User-generated content is now everywhere, thanks to YouTube—but in the end, Current TV did not reform the dysfunctional media oligopoly. Gore is philosophical: “It was a worthwhile experiment.” He earned about $100 million from the sale.
One casualty of Gore’s Davos Man, overscheduled life has been his marriage, one to which the term “storybook” had often been applied. He and Tipper, who’d met in high school, had been natural complements: Tipper’s “healing and soulful” mien, as Donna Brazile, Gore’s campaign manager in 2000, calls it, balanced Gore’s analytical predilections. She communicated emotion fluently and was easy to like. And she was a devoted political wife—the most supportive of the supporting cast.
But Tipper had never signed up for the political life. She thought of herself as a photographer—she’d worked as a photojournalist at The Tennessean while Gore worked there as a reporter. In those days, their shared dream was to buy a small paper and lead a bohemian life. “Tipper lived a life for a long time that I don’t think she would’ve chosen but for Al,” says a friend. “She saw his new wealth and new status as a Nobel laureate and thought, We’ve finally moved on to the next part of life.”
But Gore wanted to stay in constant motion. “I can’t really imagine retiring,” he tells me.
It was Tipper who pushed for separation. Gore didn’t want to split—but he wouldn’t rein in his schedule in order to save the marriage. “I don’t think they were compatible anymore,” says the friend.
So he and Tipper began to live separate lives—showing up to social events alone. In 2010, they made the separation public, selling it as a storybook divorce. Nowadays, they mainly see each other at events for their children and grandchildren. Tipper spends her time in Virginia and California, where, it has been reported, she is dating a photographer and continues her own photography. On her website are photographs of melting glaciers.
In January 2012, Gore threw himself a coming-out party of sorts. His Climate Reality Project, which he founded and helps fund, chartered the National Geographic Explorer, a roughly 370-foot icebreaker, to take him and 142 carefully selected paying guests to Antarctica, where he could dramatically illustrate the perils of global warming. He’d stocked the cruise with more than a dozen of the world’s top climate scientists—they came for free. The rest of the manifest was a sampling of Hollywood, do-gooders, business leaders, political loyalists, and, he hoped, future funders—the net worth of the passenger list easily was upwards of $20 billion. Tommy Lee Jones, famed actor and Gore’s classmate at Harvard, was aboard; so were Ted Turner, Tom Brokaw, Laurene Powell Jobs (Steve Jobs’s widow), John Doerr, and Richard Branson, whose Virgin Media carried Current in the U.K. and whom Gore had personally convinced over breakfast that climate change was real.
And, in one of her first public appearances, Gore showed off his new girlfriend, Elizabeth Keadle, a dark-haired, attractive woman in her fifties. Keadle is the anti-Tipper, a wealthy biotech entrepreneur, Democratic fund-raiser, environmental activist, and philanthropist. But the real mating call was science. “Proteomics,” Gore says as he details her involvement in breakthroughs at the Salk Institute. She and her ex-husband founded Invitrogen, which became Life Technologies, a public company. “It was started in her garage,” Gore says, a certain wonder in his voice.
Keadle and Gore are intellectual companions, and she is as overscheduled as he is. “She has her own standing in the world,” he says. It’s a modern arrangement. He refers to her as his “partner.” It works. “I’ve never seen him happier or more secure in his personal life than in the last year,” says a friend. Gore is quick to profess his love. “She has really been wonderful for me,” he says. “We have a great relationship, for which I thank my lucky stars.”
Floating off Antarctica, with the assembled luminaries looking on, Gore and Keadle donned bathing suits and took a ceremonial plunge into 33-degree water. “Twice,” says Gore.
Eating the soup he’d heated up in his kitchen in his solar-paneled bachelor pad on the outskirts of Nashville, Gore is open-eyed about what he lost. “Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, you’ve been able to do more since you left politics,’ ” he tells me. “I know better than that. I’m under no illusion that there is any position with anywhere near as much potential for shaping the future in a positive way than as president of the United States.”
He laughs. He’s now a rich man. “In the business world, there are rewards for solving for X,” he tells me. “But I’ve never cared that much about making money. I don’t own a plane. I own a houseboat—solar panels all over the top—my redneck yacht.
“I never said I enjoy business more than politics. I’ve never deluded myself. I miss most of all being able to grab the levers and push the buttons and have an impact on policy and lives.”
In the absence of power, there is constant travel, and writing, between knocking around this empty house. And, of course, his global-warming crusade, hair-shirt labor that somehow gives weight to the rest of it.
“There is a sense of joy in having work that is worthy of everything you can possibly pour into it,” Gore says.
“I was just on the phone this morning,” he says. “I’ve got a three-day training in Istanbul, and a three-day training in Chicago. I do probably a thousand people at each training,” teaching them to give the slideshow, the one on climate change that he’s been delivering in some form since 1989. “I’ve got slideshows in practically every language,” he says.
And there’s one specific capitalist he hopes to enlighten. Gore tells me of his ambition to have another meeting with Rupert Murdoch, to talk him through the issue, convert him to the cause. “There is still hope that he will awaken to the reality of this,” Gore says. “It would make a huge difference if he would.”