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Somehow I missed this story until I saw it on the headlines of the National Enquirer. Perhaps that's because the "respectable" media has been trying to avoid it. And yet, it has all the elements of a great story: man who was elected president but cheated out of it by GOP dirty tricks then turns moral crusader for the environment attacks a massage therapist in a hotel room. In other words, Al Gore, a massage therapist, and a strange stain on a pair of pants.
According to a complaint filed by the massage therapist in Portland, OR, Gore attacked her in a hotel room where she was giving him a massage in October of 2006. The woman apparently saved her pants as evidence of her contact with Gore which leads to one and only one question: Where the hell was Al Gore when Clinton was impeached for "evidence" on Monica Lewinski's dress?
Of course there are a few other questions circulating too. According to the complaint, the sexual contact was unwanted. But if it was unwanted, why are there rumors that Al Gore left Tipper because of a relationship with a massage therapist? Also, why did the woman describe the former Vice President as a "giggling sex-crazed poodle." What does a sex-crazed poodle look like and how does it giggle? Finally, why did the woman initially refuse to cooperate with police even as she hired an attorney and carefully saved the pants as "evidence." She says she wasn't interested in money, that she didn't want to be labeled a "gold digger," but she simultaneously tried to sell her story to the National Enquirer for a million bucks.
Also, why do Americans continue to care about the sex lives of our political leaders? Why does Al Gore being "happily married" to Tipper for forty years mark him as a good person while Bill Clinton, who is married but has a clearly complex relationship with Secretary of State Clinton, is considered lacking in moral leadership?
Marriage is a property contract between two people, not a sign of moral superiority. It doesn't guarantee that the husband and wife will be better people, take more ethical stances in their lives, or even be nice to the family dog. The only thing "married" guarantees is that both will have a claim to any and all properties, including children.
But because our country is so embedded in the idea that good people are those that discipline their sexual impulses and confine them to marriage, we are unable to actually consider what politicians stand for until we have forced them to prove themselves "good husbands" (and sometimes "good wives"). Until we can stop believing the Disney fairytale that marriage is the only goal, the one path to a good and happy life, we will continue to elect leaders who are actually sex-crazed poodles but stand around waving with their wives tightly by their sides.
And that's too bad. Because a lot of those poodles would be better off chasing sticks than leading this country. And as for Al Gore- his real lack of ethical judgment was when he backed down from taking his rightful role as the elected leader of this country and gave it over to George Bush, leaving us with Afghanistan and Iraq to contend with ad infinitum. Anything else Gore does, moral or immoral, pales in comparison to the horror his lack of backbone visited on this country and the world. Bad dog indeed.
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Yesterday I was in the grocery store and got sucked into my favorite journal of American popular culture. No, not People. The National Enquirer. In case you haven't noticed, the National Enquirer always has the absolute juiciest celebrity gossip in print. Obviously there's even better stuff on the web, like Perez, but when forced to wait in long check out lines, I like to think that my grocery store is really inviting me to take a few minutes to catch up on important information, like "How to have the best sex ever" (Cosmo) or which Hollywood star is pregnant (People) or how to better organize my closets (Real Simple). Mostly, I read the National Enquirer because for the past fifteen years or so, they've been right a lot of the time and way ahead of the news cycle when it comes to sex and famous people.
Remember when Ellen was straight? Guess who wrote about that long before she became Ellen the lesbian? Remember when it seemed like Bush was untouchable? Guess who wrote about his drinking problems and how Laura wants to leave him long before his popularity in the polls started to slip? Yup. The National Enquirer. The reporters there seem to know things that other journalists just don't see. Not that other journalists don't love a scandal.
After all, when the Enquirer broke the John Edwards affair, other "reputable" news outfits couldn't get enough of it. And when Edwards' affair killed his chance at getting the Democratic nomination for President, it was not the Enquirer that continued to play and replay the story because they had already moved on to drunken Dubbya or still philandering Bill.
And now the tabloid has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism and it is no doubt driving "real" journalists crazy. After all, real journalists don't care about whether politicians have extramarital affairs; they care about policy. As if!
The truth is that "real" journalism is increasingly concerned with the personal life of everyone. This "oprahfication" of news- where it's all personal all the time- happened alongside a "de-fanging" of independent journalism as news outlets became controlled by a handful of corporations that cut budgets for investigative reporting and limited the media's role as watchdog to the point that political and corporate leaders are no longer even questioned by most U.S. reporters.
The emphasis on the personal even as news was depoliticized makes it impossible to say that the New York Times is "real" and the Enquirer is "gossip." The Enquirer is unabashedly about the personal; the Times tries to maintain a veneer of the fourth estate about it. But the actual line between "real" journalism and tabloids has become so blurry that it can no longer be discerned.
And so the National Enquirer may get a Pulitzer for investigative journalism, as they should. And if we're really lucky, the story about Oprah's big fat gay lies and Liz Taylor getting married again and Taylor Swift being a sex addict will also be true. Not because it would "change history" the way the Edwards' story did, but because it will make my check out line reading ever so much more amusing.