My friend R. Z. Sheppard, the critic, has come up with what he thinks may be the key to Al Gore's personality.
Sheppard's theory is that Al Gore is actually a Canadian.
If true, this might explain everything. Gore's personality, difficult to grasp in American terms, seems perfectly coherent and natural if transplanted north of the 48th parallel. Indeed, as the Canadian Theorem settles into the imagination, one begins to wonder if there may have been some switched-at-birth scenario years ago that landed the infant Albert far south of the Canadian border, all the way down in Tennessee, while, at the same time, a tow-headed changeling from the chigger latitudes wound up in a snowbank in the Haliburton Highlands.
National stereotypes are of course invidious. If Canadians wish to disown Gore, and to repudiate the notion that his personality takes its distinctive resonance from Canadian origins, then that is a decision that must be respected. On the other hand, if Gore were elected president of the U.S, American-Canadian relations might prosper as never before.
In fact, there are moments (as when Gore speaks... slowly... and... heavily.... to... grown... men... and... women... so... that... you'd... swear... he... was... trying... to... explain... Wittgenstein... to... three... year... olds) when you have the disconcerting thought that the vice president may come from Mars. With Sheppard's insight, we may imagine simply that Gore comes from Ottawa. It is a less dislocating thought. The Coneheads sought to offer the same reassurance when they explained that they came "from France."
Another friend, John Leo, once won, hands down, a contest to propose the title of the most boring book in the world. Leo's entry was this: "Utility Rates in Toronto: A Revisionist View."
That title, in an ineffable way, catches the Al Gore spirit. You could not get the same effect with "Utility Rates in Chicago: A Revisionist View" or Utility Rates in San Diego: A Revisionist View." But Toronto works perfectly. Why? Because to beat poor Leo's joke to death the mention of Toronto somehow dials the mind to just that frequency (Gore's frequency!) at which it is possible to imagine a man of such suffocating worthiness that he might wish to propose, at some considerable length, "a revisionist view" of the already crushingly elaborated subject of the city's utility rates.
How to explain it? Passing into boreal regions may tend to make a person tediously provident and literal-minded, as if the impending killer winter were too serious a matter to permit a trifling play of mere imagination. I was once trapped for three congealed hours (he actually locked the door) in the office of the director of the Port of Duluth, Minn., as he explained to me (as 'twere Toronto's utility rates) the hateful, intricate bureaucratic problems of his work. I escaped by simulating cardiac arrest.
Canadians, if they are in a bad mood, consider that their neighbors to the south are a hyperthyroid, overprivileged, overbearing, overstimulated, venal crowd, self-important to the point of narcissism. Who can deny it? To the American's cartooning imagination, on the other hand, the Canadian seems if you will forgive a circular argument an awful lot like Al Gore.
How so? I'm not sure it would do much for American-Canadian friendship to go into more detail. Students wishing to pursue the subject, however, might explore fatal comparisons in the area of humor.