When Al Gore appeared on Saturday Night Live, it was as if the strange forces tugging at our political cosmos were finally resting in perfect equipoise. Republicans may have installed themselves in the White House, Congress, Albany, and Gracie Mansion, but for one glittering instant, the entire Clinton administration had crammed itself into a few square blocks of Manhattan. With Bill, Hill, Al, and Tipper all here (not to mention Bob Rubin and George Stephanopoulos), the city had become a glamorous Elba, an outpost of forsaken ideals. The next day, after Gore announced he wouldn’t run in 2004, it raised a tantalizing possibility: What if he moved here for good?
“I don’t know,” Dick Morris says skeptically. “This isn’t like Bill Clinton and Arkansas. Bill’s dad was a car dealer; Gore’s was a senator. That Tennessee estate has been in his family for generations.”
True (there’s no need to get snippy about it, Dick), but a house in Nashville and a farm in Carthage hardly rule out the possibility of a pied-à-terre in Manhattan -- especially now that the Gores are vacating their Arlington home. Unlike Bill Clinton, who was unwelcome at the Century on Central Park West, Gore is the ultimate snooty-building candidate; hell, he’d probably wind up running the Century one day (based on the strength of his monograph “Reinventing the Co-op,” or his successful initiatives adding solar panels and T3 connectivity).
The city could use him, too. So far, Bill’s been a disappointing New Yorker; he’s been in Manhattan, but not of it. Al, a creature of habit, would at least develop a visible routine: daily jogs around the reservoir, jazz Fridays at the Planetarium, Atkins-friendly lunches at Virgil’s (but not Michael’s if he’s still seething at Clinton, or the Grey Dog, where he might run into Monica -- hello!). And if Hillary bloomed in this town, Tipper would, too. She could haul out her drum set, maybe join a grrrl band. And she’d take great photos.
The Gores already spend a lot of time here. Their oldest daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, lives on the East Side with her two children, and Al’s gig with MetWest Financial, a Los Angeles–based consulting firm, frequently brings him in contact with the Wall Street brainiacs who once funded his cause. (Friends say he speaks to Steve Rattner at least once a week.) “During the past year,” adds Janice Griffin, the head of Gore’s political-action committee, “we always knew that if we wanted him to do something he wasn’t thrilled about, we’d tremendously increase our odds if we scheduled it in New York.”
The ex-veep couldn’t carry his home state, but New Yorkers voted more overwhelmingly for Gore than Texans did for Bush. We’d call him Mr. President. And we’d mean it. “We could rename FDR Drive ‘the Beltway’ so that Gore feels more comfortable,” suggests consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who advised Clinton and Gore in ’96. “And I’m sure some New York genius will come up with the Clinton-administration-in-exile tour, pointing out where they all live and work.”