And So's Your Old Man
Why isn't George W. more like his dad?
W. has bartered the high-status accomplishments of his father for something more precious: regular guyness. He is warm and impulsive where his father was distant and calculating. Every story about the son applauds his democratic instincts, his ease with all kinds of people, his ebullience and physicality, his informality. His passionate Methodism contrasts with his ancestors' chilly Episcopalianism.
The Gore dynasty, oddly, has followed the opposite path. Al Gore Jr. has outdone his senator father in the calculus of political achievement, but the veep is stiff and awkward and dutiful in a way that his impulsive, backslappy dad never was. George W. Bush jokes that his father's idea of a perfect son is Al Gore Jr. This may be America's choice in 2000: the George W. Bush who isn't George H.W. Bush, or the Al Gore who is.
David Plotz is the Editor of Slate. He's the author of The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank and Good Book. He appears on Slate's Political Gabfest.