Al Gore: "I am Maximus."

Barton Gellman and Amy Wilentz

Al Gore: "I am Maximus."

Barton Gellman and Amy Wilentz

Al Gore: "I am Maximus."
An email conversation about the news of the day.
May 17 2000 1:20 PM

Barton Gellman and Amy Wilentz

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Amy,

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Boy, did you bury the lede in your ruminations over Al Gore at Columbia Law last night. I had to find it in my own newspaper, an account of the evening by Gore biographer Ellen Nakashima. The piece talked as much about Karenna Gore Schiff as her dad, citing a political "elan her father lacks." (Reporters get to write that way in Style.) To go with your whole "inanimate" riff, did you see what Ellen did at the end when Karenna joined your brother in the diploma line? I'll just quote it without comment: "Last night, as her name was called, as Karenna Gore Schiff strode proudly across that stage, her father, who was congratulating each student, held out his right hand to shake hers. But his daughter knew better. She reached out and embraced him."

The hard part about calls to public service in a self-satisfied sort of year is describing the cause, exactly. Gore enjoined the new lawyers to "remember that your lives have meaning and you have a purpose, that meaning in life comes from relationships with others, your family and friends. ... No generation has been given so great an opportunity to serve--and so great a challenge to make a difference." If he spelled out any vision of that cause my paper missed it.

As for his leadership, which you asked about yesterday, Maureen Dowd has an entertaining column in today's Times. I like her stuff a lot better now that she's found another target than Monica. Dowd, imagining Gore's reaction to the Times/CBS poll, reports from inside the V.P.'s head: "Why can't people see it? I am Maximus. He is Commodus. I am the handsome gladiator who has proved himself in the arena. He is the beady-eyed loser son of the emperor." Up next, from inside W.'s head: I am Fred, he is Barney?

UPI by now is like Rasputin, the one they had to poison, stab, shoot, and drown because he wouldn't quite die. It has gone from a global news leader to a shell of a shell, which is sad. I had a wonderful stringer in Gaza City whose main gig was filing for UPI, a self-educated Palestinian with the wonderful name of Saud Abu Ramadan. UPI allegedly paid him some pittance, but often failed to come up with even that. Eventually they decided they didn't need anyone covering Palestinians after all. The thing about Helen Thomas is she was just about the last journalist working there. Your friend de Borchgrave, by the way, is quoted as saying, "Everyone is dispensable." Turn the light out when you leave, Arnaud.

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Bart

A former Pentagon, Middle East, and diplomatic correspondent, Barton Gellman is special projects reporter for the Washington Post. Amy Wilentz is the author of The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier. She writes frequently about the Middle East and is finishing a novel about Jerusalem.