With Al Gore’s new film due out Wednesday, New York magazine becomes the latest media outlet to hop aboard the bandwagon, with a profile that is surprisingly nuanced and revealing.
The beginning of John Heilemann’s piece echoes much of the recent Gore buzz: the man who came so painfully close to the presidency in 2000 is now enjoying a remarkable resurgence, thanks primarily to his campaign to take action against global warming. “Suddenly, the former vice president no longer seems an entirely tragic figure but a faintly heroic one,” Heilemann writes. “Suddenly, many Democrats are wondering if he will run again in 2008 — and reaching the improbable, nay astonishing, conclusion that it might be a good idea.”
But the piece isn’t just a recycling job. Heilemann observes that while Gore has been praised during his long public career “for his intelligence and discipline, for his rectitude and engagement with ideas” and “been pilloried for his tone-deafness, lambasted for his lack of charisma, [and] turned into a punch line for his (literal) rigidity,” “what no one has ever said about Gore was that he inspired much passion, even among his adherents. He was always esteemed, never beloved — until now, that is.”
Gore informs Heilemann flatly that “Politics is behind me” — but Heilemann isn’t buying it:
Gore’s statements about 2008 are as precise and elusive as a Basho haiku: Saying that politics is behind him doesn’t foreclose the possibility that it might also be in front of him. What’s clear is that Gore would love to be president, but the thought of the whole awful business of getting there makes him nearly nauseous. Gore’s awareness of this conundrum is keen and wrenching. How he resolves it will determine not just the shape of the 2008 campaign but whether the New Gore is the real deal or the Old Gore in disguise.
Over dinner in Toronto, Heilemann broaches the subject of the 2000 campaign — and finds Gore “willing to go there” at length. Later, over a Heineken back at his hotel, Gore discusses how he and Bill Clinton bonded again by staying up all night “talking and reminiscing” at Clinton’s Westchester pad a few days after Sept. 11.
It all builds to a dramatic moment in which Heilemann asks Gore to unequivocally say that he will not run in 2008. Putting his left elbow on the table, cupping his cheek in his hand and audibly exhaling, Gore again leaves that door open, just a crack.
The big newsweeklies, meanwhile, offer us more in the way of political profiles. Newsweek features a middling piece, “Bush’s Spanish Lessons,” which examines the president — and the immigration debate in Washington — through the story of the Latino women who helped raise Bush and his children. “For the president,” says Newsweek, “immigration is not just a matter of politics or policy, it’s personal.”
Meantime, Time gives us a colorful profile of Jerry Brown, the California politician who never stops running for office. “Brown is fun to watch,” Michael Duffy writes. “He is trim, constantly in motion, his brown eyes still piercing and just a touch sad. Compared with almost any other politician, he’s a riot to talk to, a one-man romp through everyone from St. Paul to Albert Camus.”
But it is U.S. News & World Report which beats both its rivals with a meticulous 5,200-word examination of David Addington, the “largely anonymous government lawyer” now serving as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff who is “the most powerful man you’ve never heard of.”
From the unprecedented number of presidential “signing statements” to Bush’s decision to authorize the NSA’s domestic wiretapping program, Addington “has served as the ramrod driving the Bush’s administration’s most secretive and controversial counterterrorism measures through the bureaucracy,” says U.S. News. “Name one significant action taken by the Bush White House after 9/11, and chances are better than even that Addington had a role in it.”