many people remember the young Gore as remote even as a little boy, loved by his father but treated with a courtly formality. Friends say father and son did not chat baseball and girls but monetary policy. Gore Sr. sent Al away most summers to toughen him up. On the 250-acre family farm in Carthage, Al would rise at dawn to feed the cattle, slop the hogs and clear tree-filled fields by hand. Pauline, no slouch herself, once chided her husband for pushing Al so hard, saying it would be possible for a boy to grow up to be President even "if he couldn't plow with that damned hillside plow."

However formal the father-son relationship, it was strong enough that Al went off to war for him. When most kids wouldn't come to the dinner table wearing a clean T shirt, Al signed up for Vietnam to diminish the impact of his father's opposition to the war in his unsuccessful fight to keep his Senate seat in 1970. Gore, to preserve his father's career, did what few sons of privilege had to do.

This couldn't prevent the most devastating moment of Gore's life, his father's defeat by a minor businessman who ran the prototype negative campaign. It was one of the few times his mother saw him cry, and since then Gore has been at pains to avoid his father's mistakes. He never lost touch with his constituents in Tennessee, holding thousands of town meetings since 1976, and never strayed far from the conservative forces that consumed his father: until a decade or so ago, he was pro-gun and reluctantly pro-choice, and he's always been a centrist hawk in a party of doves. He has yet to risk his whole career for a big cause, as his father did for civil rights. But in honor of the man who reportedly whispered as he died, "Always do right," he has taken up the environment, no profile in courage, perhaps, but quirky enough to get him ridiculed as Ozone Man.

So if Al was such a clone of his dad, why isn't he folksy, open and voluble like the old man? Well, because Gore Sr. wasn't really a backslapper either. Nancy remembered her mother as the one who would work a crowd while her father would insist on talking issues. In fact, he tried his best to avoid anything that made him sound like a Possum Hollow hillbilly. According to Tennessee reporters, Gore abandoned the fiddle after that first campaign, practiced his locution, turning himself into a "self-made highbrow" who used words seen only on the sats. The Vice President rejected the "Senator Claghorn" oratory, but a certain remoteness turned out to be in the DNA.

As psychiatrists and Shakespeare would have it, a son comes into his own when he surpasses his father. By that measure, Gore is fully grown. Unlike the breezy George W. Bush, who was on a career respirator much of his adult life, Gore has worked up a sweat getting to where he is. He didn't avoid the military and beat the old man at his own game by becoming Vice President, an office his father pleaded for but lost in 1956. Now, only one task remains: to prove himself to the man he eulogized little more than a year ago as "the greatest man I ever knew."


Cover Date: February 28, 2000



Back to the top  © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.