Gore's Political 'Promiscuities'

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Oh, those elusive women voters: So crucial, so mercurial, so drawn to earth tones. It's a good thing Al Gore has secured the services of feminist commentator and author Naomi Wolf to guide him through the minefield of the second sex's voting patterns. Gore 'fessed up this weekend to hiring Wolf for a reported initial salary of $15,000 a month — although her pay was recently cut to $5,000 a month — calling her a "valued advisor." The best-selling author of "The Beauty Myth" and "Promiscuities" is said to advise Gore on issues ranging from escaping his "beta-male" caste to adopting a more "reassuring" wardrobe palette in order to heighten his attractiveness to women (hence the recent influx of greens and browns).

Plenty of Gore campaign insiders are reportedly befuddled by Wolf's influence: Given her background in psychosexual analysis, she is alternately seen as a logical and highly tactical weapon for the testosterone-impaired Gore campaign, or as a serious liability whose controversial ideas could sabotage Gore's mainstream appeal. The nervous nellies on Gore's staff may have good reason to worry: In her 1997 book "Promiscuities," Wolf outlines an alternative curriculum for sex education, which includes a potentially explosive prescription for oral sex and mutual masturbation. Not a great sign for Gore or Wolf, given the treatment of former surgeon general Jocelyn Elders, the sacrificial lamb who dared mention the slightly more benign topic of masturbation during the first Clinton administration.

Will Gore's poorly calculated attempt to reach out to women do him more harm than good? Possibly. "The revelations about Wolf could hurt Gore in a couple of ways," says TIME Washington correspondent Karen Tumulty. "Wolf does espouse some ideas that are pretty far from mainstream, and Gore was intent on hiding her presence on staff, going so far as to funnel her paychecks through a consulting firm — none of this is going to help his campaign's image." And unfortunately for a frustrated Gore, it probably won't help him achieve the distance he craves from the duplicity and tawdriness of the Clinton administration.