If Al Gore had listened to me, we would not be in Iraq today. It's not that I didn't understand the significance of a campaign theme song when I attempted to submit it to him in the election of 2000, I just couldn't find anyone to take me seriously enough. See, I'm a Gore man; have been since 1988 when I was fortunate enough to join a multi-religious delegation from Tennessee to the state of Israel, led by then Senator Gore, and accompanied by Tipper and his children. It was supposed to be a cultural exchange program with a grand concert in Jerusalem with a cadre of Nashville acts like the Charlie Daniels Band and the Oak Ridge Boys. Living in Nashville, I went to the promoter and begged to musically represent Memphis on the show, but when turned down, I joined the tour group anyway. In the end, not enough people signed up to make it worthwhile to take planeloads of country bands to the Holy Land, so the only musicians in attendance were songwriter Dave Olney, gospel star Bobby Jones, and me. We ended up performing in the courtyard of the Laromme Hotel in Jerusalem for the delegation, the Gores and their staff, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, and Mayor Teddy Kollak. It was good the country stars stayed in Nashville. On the same night as our courtyard concert, Bob Dylan appeared in Jerusalem.
Even then, Gore suffered from the "stiff" syndrome, but I was able to notice that it usually happened just for the cameras. When Gore was at ease with his family, being a tourist like the rest of us while instructing his girls about the meaning of the sights we were witnessing, he was approachable and affable. When Gore was briefed by the Israeli Government on the then novel idea of "land for peace," he took time to board our different tour buses and use the driver's microphone to brief us on what he had learned. During that trip, observing Al Gore in both formal and informal moments, I came to believe that Gore was the ablest, brightest, and most sincere politician/candidate in Congress. That's why I tried to help with a song for the 2000 race.
Every political theme song from FDR's "Happy Days Are Here Again," to JFK's "High Hopes," have had one thing in common. They are instantly recognizable and beloved songs that are adaptable for lyrical changes to promote the candidate. It's no mean thing to get Frank Sinatra to record your campaign theme as JFK did, and who can listen to that Fleetwood Mac song any longer without first thinking of the Clintons? Since I had described myself as a "Gore Man," it was easy to transfer that lyric to the Sam & Dave soul classic, "Soul Man." I rewrote the whole song, including a tag in the chorus to be sung by a woman to make the song gender neutral. Imagine these lyrics being sung by Sam Moore and say, Sheryl Crow;
He's coming to you/On a high road/brain power, he's got a truckload/ and when you get him/You got something/So don't worry/Cause Al's coming
chorus: I'm a Gore Man/ (female) and I'm a Gore Woman/
I'm a Gore Man, "play it Steve./"
bridge: Grab a rope/ He'll pull you in/give us hope/ and bring this country back again/ yeah, YEAH"
Would it not have been cool to have Sam Moore record that for a theme instead of the insipid "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," by the stuttering Cheap Trick? Better yet, have Sam Moore tour with Gore and sing the song at every major rally. I imagine if they'd asked nicely, they might have gotten the Blues Brothers' Band to participate. I believe Steve Cropper is a good Democrat even though I once caught him in Nashville producing an album on Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Although song parody is legal, I even told one of the composers, David Porter, what I had in mind and he thought it was a great idea. I attempted several times to reach someone within the Gore campaign and was finally able to speak to a staffer who promised to forward the song to the person who could give it proper consideration. I admonished him to please tell whomever received the suggestion that it may sound like a joke on paper, but I was most serious in my intent to boost the campaign. I did not hear from them again. Who knows? "I'm a Gore Man," might have inspired a few extra Florida voters to go to the polls just for the soul music.
When 2004 rolled around, I dusted off the song and prepared to offer it again. I delighted in Gore's hilarious performance as host on Saturday Night Live and was sure this was the "new, relaxed" Gore preparing for a second presidential run. But, he said instead that he did not want to re-fight the election of 2000 and would not run. I wanted exactly to re-fight the 2000 election and I felt Gore would win in a walk and was bitterly disappointed by his decision. I felt he was making a political "Nixon calculation;" the one that says "if the people are tired of me then I will lay low and re-invent myself and fight another day." Nixon, like Gore, lost one of the most closely contested races in history. Close enough that Mayor Daley of Chicago and officials in Cook County, Illinois were suspected of padding the "zombie vote," enough to throw the election to Kennedy. After eight years of war and a fistful of political assassinations, the nation was so screwed up that Nixon was elected by the same razor thin margin that he lost by in 1960.
I believe this was Al Gore's strategy. I cannot believe that after a lifetime of being groomed for high office, Gore would just turn his back and walk away from the presidency after coming so close. If this was his calculation, it has proven to be a miscalculation, complicated by a factor Gore could not have seen in 2004. That "X" factor's name is Barack Obama. I don't think even an Academy Award could get Gore elected now. I only know as much about Obama as the next extremely well informed person, despite the reckless smear attempts by Fox News and Rev. Moon's Washington Times organization, to label him a Muslim who only conveniently converted to Christianity in time to run for President: all despicable lies, proven false by some simple decent journalism. I am impressed, however, with Obama's measured magnetism.
Obama's lack of experience is a false negative. What is appealing about him is his relative ease in his own skin and his forthrightness of speech. Obviously intelligent and thoughtful, Obama has a way of distilling his thoughts into succinct and direct answers to the questions asked of him without pretense or prevarication. The public response to Obama's steady assurance of confidence and calm has not been seen since the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy. And regardless of his legislative experience, his middle name, his race,(I'm sure he'll be portrayed as an axe murdered before it's over),or his faith, Obama is the kind of candidate that appears once in a generation. And if the heavens line up as properly for him in the future as they have in the past, Barack Hussein Obama, is beginning to take on the appearance of that rarest of beings, an historical inevitability.
There's lots of time for faux pas and screw-ups for one and all, but Obama does not seem the type politician to be caught in a contradiction of principle. Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post made some prescient editorial comments yesterday when she said about the campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry, "Both...were listening to their political advisers and pollsters instead of to their hearts. Trying to be what they thought people wanted them to be, rather than who they are," adding, "they may have wanted it too much." "Want has a scent. It reeks of rapaciousness and oozes from the pores of the overly ambitious. Others likely to make a run in 2008 are similarly malodorous, and you know who they are." I certainly do, but Obama is not among them. His reflective demeanor prevented him from acquiring the affliction that makes desire and desperation visible to the observer, like Al Gore demonstrated in 2000 with the "Love Story" Convention Kiss, or the invasion of Dubya's limited debating space. One of the reasons Bush was elected was simply because he was not devouring himself with desire. For now, I'm still a Gore man, but I'm watching carefully and worried that I may have to sing my Gore song alone. In that case, I may have to adapt the old Mexican song favorite "Manana," and change the lyrics to,"Obama, Obama; Obama is good enough for me."