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Useful Notes / Al Gore

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He didn't invent the internet,
but he wrote the alGOREithm.

"You win some, you lose some. And then there's that little-known third category."

Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. (March 31, 1948-) was the Vice President of The United States under Bill Clinton from 1993-2001. Before that, he served as U.S. Representative for the Nashville area (1977-1985), and then as Tennessee's junior U.S. Senator (1985-1993). After Clinton was term-limited out of office in 2000, Gore became his party's nominee for President, running on a platform of "If it ain't broke..." against then-Texas Governor George W. Bush.

To the frustration of more than a few Clinton loyalists, the Gore campaign shifted from center-left to centrist in hopes of distancing him from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and what some considered a failure of oversight on Al's part. Gore started out from an advantage, as Clinton's approval ratings were still good and the economy was weathering the dot-com bubble, while Bush was viewed as little more than a brand name. That quickly changed over the course of the debates ("They misunderestimated me!"), when Bush successfully took the initiative away from Gore on the issue of Social Security privatization. Bush alleged that S.S. was going to go bankrupt if left unchecked. While Gore initially refuted this claim, he finally blinked and rolled out the "lockbox" plan, an opaque strategy to say the least. The lockbox was much-parodied and viewed by the electorate as a tacit admission that Bush was right. Unfortunately for Gore's camp, they fumbled the ball again by neglecting key battleground states — including Gore's home turf of Tennessee — which turned Red in spite of the assumption that they were in Gore's pocket.


The endgame took place in Florida, whose 25 electoral votes proved decisive. Television networks initially called the state for Gore on election night, retracted that call, called it for Bush several hours later and then retracted that call (Gore, for his part, had called Bush to concede the presidential election, then called back and retracted the concession after it was clear Florida was too close to call). Florida officials spent two months counting and re-counting ballots to determine who won the state. After a series of legal battles, culminating in a controversial ruling by the US Supreme Court, Bush carried the state by 537 votes out of nearly six million cast statewide (and that's all that needs to be said). While Florida became the focus of the legal battles, had Gore won his home state of Tennessee, or even tiny New Hampshire (where he lost by about 7,000 votes), he would have won the presidency regardless of the outcome in the Sunshine State.


Gore was a famously stiff and uncharismatic politician, but after leaving office he became an unlikely entertainment star. Gore translated his lifetime interest in environmental issues into full-time activism - his work earned him a Nobel Prize and his documentary An Inconvenient Truth won an Academy Award. There were also some concerns that he exaggerated the dangers on some issues (e.g. the "hockey stick" graph), but he generally got more right than wrong.

In 2006 he was parodied in an episode of South Park in which he insists on warning the residents of South Park about the existence of Man Bear Pig - a "half man, half bear, and half pig!" The episode ends with Al Gore attaching a cape to himself and pretending to fly off. 12 years later, South Park aired what was essentially an apology episode where Man Bear Pig was proven to be very real and very deadly, though Gore himself is still portrayed as egotistical and prissy.

He also did voice work for Futurama (his daughter Kristin was a writer on the show) in a series of amusing, self-deprecating appearances as himself. He founded, co-headed and appeared on the network Current TV until selling it in 2012 to Qatar-based news group Al-Jazeera.

No, he did not invent the Internet. No, he didn't say he did.

What he actually said was, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system." He was referring to, among other things, a law he authored and pushed through that opened up ARPANET (precursor of today's Internet) to beyond the military and select universities. For what it's worth, Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn have agreed with his statement, and he can be credited with coining the term "Information Superhighway."

Just for added strangeness, Gore was Tommy Lee Jones' roommate at Harvard. And according to author Erich Segal (who attended Harvard at the same time) the hero of his novel Love Story was based on a fusion of the two of them.

Much like his former running mate Bill Clinton, satirical depictions of Gore in popular culture have given him a surprisingly broad range of comedic personas over the course of his political career. When he was Vice President in the 1990s, they tended to portray him as an overly educated, monotonous-voiced Straw Vulcan, with many an Obligatory Joke about him supposedly being "boring". Later, after he became primarily known for speaking out about climate change in the 2000s, he was often humorously portrayed as a wild-eyed doomsayer ranting about The End of the World as We Know It.

Tropes as portrayed in fiction:

  • Adam Westing: Mainly on Futurama. He also plays himself in a West Wing sketch (along with Martin Sheen and the other regulars) on Saturday Night Live: The cast and crew try to usher him out of the Oval Office set, but Al refuses to budge, pretending to ring up Putin on a prop phone.


Example of: