There has always been something strangely fascinating to me about Albert Arnold Gore, Jr.
Maybe it’s those stern Superman looks that make him seem resentful that we woke him up to save Gotham. Or the Jekyll and Hyde lector-hector duality in his persona. Perhaps it’s his improbable ascendancy to Nobel Laureate through less-than-fastidious science. Or the breathtaking hypocrisy of his personal carbon footprint. Maybe it’s just the alleged release of his second chakra in a Portland hotel room.
Whatever it is, and whatever quirks and contradictions I’ve observed, nothing prepared me for the rogue wave of hubris that crashed onto the talk show shores last week as Al Gore, rising like Poseidon from the sea, graced us with his latest global treatise, a 592-page tome entitled simply “The Future.”
Now honestly, even Edward Gibbon limited his immortal history to the specific decline and fall of the Roman Empire. And it’s hard to imagine those industrious chroniclers of Western civilization, Will and Ariel Durant, embarking on a quixotic compendium to explain “The Past.”
Then again, the restraints common to common men have little hold over the latter-day Prometheus who launched the Internet age and set the Tesla of Tantrums, Keith Olbermann, on the glide path to oblivion, two advances for humankind that were unthinkable just a few years ago.
And, like all great authors, Gore doesn’t answer, nor even acknowledge, the Lilliputian critics who would try to tie or tear him down with their mean-spirited fact checking. This resolute, impenetrable leader whom Mark Shields once quipped was “a heartbeat away from the vice presidency” does not suffer fools or jesters any more than Hemingway did the editors of the Harvard Lampoon.
That is, until Gore was ambushed last Tuesday night by America’s jester-in-chief, David Letterman.
Learning nothing from admirer Matt Lauer, who uncharacteristically confronted him the day before on the sale of his Current TV network to the fossil fuel barons of Qatar who own Al-Jazeera — for a cool $500 million — Gore sought what he thought, I’m sure, was a safe haven — the hipster hustings of the left-leaning “Late Show.”
After all, Letterman had long ago jettisoned any pretense of equal opportunity when directing his comedic slings and arrows, and had become a staunch henchman for the liberal agenda night after night during the presidential campaign.
What Gore got was a Letterman who, while respectful, was obviously irritated beyond the bounds of partisanship, and emboldened enough by the safety in numbers and margins of election victories to accuse a progressive icon like Gore of blatant hypocrisy and subsequent damage to the brand.
Even though he laced his scolding with humor — at one point exposing the fact that Gore didn’t even know what the words “Al-Jazeera” meant — it was a stunning departure for those who follow Letterman.