“You can call me Al. You can call me the would-have, could-have, should-have, almost-was, Mr. President. You can call me Gore the Bore, Gore in Four, er, Two, Al the Anointed One, or Dream On, Loser. You can even call me Bill Clinton's No. 1 stand-up guy - just call me. Please?
“Look, I don't mean to sound too elitist, but it's common knowledge I was born and bred to be leader of the free world. You can't deny nobility is written all over my finely chiseled, clean-shaven profile. I'm your alpha and omega, baby. The right stuff. It's my destiny to lead. No way will I settle for pageant runner-up.”
Sad, isn't it? When the former vice president tosses and turns in his Tennessee togs the night before another speech or appearance on behalf of another Democrat, I wonder if he grinds his teeth as well. It's gotta kill him to think the world may little note nor long remember Al Gore.
Poor Al, so close and yet so far away. Does he wake up in a cold sweat haunted by the nightmare in which he never becomes king? If so, happily in the light of day all will be forgotten and the Ego and the Iliad will strike out anew to conquer the demons of the past that denied the ex-veep closure to an all-defining quest.
Picture Al Gore emerging as the Democrat's one, true Don Quixote, charging into the mainstream from self-imposed exile to save the day, rally the troops, and regain his place at the head of the table. Can't you just feel the love for the former and future party hopeful?
In a word, no. Politics is an unforgiving sport. Second chances, especially when the first was foolishly squandered, are rarely granted. To be sure Al is a brainier-than-average politician, but he blew it big. He knows many of his old campaign backers have folded into the woodwork or gone to bat for others - long shots all - who are testing the presidential waters of 2004.
But Al is no dummy. He's wise to the fact that his fellow Democrats have lacked the guts to challenge the White House in any forceful way because of 9/11. They need someone to climb out on a limb who isn't worried about retaining a House or Senate seat.
To the rescue comes the invisible man hardly missed on the political scene since the tortuous 2000 presidential elections. Prince Albert has reappeared in a frenzy of party and public activities to light a spark of Democratic dissent about Iraq, about the economy, about an administration that routinely brands dissenters as less than patriotic. He gave voice to a largely silent opposition party cowed by the popularity of the President and relegated to whining on the sidelines about a stalled midterm agenda.
The result of Mr. Gore's bravado was a few Dems actually got brave enough to say out loud that the emperor has no clothes and is ducking behind the all-too-transparent shield of national security to hide from everything else. They finally vented. The President has no comprehensive economic or energy policy aggressively at work to counter recession or weaken dependence on foreign oil. George W. has basically delegated the job of leading the country on the mundane bread and butter issues - critical to everyday Americans - to others while he goes off in search of new evil empires to preempt.
Yessir, Al Gore did his party proud by helping stir up the pot at home and prompt debate where there had been little to none. Good for him. Good for us. Now, go back from whence you came, Al.
Hang on, he's still here. Next week the one-time Democratic presidential candidate will be all over the state of Iowa. He's undeniably on another quest for the top job at the White House even as allies that once believed quietly bow out of his impossible dream.
Once they called him too good to lose in 2000. Today they call him too weak to win. Doesn't matter to Al. In a pinch they can call him anything - as long as they call. Will they in 2004? In a word, no.