Gore urges students to make things up
Al Gore tells UNH students about his work "finding
a cure for the debilitating effects of charisma."
By John Breneman
Vice President Al Gore, who attracted worldwide attention
for his claim that he invented the Internet, used his keynote
address at yesterday's University of New Hampshire commencement
to urge the 2,400 graduates to "harness the power of
Gore asserted that, if not for his "unwavering faith
in the human imagination," he never could have invented
the cellular telephone, the lightning rod or the pneumatic
"A healthy imagination," the vice president continued,
"was absolutely vital to my groundbreaking work in finding
a cure for the debilitating effects of charisma."
Gore also cited his quantum theory of rabies immunization
and his new quadruple-blade shaving system in touting "the
infinite power of a vivid imagination, cluelessly deployed."
After announcing that each graduate would receive a coupon
for a 12-oz. bottle of "Al Gore's Own" mango vinaigrette
salad dressing, the vice president issued a special invitation
to all wealthy alumni to visit him in Washington for a cup
of his new White House Fund-Raiser brand instant coffee.
Several months back, the hubbub over Gore's statement about
his pioneering work on the Internet drew satirical responses
from Senate Majority Trent Lott, who amused Washingtonians
by claiming to have invented the paper clip, and Dan Quayle,
who quipped, "If Gore invented the Internet, I invented
At UNH yesterday, Gore picked up the banter between the two
presidential aspirants by claiming to have invented J. Danforth
Quayle during his undergraduate days at Harvard. Gore said
he invented Quayle for a political science case study of a
privileged, but intellectually challenged legislator at around
the same time that he and his future wife Tipper inspired
Erich Segal's classic romance novel "Love Story."
The university presented Vice President Gore with an honorary
Doctor of Laws degree for his "unbelievable contributions
to the world of patent law."
Humor Gazette editor John Breneman is a
figment of Al Gore's imagination.
Cowboy boot issue shouldn't hurt Gore
I'm no expert on Al Gore's strategy for providing universal
health care, but I do know that he disrupted my recovery from
the flu when he passed through town this week. I had planned
to take Tuesday afternoon off and just lapse into viral-induced
dreamland. That was before I learned that the vice president
would be visiting not only our fair city, but our fair newsroom
as well. So it was time to "suck it up" as they
say in the rough-and-tumble world of professional journalism.
I had to be there, because I play a key role in the political
process here in our First-in-the-Nation-Primary state. You
see, there is no shortage of people to report on presidential
platforms and policies. But who else will provide you with
first-hand coverage of the way Gore's ears tend to rise slightly
with certain facial expressions?
Who else will dispel the "Al Gore is a complete stiff
misconception by describing the way he tipped back in his
chair while talking about "an economic policy that unlocks
the potential of our people"?
But one cannot give the true flavor of the Al Gore experience
without describing what happens before the vice presidential
Al was scheduled to arrive here at 3 p.m. Tuesday for an
intimate chat with our editorial board. Fortunately, the vice
presidential procession was running late so I had a little
time to observe the crew of Secret Service agents in action
as they conducted an elaborate "sweep" of our building.
There were agents of all shapes and sizes, each of course
with a telltale wire extending from their ear down into their
clothing. The bomb-sniffing dogs were two of the most beautiful
animals I have seen, especially the black one (they wouldn't
divulge his name, so I shall call him "Blacky").
Blacky's partner led him through each room and every time
the agent pointed to a spot Blacky would sniff it, I assume
to see if there was a bomb or an Algerian terrorist hidden
in some nook or cranny or filing cabinet.
The most impressive part was Blacky's reach. He is so large
that when he stands on his hind legs he is capable of sniffing
a spot seven or eight feet off the ground. I'll never forget
Blacky. Security was tight. And though none of us were physically
frisked, I think I saw one of the Secret Service agents undressing
me with his/her eyes.
Around 4:02 p.m., the 10 of us who would participate in the
interview were instructed to file into our small conference
room. An event at Somersworth High School had concluded and
Al was on the way.
"They kicked me out of my office," said our publisher.
"I wasn't going to argue with them." They also read
some of our faxes and looked in our desk drawers, but I guess
you can't be too careful nowadays.
As we sat in the conference room waiting, there was the usual
joking around. We speculated on the contents of the two small
yellow canvas satchels sitting in the corner, stamped with
large black letters VRU. ("It detects something,"
said the publisher's assistant.)
The minutes ticked by, and one editor who shall remain nameless
said, "I think the first question should be `where the
hell have you been'?" But when Gore arrived moments later,
he defused that line of questioning by politely apologizing
for being late. We all introduced ourselves and shook the
vice president's hand.
He won points with me right off the bat by failing to wear
a tie, though for some reason I still tend to find cowboy
boots a little hokey. Mr. Gore appeared quite relaxed in a
plaid shirt open at the collar and khaki-style pants. When
asked, he requested a cup of decaf. That cup -- a plain black
mug -- now sits on a shelf next to the newsroom police scanner
sporting a sticky note that says, "Al Gore drank here
Jan, 4, 2000."
I wanted to ask him if he had come out with any new innovations
since his much-celebrated announcement that he had invented
the Internet. But I felt that would be disrespectful, so when
my turn came I posed some lame question about health care.
("Mr. Gore, does your vision of universal health care
cover people who suffer from gangrene?" Yes. "Rickets?"
Yes. "Subdural hemotoma?" Yes. "How about dogs?
Are dogs covered?" No. "Aha!")
Gore gave earnest answers to our questions, almost none of
which were what we newspaper types call "softballs."
But we were also in for a pleasant surprise. Al Gore, a man
dogged with the reputation of being stiff and humorless, is
actually pretty funny.
He was right there with the banter, mostly the kind of stuff
where you had to be there, conversational quips that don't
sound funny at all when some idiot columnist tries to recreate
them in print. But trust me, Gore knows how to joke around
a little and seems to enjoy it.
Our time passed quickly. He used the words "bold"
and "sweeping" a couple times to describe his vision
for our future. Basically he wants to "keep the prosperity
going, bring about revolutionary improvements in our public
schools ... clean up our environment ... (and launch) a focused
step-by-step approach to get universal health care."
Before we knew it a big fellow with glasses and a long coat
opened the door and made "let's go" eye contact
with Doug Hattaway, Gore's Granite State press guy. But Al
wasn't quite done. He answered a few more questions, chided
Bill Bradley for limited vision, and said "OK, we're
coming" when the big fellow poked his head in again a
few minutes later. More handshakes. Then, "Oh, one other
thing. I'd like to formally ask for your endorsement."
We'll take that under consideration.
As is customary with these kinds of visits, Al then visited
our newsroom to say hello to all the reporters and editors,
to shake hands and state the absurdly obvious. "Hi, I'm
Somehow I ended up shaking Al Gore's hand four times that
day. The last time, unbeknownst to the Secret Service, I concealed
in my right palm a tiny Handshake Biorhythm Calibration Monitor
-- an imaginary device I use to determine whether a test subject
would function capably in an important leadership role.
Al Gore -- the possible next president of the United States
of America -- did extremely well on my little test, despite
a spike in the readings that I suspect was caused by friction
from his cowboy boots.
Humor Gazette editor John Breneman is in
favor of bold, sweeping adjectives.