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s I climbed aboard Air Force Two to converse with Vice President Albert Gore, my hair was ruffled by a light breeze. The ancient Romans called such airport-runway breezes “venti veritatum” — the wind of truth — and I was inclined to agree.
  The New Yorker had dispatched me to accompany the vice president on his 45-minute flight from St. Louis to Chicago so I could discover the real Al Gore. I knew intuitively, and because his handlers had told me so, that behind the Gore of rote campaign speeches and deal-brokering lay a man far more complex than the other weekly journals of news and opinion were likely to discover.
  “Come aboard,” Gore gestured, pointing me toward the couch, disappearing and then returning with a pot of tea. “I hope you like chamomile,” he said. “Did you know the chamomile plant contains the phosphates for calcium, magnesium and potassium, thereby aiding not only the digestive system but also the nervous system? I purchased this particular tea on the Internet. I have a theory about the Internet; I wrote an article in The Tennesseean once presaging its transformative potential. When I first—”
  I asked how his campaign had been going.
  “That's your last question," said Chris Lehane, Gore’s campaign manager, who had emerged from the cabin with a three-minute egg timer.
  “You know,” Gore said, sitting beside me on the couch and fixing me in the eye, “I have been studying the citizens of this country. They fall into distinct categories based on their political-party registrations. Categories that, interestingly, correlate with voting patterns. Such divisions divide Americans.” He drew a graph to demonstrate this. “Would you like sugar in your tea? It’s Sugar in the Raw.”
  Gore is known for his wooden delivery — often when he speaks, people start quietly ejecting from the plane — and the occasional Gore response did seem canned. When I asked him if tobacco companies were earnestly committed to keeping cigarettes out of the hands of children, Gore fumbled with something under his blazer and studied it for a minute before replying, “Signs say no.”
ore grew up in a small, rural town in Tennessee, a state that until the late 1800s did not have electricity. His father was a working man, as was his father's father. The Great Depression hit the Gores hard, and so did the subsequent recovery, and the ’50s. By then, George H. W. Bush was living on the moon, lettering in tennis and fencing.
  In light of Gore’s hardscrabble background and because I had read prior media coverage of the presidential campaign, I knew that Gore knew the value of a dollar. “What is the value of a dollar?” I asked, to be sure.
  “A dollar is worth roughly 1.08 Euros, 2.12 Deutschemarks and 110 Yen,” Gore noted, “but that's not what's interesting. In Zambia, it is worth roughly 3,265 Kwachas. In 1998, the Kwacha was devalued by 50 percent. Prices for some items, including staple foods such as maize flour, went up over 80 percent. This had a devastating effect on the local people.”
  At a family reunion in 1964, Gore gave a speech on the dirigible industry in the 1930s. It's good! Even the early draft I found in Gore’s attic, in a cardboard box labeled “save for pres. lib,” is free of exclamation points and other distracting punctuation. I asked Gore how his interest in dirigibles manifested itself politically.
  Gore inched closer to me on the couch and drew a new set of graphs. “I'm really glad you asked that!” he said. “This parabola represents average wind speeds for the past 200 years, plotted in three-month increments, and this other parabola is a function of...”
  (next 13,700 words deleted)
  “...when it became apparent that hydrocarbons threaten not only the ozone layer, but our sense of self-determination. Duchamp and de Beauvoir wrote about this, though these writings were never published. You know,” he said, pointing out the window of Air Force Two at the bejeweled skyline of Rio de Janeiro, “I wrote my undergraduate thesis on that.” He had moved another few inches closer to me on the couch and was now sitting on my penis.
  Gore noticed my tape had run out again. “Bring Mr. Lemann some more microcassettes,” Gore called to Chris Lehane, who showed up 12 seconds later with a sealed 10-pack of TDK MC-60s. Gore resumed.
  I asked Gore where God fits into all this, and could he throw in a few words about the cosmos, too.
  “Hold on just a minute,” he said. He left the room and returned four minutes later with a tray of piping-hot macadamia nut cookies in his right hand and a tray of piping-hot gingerbread cookies in his left. “I think this will make things clear.” He positioned the cookies on the Air Force Two carpet to form an intractable problem from the Japanese game of Go. “What I'm saying — and mind you, John Gray, Ph.D., says it more convincingly but I'm going to try anyway — is that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. I wrote a ninth grade book report on that.”
  It struck me like a flash. Here was Gore, a guy who knew everything a president would ever want to know except how to communicate with people. All the while, George W. Bush was saying nice things about America and smiling and dressing well and promising to save everyone from nasty things, and this was the populist?
  I asked Gore how he planned to communicate what’s in his soul to the American people, through the static of a Presidential campaign.
  “I think you’ve helped me accomplish that objective quite nicely by basing the character of Ron Weasley on me.” Gore replied. “You did say your name was J.K. Rowling, right?”

From The (New York) Daily News.

A disgruntled worker seething over a tongue-lashing from his boss at the New York State Veterans Home in Queens yesterday shot the woman dead, then calmly rode away on a bicycle, police said.

That'll teach her.

Cartoon: Heaney & Gorman

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