The touchy subject of Al and Tipper Gore

Updated
When I heard today that Al and Tipper Gore are separating, I thought back to something that my old boss Tip O’Neill once said on this matter. I mentioned to him that someone had just gotten divorced after 33 years of marriage and said how sad that was. The veteran Speaker of the House, who had so many men – politicians like him – come to him for personal counsel over the years, said something that I’ll never forget: “You never know what’s in another man’s heart.”

Nobody knows anything about anybody else’s marriage. Nobody knows what it is, how it works, why it works… It’s the one really creative part of our lives. It’s the one canvas on which we are all painters, all of us finding the happy way to stay together in this world.

Al Gore has always been a hard guy to figure out. Stiff and even weird in public, he can be a charming regular guy in private. Or, he can be brutally official, a cold defender of his higher position.

Who knows where he is headed? Fitzgerald said that there are no ‘second acts’ in American life, but, certainly, Al Gore has been a smash in his second act. If the classiest, most patriotic thing that he ever did was the way in which he accepted the 2000 election results and the Supreme Court’s ruling, the most important thing that he ever did may be his latter-day campaign to warn us about climate change.

There’s been a lot of nobility in this guy: his loyalty to Bill Clinton when it was not in his interest; his acceptance that someone had to win in 2000 and it couldn’t be him (I’m not sure George W. Bush and the right wing would have accepted a similar verdict, are you?); lastly, his crusading on a matter that, if he is right, could not be more important.

The son of a major U.S. Senator, Al Gore was raised a political prince, but he never – unlike the other fellow who benefited from that Supreme Court intercession in 2000 – thought of himself as possessing some inherited right to rule. What he did accept was the need to lead the country the best way that he could, by teaching on a matter – global warming – that could come back to haunt us.

I wish both of the Gores well. And it is not sad. They have a right to their decision. Tip was right: they have a right to their separate hearts.

The touchy subject of Al and Tipper Gore

Updated