Tennessee Hold ‘em

How bland is the current crop of politicians traipsing through New Hampshire, each one threatening to become our next president? So bland I’m starting to miss Al Gore, believe it or not.

You remember Gore, the vice president who campaigned here for president way back at the turn of the century. He had that down-home, folksy 20th-century style. I mean, since Al stopped coming here, not once has anyone approached me dressed in earth tones, held out his hand to me and told me he is Al Gore. Yeah, Gore did that, even though he didn’t have to. I knew he was Al Gore and would have bet that he did, too. But he told me anyway and I’m glad he did. I’m sure it made one of us feel important.

And in the post-Gore era, I haven’t seen anyone trying to save the planet from the ravages of the internal combustion engine, while traveling in a caravan of SUVs. OK, Gore was still vice president then and I suppose some of those vehicles were for the Secret Service. But Al’s been back to New Hampshire a few times since and I’ve never seen him when he wasn’t riding around in one of those big gas-guzzlers. I once spotted him pulling up to a local restaurant in one of those things and I, being weak and easily tempted, tried to heckle the great man, just to be hospitable. He had already been rejected by the voters of his own state and I wanted him to feel at home here.

This happened in June of ’04, when Gore was the keynote speaker at a Democratic Flag Day celebration. The previous December Howard Dean had been leading in all the polls for the Democratic presidential nomination and the John Kerry campaign appeared to be on life support. Then Gore came along and endorsed Dean and, sure enough, the former Vermont governor sank like a stone. Kerry won New Hampshire and the nomination, Bush won the election and Gore won the Wrong-Way Corrigan award.

So I was watching the alleyway out behind the restaurant that evening when a big black SUV pulled up and parked by the side door. “Uncle Albert’s here!” I alerted the pro-life picketers out front, who then came around to greet the Veep.

“Say, Al, you did Dean in, who you gonna endorse now?” I asked. Big Al just turned, greeted me with a big wave and said “Howdy,” then went on into the restaurant. “Howdy.” You can’t get much more down home and folksy than “Howdy.” Maybe that’s what I liked about Gore. He had walked with kings and Clintons and kept the common touch.

And New Hampshire did him in in 2000. If we had given Al our four electoral votes, he’d have won the White House and the world might be a safer, cooler planet by now. Yes, I know. He also failed to carry his home state. But Tennessee is a heavy state in a Republican region. New Hampshire, being a small northeastern state, is easier for a Democrat to carry. Clinton carried it twice. Even Kerry carried New Hampshire. But not Gore.

The man has done so much for the planet, I think we owe him another chance. There’s no one running now that’s worth heckling, unless you count Mme. Hillarious, which I don’t. Most of them are hardly worth writing about. But if Gore were to enter the race now, that would be news and grist for the political columnists. So come on back, Al. The planet and your country may not need you, but the world of punditry does. Come back.

Add a little excitement to the New Hampshire primary. NH

Jack Kenny, the Granite State’s Official Curmudgeon (registered trademark pending), is considering Ron Paul for 2008.