The Corner

Gore & France

Ezra Klein is getting very excitable indeed. It’s not a good look for him. He notes that Debra Suanders anti-Gore book includes this passage:

While his father served in Congress, Gore spent most of the year living with his parents in an eight-flooor apartment on Embassy Row’s elegant Fairfax Hotel. He was “finished” by extensive foreign travel. To help their boy learn Spanish, his parents sent him to Mexico one summer. They also shipped him to France and Switzerland to improve his C average in French.

Me: Okay. I’m not going to waste a lot more time on this because A) the column, contra Ezra, is not entirely about this France business and B) There’s really not much new to be said.

In his hyper-ventillating, Ezra seems to be saying that this is proof that I’m just plain wrong. But, I’m sorry, I don’t see it.

In fairness, I didn’t look at the Saunders book, I looked at the Turque, Maraniss and Zelnick biographies. Even so, this strikes me as thin gruel.

According to Huffington, Gore said this was his second time in Cannes. “The first was when I was 15 years old and came here for the summer to study the existentialists—Sartre, Camus. We were not allowed to speak anything but French!”

Ezra sees the passage in the Saunders book as proof that Gore is telling the plain truth here and didn’t exaggerate at all. Indeed, he clearly thinks any other interpretation is “hackish.” I don’t get it. The passage proves that, at some point, Gore was sent to France to improve his bad grades in French. Not only did it not work (casting some doubt that he could discuss existentialism intelligently in French), it in no way says he was sent to France (or Cannes) to study the existentialists for the summer (nor do his biographies as far as I’ve been able to find).

Maybe, I have a more highly attuned antennae for poseurs, but isn’t this a bit like saying “I took a year off to live upstate and get in shape” when what really happened is you went to jail and worked out while you were there?

Hey. I went to Europe more than a few times as a teenager, most on family vacations. My Dad — a language buff — really wanted me to learn French or Italian. It didn’t happen. But I don’t go around telling people that the last time I was in Rome it was to study Dante in the original Italian. And if I did, I have no doubt that Ezra — or my own friends — would call b.s. on such bragging.

My only problem with Ezra — who I think’s a good guy — is that he is determined to say I’m 100% wrong and that there’s no room whatsoever that I have a point. I don’t care if he disagrees with me. But he’s passionately invested in this idea that I “smeared” Gore and that there’s not an ounce of merit to what I wrote. I think that’s telling, but just plain wrong. And I think most fair-minded readers can see that.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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