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But what about Al and Tipper Gore's kiss? [Updated]

When I heard that Al and Tipper Gore are separating, I thought immediately of the then-vice president’s all-too-public display of affection at the 2000 Democratic National Convention (which brought down the house and was probably responsible for Gore’s impressive post-convention bounce in the polls). As that moment is replayed -- no doubt endlessly -- on cable news, we are all left to wonder: Was it all theater?

And this, of course, underscores the ill wisdom of Americans' vaguely voyeur demand that their leaders demonstrate uncontrolled emotion before TV cameras. Ironically, this gives politicians reason to do the opposite -- script every quiver of the lip, every tear and every folksy turn of phrase, communicating little of substance other than a politician's capacity to prevaricate. More important, such displays are rarely constructive -- what did the Gores’ kiss really tell us about what kind of president Al would have made? -- and they can materially detract from issues of real importance.

The requirement that American leaders emote -- possibly an invention of Beltway commentators -- has grown only more pronounced since the Gores’ kiss. What followed? Eight years of a president who took such theatricality to a new level with his cowboy act -- declaring he would smoke out America’s enemies, etc. -- which won him affection and deserved criticism, even sometimes from his wife. During the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton's tears arguably kept her campaign going for months after she shed them in a New Hampshire town hall. More recently, commentators from across the political spectrum pile on President Obama for not seeming visibly angry enough about the BP oil spill, forgetting, perhaps, what such behavior accomplished during the previous administration.

Just as the Gores' kiss told us little about Al's abilities to run the country -- or, perhaps, anything about his marriage -- and just as Bush’s bluster was usually unnecessary and sometimes harmful to America’s reputation, a belligerent cri de coeur from Obama wouldn’t do anything but prioritize rage over reason.

Equally substance-free gestures such as staying overnight on the Gulf Coast, as Joe Scarborough suggested this morning, are even worse; should local resources really be diverted from spill response to accommodate an extended presidential visit? Or how about David Gergen’s suggestion today, drawn from weeks of conventional wisdom, that Obama “take command” with a list of things that would change little about what the administration is already doing in response to the spill?

Perhaps pretending to be so impassioned is a yardstick for effective leadership. Maybe that’s what the Gores' kiss was all about. And it is certainly the assumption behind many of the suggestions commentators are throwing Obama during this oil crisis. But if it’s true, it’s pretty embarrassing.

Update, 3:54 p.m.: A host of commenters have complained that 10 years is a long time in a marriage and that a lot could have changed in their relationship since the convention kiss. I agree. We don’t know what it really meant. That’s among the reasons it shouldn’t have mattered -- and that it's embarrassing for voters and journalists to overvalue politicians' ability to show affection, anger, etc., sincere or no.

By Stephen Stromberg  | June 1, 2010; 2:10 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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It's been ten years. I've known couples go from over the heels in love to divorced in that time frame.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 1, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Tipper, once you had your world ROCKED by a strong virile man of the conservative Right, you can never go back to the effeminate men of the liberal left!

They just want to play Pitcher and Catcher with their male friends!

Posted by: theaz | June 1, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Of course it was all theater--just as Al Gore's parents clearly staged a photo of them heading out for a night on the town while little Al says goodbye (in his cowboys or Indians pajamas) .. while a photographer just happened to be on hand to catch the private moment ... Al Gore always has been a phony and always will be.

Posted by: ToughChoices | June 1, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Was a kiss between them just theater..... because ten years later they got a divorce?

You're actually asking this?

Our right wing pundits become more juvenile every day.

Posted by: BillEPilgrim | June 1, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

What a dumb article. Like FairlingtonBlade said, couples change. And good grief, they were married 40 years. That's a long time. And the "Kiss" took place 10 years ago. What's the big deal. They're mature adults who have moved on in their lives. It's really that simple. Couples make that choice every day.

Posted by: missingwisc | June 1, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

My God, the WaPo actually pays you good money to wonder about these things? Cue the conservative trolls in 3..2..1

Posted by: Badgerbear | June 1, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

A kiss in 2000 coiuld have been as real as the separation in 2010. A lot can happen in 10 years. This is a lame analysis.

Posted by: jillcohen | June 1, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Lame analysis. A lot can happen in a marriage over 10 years.

Posted by: jillcohen | June 1, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I would remind Stromberg that 10 years is a long time. For 50% of American marriages, it's more then enough time for people to fall out of love with each other and end up on As for Obama, I do agree on that. War threatening on the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East heating up, the Eurozone collapsing in debt, and Obama should play tiddlewinks in a Biloxi motel room? How stupid is that? He's the President of the USA, not the President of Cajun Country.

Posted by: magnifco1000 | June 1, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Another example of the kind of brilliant analysis that led me to let my Post subscription lapse several years ago. I mean, really?

Posted by: jocoop | June 1, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: maralenenok | June 1, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Are you on crack? I'm not sure which of your notions is more idiotic:

1. That the a public display of affection prompted a post-convention bounce-- that all the people who were undecided about Gore decided "Well, hell, if he kissed his wife, now I'll vote for him."

2. That separating ten years afterward shows the kiss was probably staged.

3. That Americans demand their leaders display unhinged behavior.

About the closest you come to reality is to say this insanity is "possibly an invention of Beltway commentators." But then you go one to project your needs onto the rest of the people in this country.

All this piece shows is that the people working for the Post's editorial page are certifiable. The reality is that most citizens have way too much sense to give a damn about the stuff that you, Sally Quinn, Peggy Noonan and Maureen Dowd get the vapors about.

Posted by: Rufus_Jones | June 1, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

The only thing embarrassing here is this column.

Posted by: dwgbos | June 1, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

way to go tipper. dump this tree hugger,whale humper(among many other species)perhaps this POC will go to the rain forests of the world and save us all.dork has stolen enough to be on the space shot to mars,carrying a poster stated ur savior has arrived

Posted by: pofinpa | June 1, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Good. Now she can take her half of the millions and good very, very far away from the fraud.

Posted by: rocks1 | June 1, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Al's been an idiot since he revealed how he and Tipper were the inspiration for Love Story. Guess his wife just relaized how big an idiot he is.

Posted by: RFN8143 | June 1, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

This is pretty weak- you really should be a little more contemplative when you tap the keyboard.

Posted by: dcperspective | June 1, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

God, this is the stupidest thing I've read in a while.

Seriously, are you offering this as actual analysis: "Perhaps pretending to be so impassioned is a yardstick for effective leadership. Maybe that’s what the Gores' kiss was all about."

I mean, this is the WASHINGTON F'ING POST!!!

Like we're supposed to be SOOOO impressed Stromberg can check off the "Gore Kiss" on his pop-political-culture checklist.

God, why are morons like this allowed to have a national voice? Nearly every person I know and work with could contribute more meaningfully to the national discussion than this idiot.

Posted by: SlimTyranny | June 1, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Talk about over-analyzing clearly staged event! Give it up already - they put on a show and anyone of reasonable intelligence took it for that and nothing more.

Posted by: AlibiFarmer | June 1, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse was obvious the "kiss" was a pre-scripted campaign gimmick from the get go. Just like everything with the Goracle.

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | June 1, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

10 years is a long time. I am surprised his journalist can remember something that long ago as they usually don't remember anything past yesterday but I guess when it is self-serving they show do show they can remember.

Posted by: JBUD | June 1, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

It is a little known secret that at that time she actually threw up in his mouth. He had to swallow the evidence of disgust.

Posted by: johng1 | June 1, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Is Stromberg old enough to remember that kiss?

Posted by: las100 | June 1, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Really, WaPo, you plumb new depths every day. That sinkhole in Guatamala's got nothing on you.

And Mr. Stromberg, I wonder whether you have anything better to do with your day than speculate stupidly about whether there was real love in the marriage. And I wonder if you had the same curiosity about, for instance, Newt Gingrich, who dumped his first wife after having an affair while she had cancer. But I don't wonder that much, because I know the answer: IOKIYAR

Posted by: angryamerican1 | June 1, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

LMFAO...millions of Americans have met, dated, had children and divorced in way less then ten years. This is absolutely the most absurd question I've ever seen a WaPo columnist make.....ever.

Posted by: YesDear | June 1, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse


Hang around couples much, Stromborg?

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | June 1, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Why did you even write this article? The kiss took place 10 years ago. It is sad that a marriage of 40 years is in trouble. But who knows, they may get back together. There is always hope!

Posted by: LorettaPerkins | June 1, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

WaPo is supposed to be IMPRESSIVE and jobs there HARD TO GET, but all the new people are wingnut welfare twits like Thiessen, or somebody's-old-frat-buddy hires like this clown Stromberg.

Posted by: misterjrthed | June 1, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Thankfully I'm not the only one who sees that the premise for the question of this article makes no sense.

How much have you changed over the last ten years, Mr Stromberg? If this public display of affection was from a few months ago, you'd have a subject worth perhaps a few column inches. But a decade?

Get real. People change, life changes, grown kids graduate from college and make lives of their own, family dynamics shift, formerly happy couples evolve and some stay together, some split. No big story here.

Posted by: Cobalt1 | June 1, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I have said it before and I'll say it again - please, pretty please let me write for the WaPo. I can write as well as this guy. Please, please let me become a columnist and if I screw up it's because I'm not a professional.

Posted by: rlj1 | June 1, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Actually, YOU'RE pretty embarassing to be even writing a column like this.

Posted by: failsafe | June 1, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Slow news day, huh?

I know it's a cliche at this point, but this piece deserves - we are all dumber for having read this.

Posted by: lerani | June 1, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Thank God for the results in 2000. Al Gore has demonstrated himself to be a failure with living up personally to the requirements that he wishes to impose on the rest of us with the global warming hoax, his movie and ultimate Nobel Prize are a political sham and his personal life, from his son to his wife, is a train wreck. Al made a great deal of money from the climate change scam and from Daddy, but he was never really a self made man. Just a DNC puppet.

The world is a better place everyday with Al sitting alone in his huge excessively energy wasting hypocrital mansions.

Posted by: 2010Rout | June 1, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Stromberg, your update is even more absurd than the rest of your piece.

We're all glad you thought "immediately" of a kiss 10 years ago, you're clearly a source of vast political knowledge.

You say "a lot could have changed in their relationship since the convention kiss. I agree. And that’s exactly the point. We don’t know what it really meant."

That's "exactly the point"? Um, no, not at all. You're making a crappy, substance-free non-point. Whether or not the kiss meant anything 10 years ago has nothing to do with the Gore's current separation, and only media wastes like yourself still care about that kiss from 10 years back.

WANT TO BUY better political commentary in America.

Posted by: SlimTyranny | June 1, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

As that moment is replayed -- no doubt endlessly -- on cable news, we are all left to wonder: Was it all theater?

Good God man??? Are you the biggest idiot walking the face of the earth? Or do you just play one on the pages of the Washington Post?

When I read things like this I don't have to wonder for very long why we are such a nation of imbecilic fools. It is hard to believe and should be embarrassing for you that this thing made it all the way into print.

Posted by: RichardBachman5292 | June 1, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how anyone can spend 40 years with a spouse and then just say goodbye. But what do I know, I've only been married 26 years? No one ever said marriage was always a cake walk, but the cement is pretty hard by now. I don't think there is a jackhammer in existence that could crack it.

Posted by: InTheMiddle | June 1, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Blogger Rod Dreher is an opinion that such an agreement. At Vara said that the fame caused the split, saying that “it appears that the failure of their marriage could be the cost of being a famous Tipper Gore

Posted by: susan166 | June 1, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: xinunus | June 1, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Now that Gore has got his $10 million mansion in Montecito, California beach pad he wants to be a wild and crazy guy picking up the chicks in Santa Barbara and at the local university.

Posted by: sperrico | June 1, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Confirmed: Stromberg has no contact with or conception of how real people live their lives. As so many have already pointed out, it's been TEN YEARS. Things change, love fades. That doesn't mean it wasn't real at the time.

Posted by: bjhunt | June 1, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Dear InTheMiddle,

You don't know how anyone can spend 40 years with a spouse and then just say goodbye? God's word says don't ask for what you do not know. Read Job and learn all the things that can happen to test a righteous man. We can only Praise God that we do not know/understand the circumstances. And pray to God to bless the Gore's and all committed marriages for God's love and help. This world is so violent, war seeping into every relationship, money so dirty and survival so hard. Don't throw the first stone... you don't want to be be the first to cast judgment...

Posted by: cybergrace7 | June 1, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Well, the other commenters have beat me to it. Stromberg, you are the stupidest f'ing person on the planet.

Have fun when Fox News hires you -- you'll fit right in.

Posted by: AZProgressive | June 1, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

What's the REAL story here? 40 year marriages rarely end in divorce unless there is another man/woman involved...

Posted by: Sigmonde | June 1, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

"Was it all theater?"

We have a WINNER! ...of the most inane, insipid and vapid punditry of the 21st Century. Only in the Post, folks. So subscribe now.

Posted by: SB98765 | June 1, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

It looks as if most of the commentary has missed the primary point of the article, which is odd, as Stromberg seemed to make it rather well. Our political system is flooded with scripted sentimentality that deprives us of the ability to ask relevant questions of political candidates, much less get them answered. That a major party candidate should have gotten a bump in the polls from a staged event like the Gores' convention kiss suggests a public that confuses national leadership with daytime TV. The one addendum I would make to Mr. Stromberg's piece: first prize in the sad tradition of sentimental bait-n-switch goes to The Great Communicator himself, Ronald Reagan.

Posted by: emaddog | June 1, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

While this is a shame for all those concerned and after 40 years, to decide that you are better off separated than still married,,

I would like to go on record, that what we are just witnessing is the greatest danger to Marriage and the Family in America today,,,,

So lets stop blaming Gay people wanting to marry is the greatest challenge to the Family and Marriage,,,,

The greatest challenge to the Family in America and Marriage is DIVORCE....

Posted by: EastCoastnLA | June 1, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

10 years is a long time and yes, their chemistry could have changed since then. And I know long-time marriages that do dissolve. However, 2 months is not a long time ago and that's how long ago they jointly purchased a multimillion mansion in Santa Barbara, CA. You don't take a long time to progress to a mutual decision to separate (as sources have indicated) but buy real estate just before your announcement to separate. There's something else involved.

Posted by: letsbfrank5619 | June 1, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

It takes some men much linger to admit that they're gay.

Posted by: sperrico | June 1, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I have been reading this paper since the early '70's and I have to say that this is the dumbest article I have ever read.

And to those of you talking about someones preference I remind you that politicians on both sides of the aisle have been caught in that trap.

Posted by: jandlml | June 1, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

The separation may speak to the lack of moral fiber in the Gore act.
Just as he counsels energy efficiency and jets around from mansion to mansion, and sits on a fortune estimated over $100 Million, this revelation of the fake marriage is another glimpse of the reality that Al Gore may really be a total poser.

Posted by: johnL1 | June 2, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: barrysal | June 2, 2010 2:14 AM | Report abuse

theaz had the funniest comment I've seen all day. Virile, macho, manly conservatives like Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, David Vitter, Ted Klaudt, heck everybody at armchairsubversive dot com is a stalwart example of manly conservative. I'm sure Tipper is just the cougar for you, conservative America.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | June 2, 2010 3:17 AM | Report abuse

"It takes some men much linger to admit that they're gay."

And some - like spertico - NEVER admit their complete stupidity. Of course, when they post drivel like this it become apparent.

Posted by: jjcomet | June 2, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

The mere existence of this article simply screams that Stephen Stromberg has never been in a serious personal relationship with another human being. And likely never will be.

Posted by: PattiFink1 | June 2, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

The mere existence of this article simply screams that Stephen Stromberg has never been in a serious personal relationship with another human being. And likely never will be.

Posted by: PattiFink1 | June 2, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Astonishingly stupid piece. Stromberg has a bright future in cable news.

Posted by: raregood | June 2, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

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