It was not long into Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me that I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized what's wrong with Vice President Al Gore. Just like Austin Powers, the veep has lost his mojo!
Okay, I know half of you are wondering what's wrong with me that I would go to see Austin Powers, and the other half are wondering what's wrong with me that I would think about Al Gore while watching any movie at all. These things are far too complicated to explain. All I can tell you is that there I sat, with this heavy new awareness weighing on my mind.
For those of you who have not had the dubious pleasure of watching Austin Powers, it's perhaps necessary to explain that the aptly named Dr. Evil steals Austin's mojo.
At first, in Austin's case, it seems that replacing the mojo could be accomplished with a little Viagra. But indeed, we learn that mojo is not really about sexual function but about swagger, self-confidence and charisma.
When I first met Al Gore, he seemed to have plenty of all of those attributes. He was a young Congressman, I a fledgling reporter. I went up to Capitol Hill to interview him and came away impressed with the fact that his staff was asking HIM substantive questions about the matter at hand, rather than the other way around as usually happens.
He was brimming with self-assurance and exuded the message that he was "going places." He did go straight to the Senate and on to the vice presidency.
In 1996 when I covered the Clintons and Gores on a three-day bus trip through the Pacific Northwest, Al may have been basking in the reflection of the president's mighty mojo, but teenage girls and housewives clutching babies were swooning over him. One of the Secret Service vans got stuck in the mud and Clinton-Gore rolled up their sleeves to help free the vehicle. It was Mojo City! And Gore had mojo aplenty when he debated Ross Perot about NAFTA.
Maybe Gore's mojo started to evaporate at that disastrous White House Press conference at which, instead of apologizing for making fundraising calls from his taxpayer-funded office, he insisted that there was "no controlling legal principle" to determine the correctness of his actions. Or perhaps it vaporized when Gore announced that he'd invented the Internet. Or could it have been kidnapped by George W. Bush?
The governor of Texas looks tanned and lean and fit and ready. He not only has mojo, but also Big Mo as in momentum. It was George Bush Senior who coined that phrase during one of his runs for the presidency, little knowing that his own sn would have so much mo that he could raise more than $36 million in campaign contributions by doing little more than grinning and talking about "compassionate conservativism."
But no, George W. Bush doesn't have Al Gore's mojo. Unlike Dr. Evil, he doesn't need it. And like Austin Powers, Gore has it somewhere within himself. He just has to find it.