One big goal of the Democratic Convention was to prove that Al Gore has the experience to be President. Not executive experience, but the really important stuff--body surfing and mountain climbing, making igloos and cocoa and a dinosaur diorama with the kids, shooting pool and watching Star Trek with Tommy Lee Jones, chasing through the woods with coon dogs in the middle of the night, wrapping a turkey in aluminum foil and roasting it in the fireplace. At this convention, Gore's image was the thing being cooked inside the shiny wrapper. And the message? As his old friend Bob Delabar put it Thursday night during a podium discussion of All Things Al, Gore "always seemed to me to be a regular and easygoing fellow."
That's a stretch. The Vice President is many things, but easy-going is not one of them. He is extraordinarily intense. If Americans decide they want a regular guy in the White House, they'll elect George W. Bush, who is also tightly wound but does a much better job of hiding it. The parade of Gore relatives was exhausting and a little pointless (news flash: Gore's brother-in-law thinks he's great). But from time to time, the real Gore did come through. During All Things Al, some of the speakers were arrayed on one of those groovy multilevel platforms the 5th Dimension once used to sing Up, Up and Away on shows like the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. A former Gore aide named Michela Alioto described the Vice President's management style: "If you had an idea, you'd e-mail it to him, and he'd e-mail his response right back." Now, that's Al Gore. Barbara Mikulski, the earthy Senator from Maryland, described him as a young politician: "If you thought he was tough as a reporter, you shoulda seen him in Congress... He wanted those polluters to pay. And I'll tell you, he was really effective. He wanted to look out for American families."
Have I mentioned that Gore is a fighter for working families? The convention did, endlessly, because Gore wants to make a virtue out of his aggression. It worked, as the Regular Guy offensive generally did when it highlighted things about him that are already familiar. The biographical film narrated by Tipper Gore was effective because it showed Gore as a loving family man, and he is that. Best of all, it was a chance to show off photos of Al and Tipper as young marrieds in the 1970s--a scruffy hunk and his blond babe. As a 30-year-old woman sitting in the hall was heard to say, "Gore was hot--who knew?"