I’m not usually all that sympathetic towards the privileged scions of political dynasties when they get into trouble, but I do feel sorry for Al Gore III in the light of his arrest with marijuana and a heady cocktail of prescription drugs. It must be pretty tough growing up with that legacy to contend with. No pressure, Al III, but Al Gore I and II were both Senators, and the latter was the rightful President and is now viewed by the neo-environmental movement with quasi-religious fervour. That’s a big name to live up to.
His father responded with his usual class, saying that it was a private matter, and that his family loved their son very much. Ouch. Couldn’t the big guy at least have gotten angry, say that his son had disgraced the family or something? No, he just responded with that same saint-like demeanour that made the scenes of Gore presiding over the Senate as it confirmed his defeat in the 2000 Election that much more painful. How badly must Gore Jr Jr feel he’s let the family down today?
Fortunately, these kinds of youthful shenanigans are no bar to the highest office in the land, as his father painfully discovered. Gore may yet live to make his father proud, because these juvenile drug binges could prove the missing ingredient that might propel Gore III to the Presidency. America loves nothing more than a story of a reprobate made good. All he needs is to be converted by Billy Graham’s son in a decade or so, go and have a cry on Oprah, and it’s next stop, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
After all, it worked a treat for W. And even that election eve revelation about Bush drink-driving as a young man after an evening downing beers with John Newcombe didn’t derail his campaign. I think the average response, at least in Australia, was to be impressed that he hung out with Newk.
As a young man, Gore II was the opposite of this – and his own son, for that matter. As An Inconvenient Truth would have us believe, he was already earnestly learning of the dangers of global warming and beginning to prepare the most famous slide show of our time. In other words, he was preparing earnestly for life as a public servant. A serious man of weighty issues. (No, I’m not talking about the issue of whether his weight loss means he’s running for President.) A man who would go on to write a substantial quasi-academic tomes about the state of the American polity, even though he’s definitely not running. (Well, probably not now, actually.) A man who is nicknamed The Goracle. That’s not the kind of man Americans want as their President. They’d rather have someone who’s famous for mangling English than wielding it skilfully. They don’t want a leader who makes them feel guilty about their affluent lifestyles, they want leader who makes them feel smarter than he is. Gore II was not their man.
But Gore III could be. Sure, there are some bad signs already – he was busted driving a Prius, for goodness’ sakes. (Actually, literally for goodness’ sake.) No sex appeal in that. No all-American boy ever got hisself laid in a Prius. Worse still, he had in his car a book called Homeowner’s Guide to Renewable Energy. But there’s still time for him to get that bad boy image up and running. Especially if he serves time.
It must be awful being the son of a sitting President or public figure. Sure, there are massive perks – you’re never going to want for money, for one thing – but the scrutiny is intense. You live your entire life in the shadow of your famous parent. You can’t be sure whether your friends actually like you, or just value the connection. It’s no wonder that so many of these kids get into trouble, like George W’s own twin daughters and Prince Harry. Even our own Tim Howard and Patrick Keating have had run-ins with the law, for a minor drink-driving incident and assault respectively. But perhaps the worst case is Mark Thatcher, who got busted not for common or garden drinking or drugs, but interfering in the politics of Equatorial Guinea. Now that’s going off the rails.
(A friend drew my attention to an even more unfortunate case today – Count Gottfried von Bismarck, as detailed in this unsympathetic obituary. How much would it do your head even more in if your great-great-granddad was an infamously tough Chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire, and your dad owned a castle?)
I really hope Al Gore III doesn’t go to prison, because like so many of these youths, he sounds troubled, rather than criminal. I just hope he can put his life in order. And if he does have a son one day, perhaps he might do him the favour of naming him something other than Al Gore IV?