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Shayne Looper: A cooling trend in Gore's land of global warming

Shayne Looper

This week Al and Tipper Gore announced that they were separating after 40 years of marriage. The news of domestic cooling from the prophet of global warming took even close friends off-guard.

During Mr. Gore’s presidential campaign, the couple presented themselves (in contrast to the Clintons) as the picture of domestic concord. Their memorable — and lengthy — kiss at the 2000 convention announced to the nation that here was a couple that was crazy about each other, couldn’t keep their hands off each other. And now this.

Al Gore once claimed that he and Tipper’s romance inspired the novel “Love Story.” Now their breakup is inspiring reporters to look for the real reason behind their split, and speculation is spewing from bloggers like ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

I have no desire to fly into that mess. I am, however, interested in the way Americans are responding to the high-profile breakup.

Many commentators have noted the emotional impact the Gore’s separation is having. Reporters are confessing their sadness, saying things like, “It feels like my parents broke up.”

Sally Quinn, who writes for the Washington Post and is a longtime friend of the Gores, said, “You know, watching the Gores is sort of looking at the possibilities of what a good marriage could be, and when they — when it doesn’t work for them you sort of think, ‘Oh, my God, maybe it’s not possible.'”

Rebecca Traister, of salon.com, said, “They did offer this ... apparent model of stability and of affection. ... I myself was very surprised by how saddened I was by this.”

This emotional response to the Gore’s announcement is a story in itself. It is almost as if the first question people ask themselves is, “How does this make me feel?” It certainly is one of the first questions reporters ask, whether they are reporting on the oil spill in the Gulf or on an erroneous call at a Tiger’s baseball game.

America is led by her feelings. That is why political reporters are so interested in the “mood of the country,” and so frequently ask people if they “feel the country is going in the right direction.” If they do get around to asking about right and wrong, it is usually an afterthought.

But Rebecca Traister did offer her reflections on the question of right and wrong. When asked by NPR anchor Michele Norris if “the requirements that presidents have solid marriages is ... a bit out of step with larger society,” Ms. Traister answered with certainty.

“It is totally out of step with society,” she said. “The idea that our leaders are supposed to in any way be in functional, heterosexual, child-producing unions is totally archaic, and it has nothing to do with their ability to govern or to lead us.”

Ms. Traister was not saying that our leaders are exempt from serving as role models. She even referred to the Gores as a “model of stability.” Rather she seems to be saying that traditional morals are not moral, that “heterosexual, child producing unions” — or at least American’s expectations concerning them — are “totally archaic.”

She went on to blame bad political marriages on the unrealistic expectations of America’s voters. If leaders were not compelled to serve as role models of traditional moral behavior, they wouldn’t be forced to remain in unhappy marriages.

If she is right, the reporters chasing down rumors of infidelity are looking in the wrong place. The Gores' marriage woes (or divorce woes, as the case might be) were caused by all of us who expect leaders to set an example of fidelity both in marriage and in public service.

Let’s hope Mr. Gore’s lawyers don’t find out about this, or we might just end up in court.

Shayne Looper can be reached at salooper@dmcibb.net.

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.