Sample text for Inventing Al Gore : a biography / Bill Turque.


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"Well, Mr. Gore, Here He Is"
No son of Albert Gore's was going to enter the world quietly.
Humility had never come easily to Gore, and underneath his hill
country populism lay a touch of the aristocrat. The male heir he had
longed for, all nine pounds and two ounces, arrived at Columbia
Hospital for Women in Washington on March 31, 1948. The Gores had ten-
year-old Nancy, but waiting a decade for a second child had been
difficult for the couple, especially Pauline. Having little Albert
Arnold, when she was thirty-six, "has always been kind of a miracle
to us," she said. And miracles, Albert Gore believed, merited more
than passing mention.
Gore had noticed several months earlier that when a daughter
was born to Representative Estes Kefauver, his principal rival in
Tennessee politics, the story appeared on the inside pages of the
Nashville Tennessean. He set to work and eventually extracted a
promise from the paper's editors. With their help, he would both hail
the arrival of his son and one-up Kefauver, who was on his way to the
Senate seat that Gore coveted. "If I have a boy baby, I don't want
the news buried inside the paper," said the five-term congressman. "I
want it on page 1 where it belongs." The Tennessean complied with a
one-column headline in its April 1 editions, wedged in the left-hand
corner between civil war in Costa Rica and a Japanese train
wreck. "Well, Mr. Gore, Here HE Is - On Page 1." Before he was home
from the hospital, Al Gore had won a news cycle for his father.
The only known postpartum complication was what Pauline
called the "battle royal" over their son's name. She favored the
traditional "Junior" added onto "Albert Gore," but her husband
thought it would be a burden to the young man. "He was adamant about
it," Pauline said. So, like congressional conferees, they cut a deal:
he would be Albert (called "Little Al" as a child) but could decide
for himself later whether he was comfortable with "Jr." When the time
came, Gore struggled with the choice. He was Junior and then he
wasn't; he adopted it as a teenager, then in 1987, as a thirty-nine-
year-old presidential candidate anxious to deflect attention from his
youth, jettisoned juniorhood for good.
Survivors of punishing climbs from poverty, Albert and
Pauline Gore endowed their son with a granite self-confidence about
what was possible, and expected, in life. As full political partners
decades before Bill and Hillary Clinton came to Washington, they made
politics the family business. The single-minded drive that propelled
Al Gore to the House of Representatives at twenty-eight and the
Senate at thirty-six - and the hubris that made him a presidential
candidate before he was forty - is their bequest. From Albert came a
crusader's passion for public service, a globalist's view of issues,
and a moralist's disdain for opposing points of view. Just as visible
is Pauline's pragmatism, caution, and steely competitive edge. "I
think the biggest influence you have on your child is the life you
live day after day," she said. Any understanding of Al Gore begins
with Albert and Pauline.

Allen Gore, Albert's father, was descended from the Scots-Irish who
came to Virginia in the early seventeenth century and moved to
Tennessee after the Revolutionary War, where they farmed the rugged
slopes of the Cumberland River Valley. Albert, the third of five
children he had with Maggie Denney Gore, was born near Granville,
Tennessee, the day after Christmas 1907. When his son was two, Allen
packed the family in a buggy and two wagons and moved to a 186-acre
farm in Possum Hollow, a Smith County community where the poverty and
desolation was echoed in the names that surrounded it on the map -
Difficult, Defeated, Nameless. They were poor but well fed, producing
their own chickens, eggs, and milk and selling the surplus for
cash. "We lived apart from the world," Albert Gore wrote in his 1970
memoir, "relatively isolated and therefore dependent entirely on one
another."
The unforgiving environment fostered a hard-edged
independence and wariness of outsiders among those who coaxed a
living from the land, and it left young Albert with firm, often
inflexible, beliefs about right and wrong. His father's discipline
was absolute and his authority unquestioned. He rose at 4:00 a.m.
every day of the year and tasked Albert to get up with him and build
a fire. Despite the heavy workload, Allen Gore kept up with the world
outside Possum Hollow and encouraged his children to set their sights
on it. In the evenings he read the newspaper with a kerosene lamp and
talked about the politicians he admired, including William Jennings
Bryan, "the Great Commoner" whose populism and anti-imperialism made
a lasting impression on Albert, and Cordell Hull, a boyhood friend
who served in the House and Senate and as Franklin Roosevelt's
secretary of State. Later, as a young aspiring politician, Albert
spent Sunday afternoons listening to Hull talk about Washington as he
sat in the shade with the whittlers on the courthouse square in
Carthage. He became a mentor for Gore, who adopted Hull's advocacy of
free trade and progressive taxation as cornerstones of his own
politics when he was elected to the House.
Albert's political ambitions were sparked as a grade-
schooler, when he saw the picture of a cousin, running for the state
legislature, tacked to utility poles and roadside trees. "In my
childish imagination I was fascinated by the prospect of seeing my
own picture there someday," he wrote. As a teenager, Gore was a good
enough fiddler to sit in at square dances and briefly flirted with a
musical career, but he soon targeted law school as his platform into
public life. It was a struggle to get there. He scraped his way
through the University of Tennessee and Murfreesboro Teachers
College, never able to afford more than a semester at a time. To put
together funds he drove a truck, waited tables, and taught in a one-
room schoolhouse in the Cumberland Mountain community of High Land,
known more widely as "Booze" for its robust moonshine commerce.
At eighteen, Gore was handsome in a stalwart, square-jawed
way, with waves of curly brown hair and a reputation as one of the
area's most enthusiastic bachelors. "Listen," said one former Smith
County schoolteacher, "every girl in this county dated Albert Gore
before he went to law school." Gore also discovered early that he
enjoyed being the center of attention. A classmate at Murfreesboro
recalled his performance as a young lieutenant in a student
production of the war drama Journey's End, a play that required him
to die in the final scene. "Albert died beautifully," his friend
recalled. "But as the curtain started closing, he reached out from
his deathbed, held back the curtain, and died a little more. Albert
always did like the limelight."
It took him seven years to work through college. After
graduating in 1932, he moved to Carthage, the Smith County seat,
where he made his first try for public office as superintendent of
schools a year later. He lost both the election and his teaching job
and returned to his father's farm at the age of twenty-six. Not long
before, in the late 1920s, Allen Gore had grown uneasy about the
soundness of the banks and spread his life savings of $8,000 among
several institutions. Within a few days, the banks had failed. When
Albert came home, his family was still better off than many of their
neighbors - at least the mortgage was paid - but the Depression's
devastation left an indelible mark on him. At market, as he saw "men
with wives and children whom they could neither feed nor clothe well
and whose farms were not paid for, I recognized the face of poverty:
grown men who were so desperate the tears streamed down their cheeks
as they stood with me at the window to receive their meager checks
for a full year's work."
His fortunes turned when his victorious election opponent,
Edward Lee Huffines, fell gravely ill several months after taking
office and before his death recommended to the county court that Gore
succeed him. The unexpected tribute from a competitor was a signal
event for Gore. Over the next four decades, he never made a personal
attack on an opponent. Now with the means to finance a legal
education, he enrolled in night law school at the Nashville YMCA,
working as superintendent by day and driving one hundred miles round-
trip from Carthage three evenings a week for three years. Before the
long, late evening trip home, Gore would stop for coffee at the
Andrew Jackson Hotel, where one of the waitresses was a twenty-one-
year-old divorce;e named Pauline LaFon.
In the 1930 Tatler, Jackson High School's yearbook, she
listed her life's ambition as "to keep her husband happy." Whether
that statement was playful sarcasm or an attempt to supply a socially
acceptable answer, it never reflected her real aspirations. For
Pauline, the future wasn't a question of staying at home or going to
work; it was how far she could get in the world of work. "I didn't
want to be a nurse, I didn't want to be a teacher. I didn't want to
be most of the things women were," she said many years later.
It seemed she would have no choice. Walter and Maude LaFon
were Arkansans who opened a general store on a crossroads near
Palmersville, just below the Kentucky line in northwest Tennessee.
Pauline was twelve when an infection froze Walter's right elbow and
left him unable to work. The family's political connections in
Weakley County helped Walter land a job with the state highway
department in Jackson, the Madison County seat fifty-five miles to
the south. The LaFons and their six children moved into a modest
house on Poplar Street that they opened to boarders for extra cash.
Pauline spent much of her adolescence cooking, cleaning, and looking
after her sister Thelma, who was blind from birth. As her parents
struggled to piece together a living, Pauline's siblings looked to
her for inspiration. "She was the heart of the family," said Whit
LaFon, a younger brother and now a retired Madison County circuit
court judge. "She just always had a burning desire to better herself.
She probably had more guts than anyone I'd ever seen. I don't know
where it came from."
Her first marriage, as a teenager, was primarily an attempt
to escape from poverty; it lasted less than year. Pauline took Thelma
with her to Union College, a small Baptist school in Jackson, where
for two years she kept her sister's notes and read assignments to her
while doing her own course work. To pay the tuition, she waited
tables at a tearoom on the courthouse square. Pauline said in a 1997
interview that her inspiration to study the law came from watching
helplessly as her mother lost some land in a dispute with her own
family in Arkansas. But Whit LaFon said Pauline's recollection was
simply "an old folks' tale" and that she chose the law because it was
the quickest and surest way out of Jackson. She borrowed $200 from
the Rotary Club and headed for Nashville, where she took a room at
the YWCA and entered Vanderbilt Law School, riding the trolley to
morning classes and dashing back in time for the dinner shift at the
Andrew Jackson. The lone woman in the graduating class of 1936, she
is remembered by fellow students for her luminous blue eyes and no-
nonsense demeanor. Henry Cohen, a classmate who competed against her
in moot court, said she reminded him of a young Margaret
Thatcher. "She wanted results," said Cohen. "She wasn't satisfied
leaving anything halfway."
Pauline found her late-night customer charming, if a bit too
conscientious - even by her rigorous standards. "He was serious even
then," said Pauline. "I couldn't tempt him to leave any serious work,
no matter how fancy a party we were invited to. That was what
bothered me the most at that age." After graduation they took the bar
together and for a time went their separate ways, Pauline to a
Texarkana, Arkansas, law firm, one of the few that would take a woman
in 1936, and Albert to the next level of state politics. Gordon
Browning, a reform-minded Democrat Gore had worked for in an
unsuccessful Senate campaign, was elected governor that year and made
his former aide the state's first labor commissioner.
Pauline spent less than a year in Texarkana, a period she
describes as "a disaster." She was hired by Bert Larey, another
Vanderbilt alum, and, perhaps because of her own experience, began to
take divorce cases for their new two-person firm. After seven months,
however, she abruptly returned to Nashville. She said that she
planned to wed Albert and help him with his political career. But
there was another reason, one she did not discuss publicly for many
years: Larey sexually harassed her. (He died in 1984. His son, Lance,
an Oklahoma attorney, said such behavior would have been unlike his
father.)
Perhaps because her family couldn't afford anything more, or
because she was a divorce;e and he a member of the governor's cabinet,
her wedding to Albert Gore was modest and out of the way, conducted
in a judge's chambers just across the state line in Tompkinsville,
Kentucky, on May 15, 1937. The "not published" notation on their
license meant that news of the marriage was kept out of the local
paper. Their first child, Nancy LaFon Gore, arrived eight months
later.
Pauline Gore insisted that she had not abandoned personal
ambition but had traded her own career for the prospect of bigger
rewards by supporting her husband's climb to power. "I was not only
ambitious for him but for myself too," she said. The first
opportunity for advancement emerged in early 1938 when J. Ridley
Mitchell, the Fourth District's incumbent congressman, decided to run
for the Senate.
Gore quit Browning's cabinet and assembled several thousand
dollars, part of it by mortgaging a small farm he owned. He was not
the clear front-runner. Five other candidates crowded the Democratic
primary field, and Gore was partial to eye-glazing disquisitions on
reciprocal trade. On a stifling July evening at the Fentress County
courthouse, Gore was in the middle of just such a talk when he
spotted a man headed down the center aisle carrying a fiddle, and two
others behind him with a guitar and a banjo. "Here, Albert," said the
first man, who clearly preferred Gore the teenage square dance
prodigy to Gore the candidate, "play us a tune." Pauline, sitting in
front, gestured an emphatic no - she regarded such theatrics as
unbecoming of a congressional candidate. Gore was conflicted as well,
but he recognized what was at stake. He told the audience that the
race meant everything to him, that he'd even mortgaged his home. He
offered them a deal: he'd play "Turkey in the Straw" if they voted
for him. The crowd, eager for something more lyrical than the balance
of trade, agreed.
Gore kept the fiddle with him over Pauline's objections,
mixing politics and music for the rest of campaign. He won the
primary, and in Tennessee, where Republicans were still all but
unheard of, that was as good as winning the general election. In
January 1939, at the age of thirty-one, he was on his way to the
House of Representatives. Still, while Gore was reconciled to the
theatrical requirements of politics, he remained ambivalent, at times
almost disdainful. "I have been able to fall into the mode of the
southern politician," he said twenty years later. "I can tell good
stories, play the fiddle, and rollick with the crowd." But that mode
never reflected how Albert Gore saw himself - as a statesman and a
thinker who resided on a level above coarse politics.
He quickly gained a reputation in Washington as a New Dealer
with a wide independent streak. As a freshman, he threw in with
Republicans to scuttle Franklin Roosevelt's $800 million public
housing program, and he quashed a New York congressman's attempt to
secure $1 million for the New York World's Fair by demanding $5,000
for each county fair in his district. "Why shouldn't my Lebanon,
Tennessee, Mule Day be entitled to a little slice?" he asked.
With his eyes on a Senate seat, Gore tended carefully to
popular statewide interests, championing funding for big government
programs like the Tennessee Valley Authority. When Tennesseans went
to war, Gore tried to go with them. A son of the same Tennessee hills
that had produced Alvin York, he waived his congressional immunity to
the draft in 1943 and was inducted into the army. Roosevelt prevailed
on him to stay in the House, but he later served for several months
in 1945 as a military prosecutor in France.
Gore was ready to make his move in 1948, but the popular
Estes Kefauver jumped into the race ahead of him. So he aimed for the
next available target, the ancient Kenneth McKellar, who was up for
reelection in 1952. The Senate's "Old Formidable" was nearing eighty
and had been expected to retire that year after six terms, but later
changed his mind. It would not be easy - challenging McKellar meant
taking on his powerful patron, Memphis political boss Edward Crump.
Although Kefauver's 1948 victory had weakened the state's dominant
political machine, Crump still posed a significant threat and was
capable of running up big margins in Memphis and surrounding Shelby
County while challengers split the rest of the state. But Gore, tired
of the House, had decided it was up or out.
With one-year-old Little Al in tow, the Gores packed their
Arlington, Virginia, apartment and returned to Carthage, settling
back into their white clapboard house on Fisher Avenue for the
duration of the campaign. McKellar's refusal to step aside made his
advanced age the real issue in the race, and Gore's backers urged him
to exploit it, but he was reluctant. "My present plan is to refrain
from any criticism," he wrote to Bernard Baruch, "but instead to
refer to him in complimentary terms, always referring to his record
and service in the past tense."
McKellar brandished his seniority, and the bonanza in roads,
dams, offices, and power plants that he had helped bring home as
chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "Thinking Feller
Vote for McKellar," said his placard, distributed throughout the
state. It was a strong selling point, and Pauline pushed for a
memorable response. "Mrs. Gore and I came home one Saturday night
after a hard day of campaigning, and she cleaned off the kitchen
table and made a pot of coffee and said, 'Well, Albert, sit down
here,'" Gore recalled. "So we wrote doggerels and rhymes and riddles
and finally came to one that we thought would work." He credits her
with the rejoinder, tacked alongside every McKellar poster they could
find: "Think Some More and Vote for Gore." He beat McKellar by ninety
thousand votes in the Democratic primary.
Gore believed in government as the guarantor of economic
justice, plugging tax loopholes for the privileged and spending
generously to help those in need up the ladder. "Nothing cures
poverty like money," he said. Tired of the poor roads that farmers
had to endure to get their crops to market, and remembering his
travels on the German autobahn during his army stint, he became
Senate cosponsor of the 1956 legislation that created the interstate
highway system. Eight years later he helped shepherd the first
Medicare proposal through the Senate.
The most enduring image of Albert Gore is his early and
outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War. But he walked a cautious,
moderate line in the other great political struggle of his day, civil
rights. He was a dangerous progressive by Dixie standards, a target
of segregationists' scorn, but he never placed himself in the
forefront of the movement. Years later, in much the same way that his
son would express remorse about trimming back his commitment to the
environment as a first-time presidential candidate, Albert Gore would
regret his tentativeness on civil rights. "There may have been some
political 'heroes' in this cause, but few, if any, were to be found
among white Southern politicians. I know I cannot include myself," he
wrote after his retirement. As a first-time Senate candidate in 1952,
he concentrated on economic issues "and let the sleeping dogs of
racism lie as best I could."
Gore hadn't lacked for vivid personal encounters with
segregation. On the family's car trips between Tennessee and
Washington, the Gores were routinely denied accommodations because
they traveled with Nancy and Al's black nanny, Ocie Bell. Gore
eventually found a hotel owner near the trip's halfway point willing
to put them up if they arrived after dark. And he clearly signaled
his belief that the South needed to change: in 1956 he refused (along
with his nationally ambitious Tennessee colleague Estes Kefauver) to
sign Strom Thurmond's so-called Southern Manifesto, which encouraged
southern states to defy federal court orders mandating
desegregation. "Hell, no," Gore said, loud enough for reporters in
the press gallery to hear, when Thurmond presented the document to
him on the Senate floor.
But he sent mixed messages to voters about major civil rights
developments. In 1954, when the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of
Education decision overturned the doctrine of "separate but equal" in
public segregation, he wrote to one constituent: "I do not mean to
imply that I am in agreement with the reasoning upon which the Court
based its decision. . . . I think all of us must recognize, however,
that the decision of the Court is, after all, a decision by the
highest Court of our land and that it cannot be completely ignored."
He voted for civil rights legislation in 1957, which sought
to expand the attorney general's power to pursue voting rights cases,
but only after working to secure an amendment that diluted its
impact. He also entered into some questionable alliances. In 1958 he
endorsed old-line segregationist Buford Ellington for Tennessee
governor in exchange for support in the event that he ran for
president or vice president in 1960. As a reelection campaign neared,
he opposed the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act because he believed it
vested too much enforcement power in the federal government. "Though
I know gradualism is now denounced by many, it is my firm conviction
that tolerance, time, patience and education are necessary
ingredients to the ultimate solutions," he wrote to Lawrence Jones,
Fisk University's dean of chapel. Toward the end of his career,
however, he acknowledged that economic advancement and education
alone were not enough. In 1965 and 1968 he supported
antidiscrimination bills that guaranteed voting rights and open
housing.

Though Al Gore would strive to create his own political identity when
he entered Congress, his father's influence remained broad and deep.
Earth in the Balance, his 1992 book on the environment, clearly
echoes the elder Gore's concern with the planet's ecological
health. "I had the feeling that a basic problem of the world is
restoration and conservation of the fertility of the soil," he wrote
after a 1951 tour of the Middle East. "Over-grazing, over-cropping,
soil mining for centuries have brought millions of people to the very
brink of starvation."
Like his son, Albert Gore was a pedagogue and a techno-geek.
Where Al Gore has championed the economic and cultural promise of the
Information Age, his father's imagination was captured by the
ascendant technology of his day - nuclear energy. He helped handle
secret appropriations for the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, laboratories that
created the first atomic bomb, and several of his ideas in the 1950s
about nuclear warfare sometimes took an ominously crackpot turn. In
1951 he proposed to Harry Truman that a strip of the Korean Peninsula
be turned into an atomic death belt, seeded with radioactive
material "that would mean certain death or slow deformity" to North
Korean and Chinese troops.
But Albert Gore also understood the catastrophic potential of
the nuclear arms race, and as chairman of the Arms Control
Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he led the
fight to negotiate and ratify the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. He
decried the "race to the top of the nuclear volcano," warning that
the new generation of multiple-warhead MIRVs (multiple independently
targetable reentry vehicles) represented "a uniquely dangerous type
of escalation." In the early 1980s his son picked up that mantle by
promoting development of the single-warhead Midgetman missile to
supplant the MIRVs.
The Gores also shared a considerable frustration with the
Democratic Party's northern and urban tilt in presidential politics.
The elder complained to Baruch in 1952 that under Truman the party
was pandering to blacks and white ethnics, "to Harlems and
Hamtramyks" [sic] [a heavily Polish American suburb of Detroit]," as
he put it. As it was, he wrote, "only those who would cater to
extremist elements in the East and North could get the nomination."
The party's devotion to liberals like Walter Mondale in 1984 drove
young Gore to become a founding member of the centrist Democratic
Leadership Council.
Albert Gore also passed on to his son the reserved public
style now known in journalistic shorthand as "stiffness." At home in
Tennessee, the elder Gore pulled a mean bow at campaign rallies and
could deliver a rousing Fourth of July speech. But in Washington,
especially as he established himself in the Senate, his style tended
toward the solemn and Ciceronian. William S. White, writing in 1956,
could easily have been discussing the next generation's Senator Gore
when he likened Albert Gore to "that small boy remembered from
grammar school who was the brightest and best behaved in the room -
and who invariably suffered for this among his classmates. He had a
great deal of ability along with his earnestness but is rather short
of that instinctively casual touch with his associates that is so
helpful in his trade." In the clubby world of the Senate, the elder
Gore was an aloof figure whose "divinity student blue" suits and
abstemious habits (no cigarettes, little alcohol, and a daily swim in
the Senate pool) created the aura "of a man just come from a powerful
hell-and-brimstone sermon." "Albert Gore was a fellow who was a
little bit hard to know," said George Smathers, the Florida
Democrat. "A very attractive guy and a very smart guy, but he was
just not friendly."
Gore was shunned by the southern caucus in the 1950s after
his civil rights votes, but even his natural allies found him prickly
and high-maintenance, a man with a quixotic attraction to
demonstrations of principle. Hubert Humphrey offered this warning to
Sargent Shriver when he was trying to muster legislative support for
the Peace Corps (which counted Nancy Gore among its earliest
Washington staff):
Albert's a loner. Albert's a maverick. So he'll need a little loving.
I want all of you at the Peace Corps to love Albert. Go to his
office. Sit down dutifully. Take notes on what he is saying. As soon
as you get back to your office, call him and thank him for the points
he made - A, B and C. . . . I don't care if his darling daughter does
work at the Peace Corps. Albert's very independent and this is what
you'll have to do to make sure of his vote.
His independence irritated John Kennedy, one of his few
friends in the Senate ("What does Albert Gore think he is up to?" he
railed when Gore opposed his tax cut in 1963), and he exasperated
Lyndon Johnson, the ultimate deal-maker. Long before they split on
the war, the two had spent years kicking each other in the shins. As
Senate majority leader, Johnson initially passed Gore over for the
Finance Committee seat he wanted. Gore led an abortive attempt by
Senate liberals in 1960 to trim back Johnson's powers as majority
leader and loudly protested his bid to preside over the Senate
Democratic caucus as vice president in early 1961.
Gore longed for higher office in the 1950s but often found
himself eclipsed by two more dynamic Tennessee rivals, Governor Frank
Clement and his Senate colleague, Kefauver. All three were in the
vanguard of a new generation of southern moderates, and each nursed
national ambitions. Gore was an accomplished speaker, but not in a
league with Clement, the "Boy Orator of the Cumberland." He also
lacked Kefauver's knack for self-promotion as well as his rapport
with voters. "The difference between the two," said former Tennessean
reporter and editor Wayne Whitt, who covered both men,
was that an old farmer would come up to Kefauver and ask what he
thought about admitting Red China to the UN and Kefauver would
say, "I don't know, what do you think?" The farmer would ask Albert
Gore the same question and get a thirty-minute lecture. The farmer
would go home and tell his wife, "That Estes Kefauver may be the
smartest man I've ever met. Why, he asked me what I thought about
letting Red China into the UN."
While Kefauver made himself a household name with his
televised hearings on organized crime, which positioned him as a
leading contender for the 1952 Democratic presidential nomination,
Gore pursued critical but often politically low-yield issues like
trade and taxation. "If he does have national ambitions, he's his own
worst enemy," said Eric Sevareid of CBS. "He has no publicity sense
or machinery."
Gore believed that it simply wasn't in the cards for a
southerner to win the presidential nomination, but in 1956 he coveted
the vice presidency. After he met with Adlai Stevenson in his Chicago
hotel suite, word quickly leaked that he was Stevenson's choice. But
when Stevenson threw the selection open to the convention, Gore
scrambled for support. George Reedy, a former Johnson aide,
remembered seeing the senator in such a frenzy that at first he
didn't recognize him. "A man came running up to us. . . . His eyes
were glittering. He was mumbling something that sounded like 'Where
is Lyndon? Where is Lyndon? Adlai's thrown this open, and I think
I've got a chance for it if I can only get Texas. . . .' I have never
seen before or since such a complete, total example of a man so
completely and absolutely wild with ambition. It had literally
changed his features."
Gore found himself in contention with Kefauver and Jack
Kennedy, trailing them both after the first ballot. Although Kefauver
enjoyed the support of the Nashville Tennessean, the state's dominant
Democratic newspaper, Gore stubbornly persisted. Gore claims in his
memoirs that he threw his support to his fellow Tennessean Kefauver
as a statesmanlike gesture to keep Kennedy from winning. But Charles
Fontenay, a former Tennessean reporter and a Kefauver biographer,
said Gore was under enormous pressure from publisher Silliman Evans
Jr. to fold. "Evans told him that the Tennessean wouldn't support him
for dog catcher if he didn't get out of the race," said Fontenay.
Gore headed to the floor and released his delegates to Kefauver.

Like his son, Albert Gore enjoyed a "Boy Scout" reputation for
ethical conduct. But also as in his son's case, the label obscures
less flattering parts of the picture. His long, profitable
relationship with the businessman Armand Hammer broke no laws in its
day but did raise serious questions about his judgment. The oil
executive, art collector, and philanthropist, who financed cancer
research and promoted peaceful relations between the United States
and the Soviet Union, has been exposed in recent years as a fraud.
FBI files and other documents, brought to light most recently in
Edward Jay Epstein's 1996 book Dossier, show that Hammer, the first
Westerner to do business in the Soviet Union (he ran a pencil
factory), was in fact far more than that: he was a Soviet agent in
the 1920s, designated by Lenin as the Communist Party's
official "path" to the resources of American capitalism. Hammer
served as a Soviet courier, laundered funds, and helped recruit
Soviet spies.
How much of this Albert Gore knew is not clear. But for at
least twenty years he was one of several lawmakers (Representatives
Emanuel Celler and James Roosevelt of New York and Senator Styles
Bridges of New Hampshire among them) who opened doors in Washington
for Hammer. Their collective influence probably helped him evade
serious trouble in the anti-Communist investigations of the period.
The two met in the early 1950s at a Tennessee cattle auction and
quickly hit it off. Both raised and sold purebred Black Angus, and
they formed a business partnership that would last through the late
1960s.
Gore had been a cattleman in Smith County since 1940, and his
growing stature as a congressman and senator had been good for
business. Auctions at Gore Farms became major social events,
sometimes drawing buyers who had little interest in livestock but a
significant interest in ingratiating themselves with an influential
U.S. senator. At a sale on September 13, 1958, Cecil Wolfson, a New
York businessman active in construction and shipbuilding, bought ten
head for $10,975. Another guest that day was Virginia businessman V.
H. Monette, whose food brokerage business sold millions of dollars'
worth of products to the military for dozens of major food companies.
Monette brought along former New York Yankees star Joe DiMaggio, whom
he'd hired, according to Wolfson, "to try to open doors to the
military establishment." It's not clear how much cattle Monette
bought, but even as a ten-year-old Little Al was a beneficiary of the
high-level interest in his father's livestock: he sold Monette a cow
his father had given him to raise for $751. Jamie Gore, a cousin who
made several childhood visits to the farm, said that Gore accumulated
several thousand dollars by raising and selling livestock on his
summer vacations, and that he put the money in trust for his college
education.
Albert Gore's joint venture with Hammer was modest. The net
proceeds were usually small - $8,425 split between them, according to
the 1964 year-end statement. The partnership closed out four years
later with a mere $907.96 to divide after expenses. The real benefits
for both men, however, were less direct. Hammer's presence attracted
other customers who fattened the profits of Gore's overall cattle
operation. After a 1963 sale grossed $85,675, Gore wrote to Hammer
thanking him: "You helped a great deal by making other people pay for
the good ones."
For Hammer, of course, the advantage was the continued
goodwill of a U.S. senator. There were limits to what Gore would do
on behalf of his friend, but as the cattle business thrived, he
performed a string of favors for Hammer and his company, Occidental
Petroleum. Some were small courtesies, like acquiring rare books
through the Library of Congress. Other services were more
substantive, like helping cut through Justice Department opposition
to make an FBI agent available to testify in a civil suit involving
Occidental. "Evidently your persuasive powers were better than those
of our attorneys," Hammer said in an appreciative note.
The Gore family's ties to Hammer did not end when he lost his
Senate seat in 1970. Two years later Albert Gore, populist foe of big
business, went to work as chairman of Hammer's coal subsidiary,
Island Creek, at a six-figure salary. And in 1976, a year after he
pled guilty to illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon in the
Watergate scandal, Hammer, his family, and employees helped
underwrite Al Gore's political career, beginning with his first
congressional race. While his son inveighed against environmental
degradation in Congress, Island Creek ran up numerous regulatory
violations, several involving strip mining, on the elder Gore's
watch. Albert Gore made no apologies for what some regarded as
selling out. "Since I had been turned out to pasture," he said, "I
decided to go graze the tall grass."

Those put off by the remote Albert often found a more soothing
presence in Pauline. "He didn't understand people like she did," said
Nancy Fleming, a Vanderbilt roommate of Nancy Gore's who went on to
become a close family friend. "If it had been left up to him, Albert
would lose touch with reality. To me, he was head-in-the-clouds.
Smart, but not that much horse sense." Pauline oversaw the day-to-day
details of congressional politics - who needed to be massaged on the
next trip home, the name of the supporter's daughter who just
graduated from college, how differences could be smoothed and corners
cut. To soften the edges of Albert's reputation, she cultivated her
own relationships with Washington reporters, such as Betty Beale, the
Washington Star's society columnist. "Pauline Gore was the most
politically astute member of the Gore family, more so than her
husband," said Ted Brown, an Atlanta attorney who worked on Gore's
Senate staff.
She was discreet in wielding her influence, careful to play
the role of traditional political wife with seamless white-glove
femininity. But beyond public view, friends say that many of Gore's
decisions, both large and small, bore her imprint. In early 1965
Gilbert "Buddy" Merritt, a politically connected twenty-eight-year-
old Nashville lawyer who briefly dated Nancy in college, was
interested in an appointment as Nashville's U.S. attorney, but Gore
wrote him off as too young. "Buddy, I'm looking for someone with a
little gray in their hair," he said.
That evening at the dinner table Gore mentioned that he had
turned Merritt down and looked over at Pauline for affirmation.
Instead, she asked, "Do you remember what you were doing when you
were twenty-eight years old?" Gore replied that he was Smith County
superintendent of schools. "I think he knows a lot more about being
U.S. attorney than you knew about being superintendent of schools,"
she said. The next day Gore told Merritt, now a federal judge, that
he would recommend him for the job.
She enjoyed social Washington more than Albert did and
occasionally lamented her husband's antisocial ways. "I left at 2:00
a.m. and things were still going strong," she wrote to Nancy after a
1958 party. "Fortunately Dad was in Tennessee or the 11:00 curfew
would have held good." She also became restless if she stayed out of
the Washington mix for too long. Even summers on the farm, a time to
unwind during congressional recess, turned into periods of frenetic
activity, as she wrote to her friend Katie Louchheim, vice chairman
of the Democratic National Committee:
I've entertained the Middle Tennessee Angus Breeders Association at
our farm and had to have lunch for 300 - my neighbor across the
street had a baby the day before yesterday, the one next door had an
operation, I've visited and sent meals. . . . I would probably be
bored if it were permanent but the way it is for me, I love it. I
have really relaxed.
As with Albert, growing up poor had left indelible marks on
Pauline. She enjoyed living well, but she always maintained pockets
of frugality: she made many of her own clothes to augment the ones
she shopped for in New York once a year, and she put Al in cousin
Jamie's hand-me-downs. In the winter of 1960 she left Washington to
supervise personally the construction of a new house on the family
farm. The ultramodern, six-bedroom split-level, built into a bluff
overlooking the Caney Fork River, was grandly out of place in Smith
County - more Frank Lloyd Wright than down-home Tennessee. But the
Gores saw it as a tribute to their home state: the exterior marble
came from a Knoxville quarry, and the paneling inside was lumbered
from native woods - butternut, chestnut, and worm-eaten spruce.
Albert dreamed of his son one day becoming president, but it
was Pauline who strove to ensure that nothing threatened that vision.
When Gore ran his first congressional race in 1976, Pauline was a
critical behind-the-scenes player, working her own intricate network
of contacts and acquaintances to jump-start her son's candidacy.
Historian James Gardner, then a Vanderbilt graduate student,
remembers a day early in the campaign that he spent at the farm,
interviewing Albert Gore for an oral history project. The senator was
thrilled by his son's candidacy, but it was Pauline who provided the
substantive advice. "She told him who he needed to talk to in
whatever community he was interested," Gardner said. Friends say that
while she loved and admired Albert, she found his hidebound ways
frustrating and encouraged her son to practice a more supple,
pragmatic, and, when necessary, combative politics. Just before a
candidates' forum in Iowa early in the 1988 presidential campaign,
she passed a note to him with just three words: "Smile, Relax,
Attack." Watching his career progress, she possessed the pride of a
coach bringing along a blue-chip prospect. "I trained them both," she
liked to say of the two politicians in her life, "and I did a better
job on my son than I did on my husband."
She was also a woman of strong instinctive opinions about
whom Al Gore could trust in politics and who should be avoided.
Falling squarely into the latter category, years before her son
became his vice president, was Bill Clinton. "She thought he had bad
moral character," said James Fleming, a Nashville physician and
longtime family friend. He remembers standing in the senior Gores'
living room one day in the mid-1980s with Gore Jr. and his brother-in-
law Frank Hunger, discussing the Arkansas governor, who had just
finished a visit to Nashville. Perhaps she had been talking to family
members in Arkansas, or maybe her own experience in the workplace had
left her with a gut sense about men who were trouble. Whatever the
reason, Fleming said, "she looked at [her son] and said, 'Bill
Clinton is not a nice person. Don't associate too closely with him.'"
Though slowed by strokes and heart trouble, she remains a
zealous guardian, never hesitating to dress down anyone she regards
as hostile to the cause. "Stop calling my boy wooden!" she admonished
comedian Mark Russell when she saw him at a dinner several years
ago. "Don't you know the difference between good manners and other
behavior?"
What Al Gore ever knew about his mother's difficult early
years, her failed marriage, her sexual harassment as a young lawyer,
and how the pain of those experiences shaped his own emotional
makeup, is difficult to determine with certainty. In a Senate speech
during the debate on Clarence Thomas's Supreme Court nomination, he
spoke with conspicuous sympathy for Anita Hill's decision to remain
silent for years about her grievances against Thomas, her former boss
at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: "Why is it so
surprising that a woman would push back to the very recesses of
memory such unpleasantness? Why is it so surprising that a woman
stayed silent rather than move to destroy her still-forming career by
taking on a much more powerful and intimidating foe? . . . Why do
victims of other kinds of abuse stay silent for so long?"
Gore's answer was that some memories are simply too painful
and are exposed only when there is no choice. "There is, quite
simply," he said, "a public and a personal truth."
The public truth of Al Gore's childhood was that he lived in
a world of privilege and material advantage, created by two striving
children of the Depression who endowed him with an immense self-
assurance and sense of mission. The personal truth is that those same
parental gifts exacted a steep emotional cost.

Copyright (c) 2000 by Bill Turque. Reprinted by permission of
Houghton Mifflin Company.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Gore, Albert, -- 1948-
Vice-Presidents -- United States -- Biography.
Presidential candidates -- United States -- Biography.