His Father's Son, and the Worse for It
Stephen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)
It struck me long ago that it's hard to be the son or daughter of a politician: while politicos selfishly bask in some spuriously glamorous spotlight, their children are all too frequently emotionally neglected. A surprising number of political offspring on both sides of the Atlantic - far higher than national averages, I suspect - end up committing suicide, becoming drug addicts, alcoholics, and so forth. Over the years, I've therefore developed an acid test when trying to deduce the true personality of a politician - look at his (as is usually the case) kids first. Most of all, does he exploit them for political ends?
Kennedy, Nixon, Carter et al: all fail this test immediately. Ludicrously, Jimmy Carter once even invoked the views of his nine-year-old daughter Amy on nuclear proliferation. Surprisingly, and notwithstanding his manifold sins and wickednesses, Bill Clinton passes my test; with a few exceptions he has done his best to keep Chelsea out of the spotlight.
That's not so, however, with Al Gore. I remember standing in Madison square Gardens in the 1992 Democratic political convention listening to Gore delivering a much-rehearsed tear-jerker about how his young son was almost killed in a traffic accident. Then the boy was ushered on to the stage to roars of acclaim. It was all truly nauseating: not just the use of a family trauma for political soap-opera ends, but the invasion of the little boy's privacy.
Heaven knows what this does to the psyche of a child too young to understand his own father's exploitation of him.
That boy is now a teenager who - at least partly because Gore used him as a political pawn when it suited his own ends - most of Washington feels free to gossip about. The Washington Post reported that the boy has since become involved with drugs. His school then refused to make him a prefect.
The vice-president, furious that a Gore - yes, a Gore! - could be slighted in such a way, wrenched his son out of that school and put him in another. Just another day in the life of a child of a politician obsessed with his own image.
You may have gathered by now that I am not too taken with the man who is now a shoo-in (or, as the Independent memorably put it not long ago in an effort to show it knew its Americanisms, a "shoe-in") as Democrat candidate in next year's elections.
Amazingly, only four vice-presidents in US history (including the father of the man who may be his opponent, George Bush) have gone on to be elected to the presidency; if forced to make a prediction, I would guess that Gore is more likely to end up on the much bigger list of vice-presidents consigned to history rather than to the White House.
His 2000 campaign, nonetheless, is superbly organised. He kicked off this week in New Hampshire, where he was hugged by …
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Publication information: Article title: His Father's Son, and the Worse for It. Contributors: Stephen, Andrew - Author. Magazine title: New Statesman (1996). Volume: 129. Issue: 4428 Publication date: March 19, 1999. Page number: 24. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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