“A mutually supportive decision”

Anne Kingston’s context-setting piece about Al and Tipper Gore’s separation is legitimately amazing; I couldn’t, on my best day, come up with anything so well-informed and strongly written so quickly. But I find myself wondering if the Gore split is really best understood as an example of a general cultural phenomenon. Isn’t this commentary about peaceable, respectable, mutually satisfying late-life divorces going to look a little silly ten weeks from now when Al turns up at an awards show with a lingerie model and every middle-aged woman in the universe turns against him?

Let’s be honest here: Gore’s Oscar-Nobel double play catapulted him into a stratosphere of alpha-male erotic leverage far beyond the realms one can reach by being vice-president—a constitutional office that, for 230 years, has been synonymous with emasculation. It doesn’t really matter that, personality-wise, the man happens to be a lobotomized prep-school headmaster. Gore is an elite player now, a man who can smuggle you onto any yacht, into any chalet, behind the scenes at any conference. He’s one of a couple dozen people on the planet who could get almost literally anybody on the phone within 15 minutes, though he’d probably need more like six hours for the Pope or the Queen. If he felt like it, he could probably arrange to test-drive a Formula One car or clear out Matsuhisa Beverly Hills for a private tête-à-tête. Factor in the gauzy halation that descends upon one when one is the face of a beleaguered environmental cause (oui, Laetitia, sometimes the criticism wears me down, but I have to stay strong) and you’re talking about the sexual market-power equivalent of a nuclear carrier group.

It seems impossibly naïve to imagine that Tipper suddenly woke up last week and made the Claude Rains-esque discovery that Al is a bit of a bore and that he’s probably only getting in the way of her brilliant career as a photographer. Which career, to Colleague Kingston’s credit, comes as news to me and no doubt most everybody else. (If you’re a bored celebrity wife who wants to claim a vocation that doesn’t require a lot of difficult instruction or practice, I guess you couldn’t find a better spirit guide than Linda McCartney.) One wonders: couldn’t Tipper, that artiste manqué, have found time to perfect this craft during that decade or so she spent waging war on the popular music of various American underclasses?

Nobody wants to state the unkind “assumption” that the militantly anti-fun Mrs. Gore has been chased to the curb because Al finally came to the belated realization that his last years will be spent as a shaman of the Bono-Mandela-Dalai Lama class, rather than as a politician, and that such men are licensed to void their holy essence upon suitably nubile representatives of womanhood. But certainly no one can be foolish enough to believe that the vice-president’s next publicly visible gal pal will be within two decades of his own age. Any good feminist would be expected to say that mutuality and consent were beside the point if they saw a business executive winking at a cute junior associate; but, mysteriously, the difference in advantages accruing to the parties in the Gore separation doesn’t seem to bother anybody, any more than Bill Clinton’s creative use of the White House payroll did. All I ask is that we have no sham outrage, hear no wounded shrieks of psychologically projected betrayal, when Al is eventually photographed with Ginger Spice’s décolletage mashed affectionately against his tuxedo jacket.

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