Gore: A Political Life

Bob Zelnick, Author, Robert Zelnick, Author
Bob Zelnick, Author, Robert Zelnick, Author Regnery Publishing $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-89526-326-1
Paperback - 404 pages - 978-0-89526-241-7
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Albert Arnold Gore Jr., who once called the American vice-presidency a ""political dead end,"" will not be flattered by this biography from former ABC News correspondent Zelnick (Backfire). The author does little to penetrate Gore's famously wooden exterior and compiles the usual list of anecdotes from Gore's formative years at the knee of his father, a U.S. senator from Tennessee: working on a farm from sunrise to sunset to ""build his character,"" joining Harvard roommate Tommy Lee Jones onstage for an ""Old Time Country Panorama,"" writing an eerily prescient honors thesis on the impact of television on the presidency. But when Zelnick turns to Gore's political career, starting with election to the House in 1976, it becomes apparent that objective biography is not his aim. In successive chapters, he attacks Gore for reversing positions on abortion, for incorporating his sister's death into his speech at the 1996 Democratic National Convention and for capitulating to unions when ""reinventing"" government. Zelnick pummels Gore for making what Zelnick says were illegal fund-raising calls from the White House and for accepting campaign contributions from Chinese citizens. He even manages to accuse Gore of being both a radical and a hypocrite on core environmental issues. Many of these concerns seem legitimate, raising troubling questions about the man who would be president. But although it is rarely malicious, Zelnick's assault is so relentless that it is difficult to accept all of his charges. At times he can be gracious (Gore's stint as an army reporter in Vietnam, Zelnick states, was ""decent and honorable""), but the cumulative weight of his book is overwhelmingly and exhaustively critical. (May)
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