Al Gore is the media man of the hour, from the cover of Vanity Fair to this week's Wall Street Journal piece about a possible 2008 run. The story has a familiar ring, but it's hard to say exactly why. Let's make it a game.
Which Other Recent Story Does the Gore Boomlet Most Resemble?
1. Tom Cruise Mania. Cruise is the most bankable movie star. Gore is the most bankable Democratic star. OK, the second-most bankable, but he's the only one who's had big box office, even if his 2000 "win" ultimately bombed. As with Cruise, the real reason journalists care so much about Gore right now is that he has a new movie. The stories start popping and you wonder, why am I suddenly hearing so much about Cruise/Gore? It's the public-relations blitz, stupid. There's also the curious new urgency of both men's public behavior. True, Mission Impossible III is a bit of a dud. But Gore's An Inconvenient Truth isn't even out yet and Time is quoting another moviemaker as saying it "may save the planet." Get ready.
2. The iPod. If you're a certain kind of Democrat, there's a nifty new device that plays exactly the song you want to hear—righteous take-back-our-country indignation, the Dean Scream with gravitas. Like the iPod, the GorePod has something for every taste, including Republican ones. After all, a Gore candidacy is arguably a GOP dream: He's already shown he can lose. When Dems click on their Gore playlist, listen closely and you'll hear the other team whistling along.
3. David Blaine. The illusionist spent seven-odd minutes holding his breath in the bubble and came out alive. Al Gore spent six-odd years in the weird snow globe where presidential losers go, and he's alive, too. Watch as the crowds cheer his strange bravery! There's a certain grandiosity to both men, but never mind. The whole world wants to know: What will Blaine/Gore do next?
4. The Checkers Speech. It's not a recent story, yet the parallels are striking. In 1952, Richard Nixon went on TV to defend himself against scandalous charges, an early case of a pol going around the news media, directly to the people. Al Gore was so fed up with establishment journalists who mocked him that he created his own cable channel, Current TV. Right after their respective end runs, both Nixon and Gore had comebacks. The parallels go deeper: Sitting vice president loses White House race in suspicious squeaker, later goes into hibernation, returns eight years later as unpopular war is tearing country apart, defeats party rivals to take nomination, and wins! OK, that last bit hasn't happened to Gore yet. But it could.
5. Google. It was the media darling of last year, as Al Gore is the buzz of today. Google is all about the Internet, which Al Gore didn't invent but championed. Now, in an amazing convergence, Gore is a senior adviser to Google. He's reportedly rich thanks partly to his Google holdings, which gives him the ineffable rich-guy aura that turns journalists to mush. Google has seen a bit of a crash in its reputation, as it's gone from all-time media hero to sometime-goat, and its stock price took a hit. Could Gore be headed the same way?
6. The New Black. It's green. Fashion writer Suzy Menkes did a story about it last month for the International Herald Tribune, headlined "Eco-Friendly: Why Green Is the New Black." Who is the greenest man in politics? Why, it's Al Gore! Vanity Fair put a green-tinted Al Gore on its May cover, proving that Al Gore is the new Al Gore. Or is he just the new Ralph Nader?
7. Lance Armstrong. Last week's Sports Illustrated had the miracle man on its cover, surrounded by children. "LANCE NOW," said the headline, "Attacking His New Career Like He Did the Tour de France and Closing Ground on Cancer. He's Becoming a Political Force Unlike Any Other Athlete in History." Replace "the Tour de France" with "Global Warming" and "Cancer" with "the White House" and, voilà , it's Al Gore, American Hero. Watch as he cruises to victory in the Tour de Media.