In a semi-reassessment of the character of former vice president Al Gore, the liberal journalist Melinda Henneberger, editor of Politics Daily, casually drops an anecdote we haven’t heard before:
For years, he was belittled for being so annoyingly right all the time; Gail Sheehy once criticized him for having no discernable body fat. “He tries too hard to be perfect,” she wrote in “Flawless, But Never Quite Loved,” a 2000 opinion piece in The New York Times. “Perfection is a serious flaw for a modern politician. Mr. Gore has suffered from it all his life.” Maureen Dowd pegged him as a “goody-goody … locked into the Good Son Role,” “the Tin Man: immobile, rusting, decent,” and “so feminized and diversified and ecologically correct he’s practically lactating.”
But that was always a caricature; Gore was also sarcastic, droll, and fully capable of playing hard ball. A journalistic colleague I had no reason to doubt told anyone who would listen that Vice President Al Gore had tried to stick his tongue down her throat out of nowhere at a New Year’s Eve party in the mid-90s, when all she’d been expecting was a friendly peck.
Gore’s behavior, as described by Henneberger, seems neither sarcastic, nor droll, nor hardball. (Doesn’t “playing hardball” apply to things like salary negotiations and political dealmaking — not forcing yourself on a woman at a party?) Rather, it suggests, at best, a boorishness in Gore that some in the media knew about but never got around to mentioning until now, as police investigate a massage therapist’s claim that Gore sexually assaulted her in a Portland hotel room in 2006.