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It’s Beat On Al Day!


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Jonah Goldberg

IT’S BEAT ON AL DAY! There’s nothing more guiltily pleasurable than a good old-fashioned piling-on. When I was a kid we called it — and I’m not using this phrase in the Breakfast at Tiffany’s connotation — “smear the queer.” You just spontaneously declare that some kid was a few beatings shy of social acceptance and you jumped on him (one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand…sorry, I’m just waiting for the e-mail from someone, explaining to me how such games breed homophobia and intolerance and reveal how white males are conditioned from an early age to hate. If only men were raised in a communal atmosphere where we ate wheat germ, macrobiotic rice, and parsnips, eschewing the hate-meats of our brother cows, pigs….).

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I am sure that Al Gore feels that that’s what’s happening to him. Everybody is dusting off their Al Gore jokes and beating up on the guy – hell, I didn’t even want to write about him today, I just didn’t want to miss getting my shots in when the music stopped. But as Michael Kelly points out, Gore deserves everything he’s getting. Al Gore has sucked onto Bill Clinton like … a pilot fish to a shark (you thought I was going to go with a different metaphor, didn’t you? Pervs.), and now he’s upset about the water he’s in.

Everybody is trying to figure out why he’s so stiff. They’re dissecting his relationship with his father, they’re looking to point fingers at various strategists and so on. But I think one need not be a Kremlinologist or a head-shrinker to figure it out. In fact I know why he moves like a rockem-sockem robot.

I was watching a clip of Gore yesterday, leading a crowd down the street. He wanted everybody to follow him for a “spontaneous” stop. It was reminiscent of a video by Cyndi Lauper, J. Geils, or any of a thousand other 1980s videos in which the lead singer dances all over town with a whole bunch of people without day jobs following behind.

Gore looked over his shoulder and with a big Kool-Aid smile waved for everybody to follow him. The way he did it was fascinating. He waved one arm in a big swoopy arc, and the other one seemed to follow as if it were attached by an invisible string. In the midst of this, he looked as if he was undergoing some sort of pinched pleasure, which most people simply mistake for awkwardness.

Now maybe it’s because I spent years as a non-prize-winning television producer. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen the movie Barcelona too many times. But I think I spotted what Gore’s real problem is. I think he has an elaborate series of leather pulleys and small link chains under his clothes. I think they are linked together to constrict him in unholy ways. I think he lives in exquisite agony, if you know what I mean.

Think about it. Most of the times we see him, he’s standing behind Clinton, holding very still. His only movement is the rhythmic bobbing of his head, which always seemed a little too … mechanical?

When he gave that impeachment-day speech declaring Bill Clinton one of our greatest presidents, the veins in his neck bulged as if blood-flow was being cut off somewhere.

And then there’s that smirk. You’ve seen it a million times; that knowing, vaguely ecstatic smirk. I used to think it was merely the silent expression of his arrogance. It said: I know more than everybody, you are all fools and I am the only person who know what’s right and good (See the 8/30/99 and 8/30/99 G-Files). But no, it’s because he is constantly testing his own masochistic limits. If he were to suddenly do a squat-thrust, he could cut himself in half.

Watch him dance. I’m telling you this must be the answer. He moves the left leg up. He moves the left leg down. He moves the right up. He moves the right down. There’s a symmetry to it that can only be explained by a passion that dare not speak its name.

Sure, he could be as relaxed as everybody else. He could be mellow. After all, he was a pot-head in Vietnam. But no, he must have discipline. Exquisite discipline. But, hey, if it’s not the answer, it doesn’t really matter. Once the idea’s in your head, it’s almost impossible not to see him that way.



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