"The male body is home to me, my rocket, my whirlpool." So wrote Naomi Wolf in her book, "Fire With Fire" which will soon be required reading along the campaign trail. Wolf--sometimes a feminist, sometimes not, but always controversial--has just been revealed as a secret Al Gore campaign adviser, apparently teaching the vice president how to be a rocket and a whirlpool. Some of us, though, would settle for just plain Al Gore.
But it is more and more clear that no one, least of all Al Gore, knows who that is. This is why he moved his campaign headquarters from Washington to Nashville, why he has gotten some new suits (it's the whirlpool look), and often appears in leisure clothing. He is newly energetic, sometimes manic and moves like a character in some speeded-up silent movie. I suppose this is what happens when you're a rocket.
The Esquire magazine piece from which I took that quote from Wolf's book is full of other quotes, none of which I can repeat. Wolf is awfully explicit about sex, and sex is a lot of what she talks about. She has prescribed "sexual gradualism" for teen-agers--a kind of middle ground between abstinence and sexual intercourse. Kids would sort of feel their way from one step to another, but never go all the way. She wrote this, she said, "in the first person sexual."
Say what you will about Wolf, she's been more candid about sex than Gore's been about her. He made her a campaign consultant at an astounding $15,000 a month. (It's since been reduced to $5,000.) Her salary was filtered through first one consulting firm and then another in an apparent attempt to conceal her from the press. (Who else is on the payroll, Al--Richard Simmons?) What's more, Wolf was pulling down her big bucks at a time when the Gore campaign was throwing people overboard, trying to save some money and being criticized for being consultant-heavy. She must be worth plenty.
But for what? Time magazine, which broke the story, and The Washington Post, which expanded it, tell us that she sits in on strategy meetings and helped Gore prepare for his debate with Bill Bradley. (Is Bradley's coach Phil Jackson?) She's told him to "speak from the heart" which, given how Gore has recounted his family's tragedies, I thought he was already doing. She also--and this is critical--reportedly advised her candidate to use more olive green, brown and shades of tan in his wardrobe. Gore has complied. The polls have yet to record the difference.
More important (if possible), Wolf has counseled Gore to be tougher, more aggressive--an alpha male who leads the pack and not a beta male who simply follows. Bill Clinton, as we all know, is the alpha male and Gore is the beta one. (Vice presidents, by virtue of the Constitution, are very beta.)
So do not be surprised if, someday soon, you hear Gore growl. Do not be surprised if, at some Rose Garden event, he bares his teeth at Clinton or--in a suit selected by Wolf--sniffs him. He may even come up to him and challenge him to arm wrestle. No one has ever done that to a president before--not in an olive green suit, anyway. This will surely win Gore the respect, admiration and sighs of countless Americans.
In fairness to Wolf, she is relatively young (almost 37), has written much and has said some things that lend themselves to parody. She is smart, a Rhodes scholar and a dandy writer. Her political theories regarding the voting power of women are not silly, and she may well represent a generation that Gore ought to hear from. She is sure right about one thing: Gore is beta all the way--and Naomi Wolf has proved it.
An alpha male would not have hidden her. An alpha male would not have been afraid to be up-front, maybe introducing her to the press and saying--in effect--I'll take your best punch. And an alpha candidate would have realized that Wolf's presence on the payroll was going to leak. After all, she was pulling down big money. Others had been fired. This was Washington. This was politics.
Mostly, though, an alpha candidate would not need Wolf at all. He would not have to be told who he is and how to dress. He would be led by conviction--out of a solid sense of who he is. Gore keeps signaling that's not the case. Maybe, come to think of it, he's a whirlpool after all. His campaign's going down the drain.