Al Gore: The GQ Interview

"There are a significant number of people who appear not to know or care that I was Vice President of the United States, but who are very tuned into the fact that I uttered the immortal line, 'I have ridden the mighty moonworm'." — Al Gore, on reprising his role as a disembodied head in the upcoming Futurama feature film.

The rest of his interview with GQ is below the fold. And seriously, whether you like Gore or not, read it—just for his rant about Bush’s failure alone.

You look great.
Uh, thanks.

I like the, you know, broader look.
[laughs] That’s soooo nice of you to say. (to staff) I’d like a Heineken, if you have one.

Can I ask you something? What’s with the Regency Hotel and you guys? John Kerry and Teresa stay here, Evan Bayh, all the big Dems.
You know, I started this years ago…

Do they keep a set of clothes here for you?
No! I wish I could.

They keep Larry King’s clothes here for him.
They do? Where? Now, that is something I did not know.

There’s something you did not know? Incredible. Is there a burden to being so smart?
That’s the exact converse of, “When did you stop beating your wife?” There’s no way to answer a question like that without seeming pompous and conceited. I have a battery-powered hubris alarm on my belt. And it’s set on vibrate, and it’s going crazy.

So, did you ever think your movie would be this successful?
Noooooo. You know, I hoped it would be. But I had questions about whether it would really be possible to turn a slide show into a movie.

And a slide show by Al Gore! Isn’t it interesting how, throughout the 2000 campaign, the media beat you up, calling you wooden and robotic and all that, but somehow you had the charisma to carry a movie?
[laughs] Well, I have always had close friends say, during those political years, “Why don’t they see you the way we see you?”

Yeah, why is that?
I think one part of it is, in a campaign, there is an adversarial context. Your opposition is constantly painting negative caricatures. And also, the audience—or, the voters—are naturally looking at you through a more skeptical lens. And that’s not all bad. But that’s a different lens than the one used by people watching this movie.

It’s funny. You constantly hear people say, “If only he were the way he was in the movie, he’d have been president.” Does that drive you crazy?
No! No, I appreciate that.

Do you agree?
Well, I certainly take my share of whatever blame is to be apportioned for not having more skill as a communicator. Maybe there are some things in politics I’m just not good at.

So if you decide to run, do you think we would see the Al Gore from the movie? Or the Al Gore from 2000?
Well, I don’t plan to run. I don’t plan to run. And I don’t expect to run.

How many times a day does somebody ask you this?
Well, I’m doing a lot of interviews and it’s on the list of questions. For every one of them. And I appreciate that. I appreciate that people think enough of me still in that world to ask that question. It’s true that I haven’t, uh, gotten to the point where I am willing to completely rule it out for all time. But, that is really more a matter of the internal shifting of gears. I’m not making plans to run again.

But you’re not ruling it out?
Uh… no. [smiles]

Do you know if President Bush has seen the movie yet?
Well, he claimed that would not see it. That’s why I wrote the book. He’s a reader.

What page do you think he’s on?
I would encourage him to see the movie and read the book. I wish that he would.

Don’t you find it appalling that he won’t?
Well, you know, he’s probably no more objective about me than I am about him.

So have you been offered any other movie parts?
Yes! I actually just performed a voice-over role in a movie last week. I am reprising my role as a disembodied head in Futurama, which is being made into a movie. There are a significant number of people who appear not to know or care that I was Vice President of the United States, but who are very tuned into the fact that I uttered the immortal line, “I have ridden the mighty moonworm.”

And that’s so much more important. So do you think you’ll get an Oscar nomination?
For the disembodied head?

For An Inconvenient Truth.
Well, I think the movie deserves one. I’m not eligible; the movie is. But I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it.

Do you think you have ever been more popular?
Ahhhh. I think non-candidates are inherently more popular than candidates.

What is your relationship with the Clintons like now?
Good. Fine. Uh, I saw him today. We see them every once in a while.

Do you like her?
Sure. We worked together for 8 years, and uh, I think she’s, uh… very capable.

Could she win?
I’m not gonna get drawn into speculation about the potential candidates in 2008.

Okay, then let me ask you this. If you had to have a drink with someone tonight, and it was Bill or Hillary, you couldn’t pick both but you had to pick one, whom would you pick?
Well, Bill doesn’t drink.

Are you sure?
I’m pretty sure, yeah. So, if that were the criterion, to have a drink with them and she’s the only one that does, then it would be her. You know, it’s not the same now as it was, of course. A lot of water under the bridge. But we have been through a lot together and I wish them both well.

Do you want your daughter Karenna to go into politics?
I want her to do what she wants to do. I think her judgment is so good, and if she were to decide to go into politics, she would be soooo good. If I had half of the skills that she has, I would definitely be in my second term as president right now.

What does she have that you don’t have?
Perfect pitch.

Okay, on to 9-11. What were you really feeling? Was there a part of you that felt a sense of relief that you weren’t in charge that day?
You mean a sense of relief that I didn’t have to deal with it? Oh no. Not at all. Not for one second. Not for one second. Why would I? I mean, well first of all, it just didn’t occur to me to feel anything like that. What did occur to me was to feel what every American felt, the outrage and anger and righteous anger, and support for the President at a time of danger… And, honestly, I was focused on the reality of the situation. And I wasn’t president, so, you know, it wasn’t about me. Now, I do wish, now that we have some distance from the events, and we have all this knowledge about what this administration did do, I certainly feel that I wish that it had been handled differently, and I do wish that I had somehow been able to prevent some of the catastrophic mistakes that were made.

Do you feel that we would be safer today if you had been president on that day?
Well, no one can say that the 9-11 attack wouldn’t have occurred whoever was president.

Really? How about all the warnings?
That’s a separate question. And it’s almost too easy to say, “I would have heeded the warnings.” In fact, I think I would have, I know I would have. We had several instances when the CIA’s alarm bells went off, and what we did when that happened was, we had emergency meetings and called everybody together and made sure that all systems were go and every agency was hitting on all cylinders, and we made them bring more information, and go into the second and third and fourth level of detail. And made suggestions on how we could respond in a more coordinated, more effective way. It is inconceivable to me that Bush would read a warning as stark and as clear [voice angry now] as the one he received on August 6th of 2001, and, according to some of the new histories, he turned to the briefer and said, “Well, you’ve covered your ass.” And never called a follow up meeting. Never made an inquiry. Never asked a single question. To this day, I don’t understand it. And, I think it’s fair to say that he personally does in fact bear a measure of blame for not doing his job at a time when we really needed him to do his job. And now the Woodward book has this episode that has been confirmed by the record that George Tenet, who was much abused by this administration, went over to the White House for the purpose of calling an emergency meeting and warning as clearly as possible about the extremely dangerous situation with Osama bin Laden, and was brushed off! And I don’t know why—honestly—I mean, I understand how horrible this Congressman Foley situation with the instant messaging is, okay? I understand that. But, why didn’t these kinds of things produce a similar outrage? And you know, I’m even reluctant to talk about it in these terms because it’s so easy for people to hear this or read this as sort of cheap political game-playing. I understand how it could sound that way. [Practically screaming now] But dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!

But how do you really feel?
(cracks up)

What’s the nicest thing you can say about George Bush?
He made a terrific appointment of Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Ok, Is there a second best thing?
I can’t think of another one, actually.

When you see the state things are in now, don’t you feel an obligation to run?
Well, I don’t think I have to apologize for devoting my life to trying to solve the most serious challenge our civilization’s ever faced. But I do understand the nature of the question, and as I said, I haven’t completely ruled it out. It’s just that I don’t expect to—and I don’t really believe that that is necessarily the best use of my skills and experience. [sticks his tongue out and crosses his eyes]

Do you like yourself more now? Do you have more fun now?
Well, you know the old Kris Kristofferson song that Janis Joplin made famous, “Me and Bobby McGee”? It has a great line: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. There’s some aspects of that involved here.

What kind of freedom do you feel now that you didn’t feel when you were running?
You know my all time favorite Onion headline—you read The Onion?—sometime in the summer of 2001, the lead story on the front page had a picture of Tipper and me, and the headline was, “Gores Enjoying Best Sex of Their Lives.” And she said, “How did they know?”

Do you have any advice on keeping a marriage together?
I think basically Tipper is the key to it.

Yeah. Love is such a complicated force, I don’t have the words to speak intelligently about it. I don’t even want to try to universalize what feels true to me, because everybody’s different and—

Yeah, but you know what? A lot of people are real different. You’re devoted. People look at you two and you never wonder if there’s anything stupid going on. What is it about you two?
Well, I think that communicating clearly, and making intelligent decisions about the time that you set aside for one another, not time with you and your spouse and the entire family. That’s also very important, but it doesn’t count in that category of time you need for the relationship itself. Communicating clearly, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. That’s just really important. And if you need help, get help.

Have you been to therapy?
We went in the aftermath of our son’s accident. We had family therapy. And you know, Tipper has a graduate degree in psychology, and she has had a fairly intensive psychiatric practice for 40 years—with one patient. I’m seriously not joking when I say the secret is mostly her. She’s just an amazing partner in life.

What’s the last really romantic thing you did for her?
I made her an iTunes list that communicated things that are important.

What was on it?
That’s too personal.

How often do you think about 2000?
Uhhhh… (feigned shock) The 2000 election?

Yes, that little tiny thing that happened in American history.
I’d almost forgotten! Oh, gosh.

You are so much more relaxed now. I think you’re having more fun this way.
Um, compared to what?

To being a candidate.
Gee, how could anything be more fun than that?

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