Seventh in a series
There was a curb and a kiss and then he was gone. He said goodbye to his fiancee, Tipper Aitcheson, slipped behind the wheel of his red-and-white Camaro, and drove south from Boston. It was August 1969, the month of Woodstock, the seminal rock festival that would embody the live-for-the-moment mood of his generation, but Al Gore had another idea and destination in mind. He was off to join the Army.
Gore could have enlisted in Boston or Cambridge, where he had just graduated cum laude from Harvard. He could have returned to Tennessee and signed up at his local draft board in Carthage, where he had first registered and where his parents had a farm overlooking the Caney Branch. Or he might have walked into a recruiting station in Washington, where he had attended prep school and where Albert and Pauline Gore, the U.S. senator and his wife, lived most months of each year. All logical, but none his choice. Instead he went to Newark.
Newark was a city where he had never lived and one that he barely knew, beyond what he had seen while speeding along the New Jersey Turnpike on the way to and from college, or on those few occasions when he and his Harvard pal John Tyson, from nearby Montclair, slipped down for a Portuguese meal. It was in part for those reasons that the location appealed to Gore. He believed that he had "a better chance of getting treated as myself" there. It seemed less likely to him that anyone in Newark would recognize him as the son of a liberal senator whose opposition to the war was making his reelection chances increasingly uncertain in conservative Tennessee.
Tyson was the only soul he knew in greater Newark, and when Gore reached town the two met at a downtown diner and talked for several hours about what they wanted to do with the next chapters of their lives. Gore told Tyson, whose football-wrenched knee had kept him from the draft, that he was signing up. He was doing so despite his misgivings about Vietnam. He still hoped to stay away from the war itself, and had in fact reassured Tipper several times that the Army was unlikely to send him there. Germany, maybe, but not Vietnam. "Are you sure you want to do this?" Tyson remembered asking Gore. "Yeah," came the simple reply.
Their final discussion at the diner, Tyson said later, was "the culmination of touching all the points on the compass. I was the last one he touched, and then he went off. He jumped into the pool."
That moment in Newark marked the beginning of the bleakest period of Gore's young life. His faith in government and the American political system would be shaken as never before, but beyond that he faced a dilemma of a personal and ironic nature.
Since his prep school days at St. Albans, his life had been inextricably bound to his father's. They pushed and pulled each other in ways that were often rewarding, sometimes frustrating, but the result always seemed to have them rising together. The father constantly pushed his son to keep learning lessons and occasionally pulled him back onto the track of public life. The son, in return, pushed his father to hold firmly to his progressive beliefs. They had several arguments in 1964, when Gore Sr. opposed that year's federal civil rights act, disappointing his son, and after that vote, which the senator called "the biggest mistake" of his career, he listened more attentively to young Al's advice. Six years of bold outspokenness made Gore Sr. a folk hero among liberals and antiwar activists, but also a marked man back home.
Push and pull: The son had no choice but to go into the military to try to save his father from electoral defeat, even though he hated the war and suspected that his act would prove futile, which it did. On Election Day 1970, 15 months after Al Gore's trip to Newark to enlist, his father's long political career came to an end with a bitter defeat to Republican Bill Brock, who portrayed Gore as an out-of-touch liberal opposed to God, family, and the Tennessee way. It was a defeat that taught the younger Gore an unforgettable lesson, one that he would follow six years later: that he should never venture too far from the center or from his constituents. But for now, it only led to this: Gore Sr. departing from Washington, depressed, without saying goodbye to some of his closest friends, at about the same time that his son is shipped off to Vietnam.
So much for the incognito strategy: Gore was recognized the moment he announced his name at the recruiting station in Newark. "It was pretty much known that his daddy was a senator," said Sgt. Dess Stokes, the station commander. Normally one of five assistants would handle the papers for a new recruit, but in this case, because of the political connection, they handed him over to Stokes after the initial processing. And this was a good catch for an Army recruiter in an inner city. Gore had a degree in government from Harvard and aced his physical, except for eyesight. He signed up for two years, taking a preliminary aptitude test at the induction center next door. The examiner told Stokes that Gore "just about maxed everything."
By Gore's account, his military processing was left totally to chance, but there appears to have been some method to it. Before his trip to Newark, as he considered his options within the military, he had talked frequently with an older friend, an Army veteran he had known since his senior year at St. Albans. "He kept coming back to . . . being a reporter," this friend said recently, asking not to be identified by name. A Harvard friend got the same message, saying that Gore told him he "signed up" to be a journalist when he enlisted. Even Gore's decision to enlist in Newark might have been influenced by his desire to be an Army reporter. His older friend said that he told Gore that he could maximize his chances of getting a reporting job by enlisting at a station near a large training center, such as Fort Dix in New Jersey, where there was a larger selection of job assignments. Army historians dismiss that notion as "urban myth."
Gore maintains that he did not go into his Army induction "with a clear idea" of what he wanted to do. "It was a surprise to me, a pleasant surprise, that the lieutenant who was there said at the end of the interview, 'I think you'd make a good journalist.' . . . I thought it was a pure gamble as to what I would get." Uncertain, perhaps, but not such a gamble, according to the recruiting officer, Stokes, who said, "I told him with his qualifications there would be more than an even chance that he would get" his desired job. According to Army historians, the fact that Gore enlisted, avoiding the vagaries of the draft, increased the likelihood that he would get the job he wanted. In practice, they said, the military favored those who joined voluntarily.
Whatever the lieutenant at the Newark induction center told Gore, he received his job assignment not there but during basic training at Fort Dix. His military occupational specialty (MOS) was 71Q10 -- a journalist. How did he get that designation? According to his military file, he told a superior during the processing that he had worked as a "newspaper trainee" for the New York Times one summer. He had been a copy boy there, not a reporting intern, between his sophomore and junior years at Harvard. Apparently his superiors at Fort Dix were impressed enough to recommend him as a reporter trainee at Fort Rucker in Alabama, and allow him to take the relatively uncommon route to get there, skipping weeks of advanced training at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana and moving directly from basic training to on-the-job training.
Before leaving for Alabama, Gore spent eight weeks in basic training at Fort Dix. He received "expert" scores in weapons training for the M-14, grenade and M-16, and completed courses on the Geneva Convention, the code of conduct, and chemical and biological weapons. As he was about to board an armored personnel carrier one day, he encountered a friend from his class at Harvard, Paul Zofnass. Gore was surprised to see him. "Zofnass?"
"Al, gee, what are you doing here?"
Each was taken aback by the sight of the other in Army fatigues with shorn head and helmet.
"If there's one person in our class who probably could have gotten out of the war, it would have been you!" Zofnass blurted out to his friend.
"Yeah, I know," Zofnass recalled Gore telling him. "But I spent a lot of time talking to my dad about it, and we think it's an important thing for me to do." It was important "politically," Gore told Zofnass. "So I enlisted." According to Zofnass's recollection, Gore also told him that it was "important" that he go to Vietnam. Not just because it was "the most politic and appropriate thing to do" as an aspiring public servant, Zofnass remembered Gore telling him, but because it was the right thing to do. "If the country was at war, you may be against it or for it, but it was duty to your country"--that was the message Zofnass took away from the conversation.
The exchange was brief but revealing. Zofnass was impressed by his classmate's foresight--"pretty mature for a kid of 21." It also reflected the more calculating side of Gore, the combination of principle and expediency that guides him, and finally how close he was then and always to his parents, despite his assertion that they refrained from giving him direct advice on his military decision.
The most difficult part of this new life for Pvt. Gore was not adjusting to the daily rigors of basic training at Fort Dix, but rather dealing with the way people reacted to him when he returned to Boston in uniform to visit Tipper. "It was like a Ralph Ellison-type experience," Gore said in a recent interview. "It shocked me how big a difference it made to walk down the sidewalk with short hair and a uniform, compared to what it was like walking down the sidewalk a few months earlier, with longer hair and blue jeans. It was a real surprise, I guess. It was a real surprise . . . the extent to which you could tell, the many different ways that people could show their disapproval, their anger, their hostility."
At the end of October, Gore reported to Fort Rucker, a sprawling Army post deep in the wire grass of southeastern Alabama that housed the largest helicopter training facility in the country. It was a virtual city, occupied by more than 21,000 people, with movie theaters, restaurants, officers' clubs and post exchanges. It also put out a paper known as the Army Flier, which was edited by civilian and military journalists. That is where Gore went to work.
One of his editors there was Roy Mays, who had been drafted in 1968 while working for the St. Petersburg Times. When Mays first got there, he later recalled, the paper was filled "with a lot of . . . just crap stuff" like officers' wives teas and officer graduation ceremonies.
One note of reality, bitter but unavoidable, did creep into the paper every issue. Death notices from Vietnam came in an endless stream, and some of the names were those of pilots who had trained at Fort Rucker.
Late in September 1970, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the Army chief of staff, appeared at Fort Rucker, and Gore was assigned to cover his visit. The day he arrived, Westmoreland went on a training exercise. As he was about to climb into a helicopter, he noticed the name tag on the reporter's uniform. "Gore," he said. "Are you any relation to the senator from Tennessee?" "Yes, sir," the private replied.
A few days later, Gore and Bob Delabar, his photographer colleague, went to a small airstrip to cover Westmoreland's departure. Delabar neared the plane to take pictures. Gore, not intending to interview the general, hung back to observe the proceedings. The officers in charge of the flight school lined up on the tarmac. Westmoreland glanced at Gore and recognized him from their earlier meeting. He walked toward him and they exchanged greetings before the general suddenly turned the conversation toward the topic of the war.
Why were so many young people against the war? he wanted to know. "I gave him my candid opinion, that I thought the war was a huge mistake," Gore said. Why? Westmoreland asked. "He pushed back on a couple of them and gave his point of view," Gore recounted. While he could not recall Westmoreland's exact words, the essence of the general's inquiry was "Why, when so many other people are expressing their opposition to the war by not serving, why are you serving?"
It meant a great deal to Gore, he said later, that a four-star general would accord a buck private that kind of attention--"to have my opinions listened to with that kind of respect." There was no love lost between the general and Gore's father, the antiwar senator, opponents in the fight for public opinion on Vietnam. But Westmoreland gave Gore "a very positive feeling" about the fact that despite the father's views, the son was serving in the Army.
Despite his views on the war, Gore was not a rebel at Fort Rucker. The dutiful son was now for the most part the dutiful soldier. He won a "special troops" soldier of the month award, which came with a $25 savings bond, then the more exclusive Post Soldier of the Month award, with double the prize money. The winners were chosen for their knowledge of military subjects, leadership qualities, outstanding military bearing and courtesy. He was also selected at least three times as "supernumerary of the guard mount"--which meant having the sharpest-looking uniform and the shiniest boots. The reward for that was being excused from guard duty.
Gore was not all starch and spit-shined shoes. During that fall and winter, he bunked at Fort Rucker with seven other soldiers, to whom he was incessantly peddling books from his substantial library. He recommended that Gus Stanisic, his friend and fellow private, read "Dune," a science fiction classic that Gore said "really influenced him," stirring the early traces of his environmentalism. Stanisic said he saw in Gore a likeness to the character Duke Paul, the son of the wise Duke Leto, who had an ability to see into the future. He lent Maurice "Marnie" Hendrick several books, more offbeat fare such as "The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar Bee" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." "He'd say, 'Here, you need to read this,' " Hendrick recalled. " 'This will open your eyes.' "
Two of his bunkmates, Hendrick and Richard Abalos, bought a 1962 tan Chevy clunker and the boys would pile into it for getaway beach weekends at Panama City, Fla., only 35 miles away. For 60 bucks, they would rent a bungalow, pick up bread, cheese, beer and cheap wine, play bridge and poker, smoke cigars and pot, and groove to Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin on Hendrick's eight-track tape deck. The totems of Sixties culture were everywhere by then, and could not be kept off the base. The movie house screened "Easy Rider," "MASH," "The Strawberry Statement"--films with antiwar or anti-establishment themes. "We all agreed with it," said Hendrick, a North Carolina native, who attended the movies with Gore and the others. "We were all a bunch of liberal freaks back then."
Life at Fort Rucker was nothing if not irreverent. One of Gore's buddies, Pvt. Barry Ancona, won a post talent contest with a song written to the tune of "Down in the Boondocks," which included this refrain:
Down in the barracks
Down in the barracks
I'm just a sucker 'cause
It's Fort Rucker I live in.
Some of the troops had a playful pejorative for the post: Mother Rucker. And was it just a newspaper typo that resulted in the reversal of the F and the R in Fort Rucker?
All this in territory that was conservative and devout. "The roads were paved with Bibles around there," said Roy Mays. Gore and a few pals once went out dressed in civvies and ended up at a truck stop after a movie. Gore was the only southerner in the gang, recalled Ancona, a New Yorker who ran the post radio show. Not long after walking in, they realized that everyone in the place was looking at them, wondering who they were. Gore walked over to the jukebox, dropped in a coin, and "Tennessee Birdwalk" began to play. "That settled everybody down," Ancona remembered. "They thought that was neat."
By the spring of 1970, public disenchantment with the Vietnam War had grown deeper. When American troops invaded Cambodia on May 1, another wave of protests rolled across college campuses, leading to the tragedy at Kent State, where National Guardsmen fired into a crowd of young demonstrators and killed four people. Two weeks later, the nation still numbed by those events, Al Gore returned to Washington to marry Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Aitcheson at the National Cathedral.
At the rehearsal dinner the night before the May 19 wedding, guests dined in a room under the Capitol Rotunda. Then Al, Tipper and a band of friends went barhopping in Georgetown. Gore's older sister, Nancy, and her husband, Frank Hunger, came along, as did Mike Kapetan from Harvard and Steve Armistead, Gore's childhood friend from Carthage. After everyone else went home, Armistead threw Gore in his car and drove him around all night, driving and talking in circles in the darkness of rural Maryland.
Al's mother was not pleased, but Gore turned out in fine fiddle the next day, snappily attired in his borrowed Army dress uniform, an outfit that some found odd given that he was not a career military man. Tipper looked "stunning," a guest recalled, in a gown with a train of white lace and carrying a bouquet of orchids and white carnations. Canon Charles Martin, who had been Gore's headmaster at St. Albans, the boys prep school situated in the shadows of the grand cathedral, performed the service. Harvard roommate J.G. Landau (who died of a heart attack two years ago) was the best man. The newlyweds walked down the aisle and out the church as the Beatles tune "It's All Too Much" resounded from the pipe organ played by one of Gore's Dunster House friends, Warren Steel.
The reception was held at Belle Haven Country Club in Virginia. Several of Gore's friends rode out to the swank reception on motorcycles, musician Steel hitching a ride on one, his vestments flying over his shoulder. Among the guests were Gore's Harvard seminar leader Martin Peretz, and a friend of his father's, international financier Armand Hammer.
The newlyweds went from upper-crust Washington to a honeymoon in Hawaii and then on to their new home near Mother Rucker in the depths of Alabama, a trailer in a 12-acre trailer park on the edge of the small town of Daleville. Tipper, with a degree in psychology from Boston University, did not take a job in Alabama, but spent her days, she said, as "a soldier's wife." They threw occasional fondue parties and guys from the post would come over and listen to music and play poker. Tipper was friendly and charming, but she had yet to develop the outgoing nature that she would show later in their political life. "She was," said Marnie Hendrick, "just a wispy little thing back then."
'Always Love Your Country'
All during that summer of 1970, Albert Gore Sr. was engaged in the toughest political battle of his career. He faced Bill Brock, a conservative Republican congressman from Chattanooga whose family ran a candymaking company. Gore still had a broader reach, a three-term Democratic senator with a national reputation in a traditionally Democratic state. But the times had changed, and so had Tennessee politics, turning more conservative in the wake of the civil rights and antiwar movements. The signs had been there as early as 1966, when Howard Baker became the first Republican in modern times elected to statewide office in Tennessee. Four years later, both state and national Republicans thought they had a chance to knock off Albert Gore Sr.
Brock sensed from the moment he entered the race that Gore was vulnerable, an impression underscored by the difficult primary challenge Gore faced from a relative unknown. "There were a lot of people angry at him in his own party," Brock recalled. The Dixiecrats thought Gore was too liberal, a perception fueled by his antiwar stance and his vote for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Brock also believed that Gore was especially vulnerable to a charge of neglecting his constituents. "He gave the impression, whether fair or not, when asked questions, of responding sort of tartly, of talking down to them," Brock said. To go after Gore, he combined a well-organized grass-roots effort with one of the first modern political ad campaigns, hiring the firm of Harry Treleaven, who had done the ads for Richard M. Nixon's presidential campaign, and whose associate was a facile young consultant named Kenneth Rietz.
Rietz, who later became entangled in the Watergate scandal and resigned his post with the Republican National Committee, moved to Nashville for the general election campaign, living out of a small apartment. He and Treleaven created a series of billboard, radio, television and full-page newspaper ads aimed at reinforcing the image of Gore as out of touch and too liberal.
Bill Brock Believes.
The slogan is so stark it sticks in people's minds even today. It still riles James Blumstein, who was hired to teach law at Vanderbilt in 1970 and remembers driving from New Haven to Nashville to take his job and seeing, as he drove across the width of Tennessee, billboards proclaiming Bill Brock Believes--without saying what he believed. By the time Blumstein got to Nashville, he was so frustrated he launched a campaign to lower the waiting period required for new residents to vote.
Some of the billboards eventually did say what Bill Brock believed: "The Things We Believe In." It was the ultimate subliminal political slogan. Considered brilliant by Brock supporters and nefarious by his opponents, the campaign used a series of "snipes" or punchlines to convey to Tennessee voters that Brock was with them on key issues. " 'Believes' is a code word for" a racist epithet, wrote journalist David Halberstam in an article on the Gore-Brock race published a year later. "Against busing, for the war, for [conservative Supreme Court nominees] Carswell and Haynsworth." The pitch, Gore aide Ted Brown said later, was "almost calculated to send the subliminal message that Albert Gore may not believe in God, may not believe in the white race, may not believe in America the Beautiful, but by God, Bill Brock does."
The television ads were slick and well produced, showing a shirt-sleeved Brock shooting the breeze with working Joes in a parking lot; walking through a field and chatting with hunters; reassuring parents that he would not stand for school busing; and playing in his back yard with his wife and children. One particularly effective ad featured a disenchanted Democrat, good ole country lawyer Alf MacFarland, who turned against Gore because of the senator's support of gun control. MacFarland said he had written Gore a letter saying that his position on gun control was hurting him in rural Tennessee, but got "a right ugly letter back. He was not only going to get a bill to regulate that type of gun, but he was going to do long guns, hunting rifles and shotguns."
Brock's negative ads ran late in the campaign, leaving Gore little time for a counterattack, which he was disinclined to do in any case, saying that he "never slung mud" in his life and was "not going to start now." But Gore did run some commercials, one of which stands out both because it was touching and because it appeared to backfire. It showed Gore playing checkers with a group of elderly men in front of the county courthouse in Carthage, a spontaneous scene that evoked the long-lost past, going back not just to Gore's first run for Congress in 1938, but even to his role model, Cordell Hull, who played checkers with old men on that very courthouse lawn. Gore, wearing a brown suit, the checkerboard balanced on his knees, jokes with his opponent, who is about to take another of his pieces, "I tell you, if you beat me two straight games, I'll cut you off Medicare!"
It was witty and humanizing, but also, according to Rietz's polling, raised enough concern about Medicare that Gore's numbers began to slip among seniors. "For a while we didn't know why until we started probing and found out that this commercial was having a great effect on seniors," said Rietz, who still uses the ad whenever he teaches a class on media campaigns.
One of Gore's best-known commercials from that campaign attempted to counter charges that he was unpatriotic. It showed young Al in uniform sitting opposite his father, who instructed him, "Son, always love your country." That ad and others were shot at the family farm in Carthage by noted documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim, who considered Gore's antiwar position in the South "very brave" but probably fatal. Guggenheim hoped to diminish the animosity toward Gore by filming him in unposed situations. "My feeling was, right or wrong, that if people got to know him, that would be his strength."
Another ad, intended to evoke Gore's Tennessee roots and defuse the argument that he had become distanced from his state, showed father and son on horseback at the Carthage farm, Al on a bay mare, the silver-haired senator on his Tennessee walker named Traveler. Gilbert Merritt, a family friend, recalled that the white horse ad was the subject of some joking, if not second-guessing, for while it portrayed a senatorial courtliness that the senator prized, to some it also conveyed a certain arrogance.
Brock's campaign cost about $1.25 million, a pittance by today's standards but one of the nation's costliest at the time. A significant portion of the money, by some reports as much as $200,000, was funneled into Tennessee through Operation Townhouse, an enterprise run by a Nixon operative out of a Washington town house. The effort was later determined to be illegal. President Nixon and his top aides were obsessed that year with the prospect of defeating Gore and other liberal senators. "It is imperative that our candidates call upon their opponent to repudiate what some of the leaders of the Radiclib have said--not just what the opponent himself has said," Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman said in a Sept. 26, 1970, memo to special counsel Charles W. Colson that was not made public until 1986. "In other words, Brock should call on Gore to repudiate specific statements made by McGovern, Hubert or Teddy. . . . Another important issue that should be made is Cambodia. Hang all those who opposed Cambodia and ask if they still think it was so bad."
Another Haldeman memo, on Sept. 23, included an analysis of the Tennessee race and noted: "Albert Gore can be expected to campaign against Brock with a never-ending stream of folksy gibes and populist economics, but Gore's cocktail party liberalism offers a chance to rebut his folksy image." The memo also suggested that someone research the society pages of The Washington Post back to 1965 for a complete list of parties attended by Gore, the menu ("the Frenchier the better") and the "society types and northern liberals" in attendance.
The existence of the Haldeman memos and Operation Townhouse was unknown to the Gores then, but they always suspected that the Nixon administration was manipulating the Brock effort behind the scenes, using it both as a battleground for the "southern strategy" of manipulating the race issue to their advantage and as an early training ground for the dirty-tricks campaigns that were to follow. Years afterward, Gore Sr. would refer to Nixon as "the vilest man." Family friends took note in the campaign's final months of how bitter the race was and how deeply it affected Albert and Pauline, Al and Tipper, and Al's sister, Nancy, and her husband, Frank Hunger. The race "got personal," Fort Rucker buddy Marnie Hendrick said. "And it bothered Al."
In late September, at the trailer house in Daleville, Tipper Gore answered the phone one afternoon and got the news she had hoped never to hear. It was Al saying that he had received notice of his next posting. Not Germany--he was going to Vietnam.
That weekend, back in Tennessee at a fund-raising barbecue for his father, Gore told the reporter covering the event that he had received his Vietnam orders. The next morning a front page article on young Gore's assignment appeared in the Tennessean, written by Andrew Schlesinger. It quoted Sen. Gore: "I have not wished to bring my son's situation into the campaign and do not now. Like thousands of other Tennessee boys, he volunteered and has now received his orders for Vietnam. That is all I wish to say--except, like other fathers, I am proud."
Gore had 30 days leave. He was to be ready to go by Dec. 26. Later, in Vietnam, he told friends that the family believed his orders had been held up by the Nixon administration to deny the father any public relations advantage that might come with having a son in Vietnam. No evidence has come to light to substantiate that contention, which has been denied by then-Defense Secretary Melvin Laird and others, but its existence reflects how personally the family took that political battle. "We all believed very strongly that Nixon operatives were involved in that campaign and watched it very closely," said Jim Sasser, a former senator and ambassador to China who helped run Gore Sr.'s 1970 campaign.
Losing and Leaving
Early on the evening of Nov. 3, Steve Armistead collected Gore at the Nashville airport and drove him downtown to the Hermitage Hotel, where his father was monitoring the returns. "Daddy wants me to write his victory speech," Gore said, but he knew that the race was lost, his father's career over. He had suspected it for at least two years, since that autumn day in Cambridge when he had encountered another Democratic politician's son, Don Gilligan, walking across Harvard Yard, and predicted that the same fate that befell Don's father in 1968 would happen to his own father in 1970.
The returns came in from east to west. The east went Republican as expected. Gore held his own in his native middle Tennessee, allowing the false hope that he might eke out a win. He had convinced himself that he was catching up, that his final-week barnstorming had energized the Democratic electorate and that Brock's negative ads had caused a sympathetic backlash. But at last the Memphis vote arrived and the mood in the senator's suite turned bleak. "Senator, it doesn't look too good," campaign manager Tim Schaeffer said. No tears in the room, not much said at all. The Gores were stoic. Twenty minutes later, the senator and his family went downstairs to the ballroom. His concession speech was brief and dignified and closed with a phrase ringing with both defiance and hope. "The causes for which we fought are not dead," he said. "The truth shall rise again."
Those words carried a dual meaning. On one level, they conveyed Gore's belief that his controversial positions on the war and civil rights eventually would be vindicated. But they also hinted at the political rise of a younger generation of Democrats, a prediction that came true in 1976, when Sasser defeated Brock and reclaimed the Senate seat, heading to Washington along with a new congressman from Tennessee's 3rd District named Al Gore.
That was six years distant. The day after the 1970 election, Gore father and son spent hours together in Carthage, paddling a canoe through the chilled waters of the Caney Fork. At one point Senior asked Junior what he would do if he had been repudiated by the voters he had served for so long. "Dad, I would take the 32 years," Al said.
Before shipping out for Vietnam, Gore made a round of farewell visits. He and Tipper went to Baltimore, where they met Bart Day and Bob Somerby, two of the beloved motley crew from Harvard. Somerby lived in a spare apartment near Johns Hopkins. Both men were now teachers, jobs they had taken to avoid the draft, Day turning to it only after a brief and unhappy stint with the Peace Corps in Chile. Somerby and Day were dressed casually. The Gores looked pressed and neat, as though they had just been to church. The contrast struck Day as a symbol of how their lives were diverging. Al seemed mature and directed. He and Tipper seemed to know where they were going. "It was," Day thought, "as if they're grown-ups and we're not."
Perceptions are relative, of course, and what seemed like maturity to his Harvard suitemates appeared to be something else to his Harvard mentor, Richard Neustadt, when Al and Tipper paid a final call to the professor's home at 10 Traill Street in Cambridge that winter. Gore was dressed in his private's uniform, Tipper at his side, and they looked so young and innocent that it made Neustadt feel like their protective uncle. "I thought they were both scared to death," he recalled, "and determined not to let that show."
Christmas 1970 was dreary and depressing at the Carthage farmhouse. The election had sapped the family's spirits. Albert Gore was devastated, ashen. Not only had he lost his hardest-fought race, his only son was leaving for Vietnam.
Pauline Gore was outwardly calm, but her disappointment was clear. Nancy and Frank Hunger alternated between anger and sadness. Tipper tried gamely to boost morale. "I remember trying to cheer people up, but it was a bleak Christmas, a time of great anxiety," she said later. "We were going to try to go on and be cheerful as if everything was fine. It was a close family time, but it was tough."
Then it happened again, the same scene as in Boston. A curb and a kiss and he was gone. This time bound for Seattle and the plane that would carry him to Vietnam.
Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Campaign Aid: Al and Tipper Gore at the family home in Carthage during Albert Sr.'s 1970 reelection bid.
CAPTION: 'I Do' and 'Yes, Sir': Al and Tipper talk with his parents, Sen. Albert and Pauline Gore, after their wedding at Washington National Cathedral on May 19, 1970. Al, an Army private, wore a borrowed dress uniform. Soon, the newlyweds were off to Alabama's Fort Rucker, where they lived in a trailer, left, and hosted occasional fondue parties and poker nights.
CAPTION: In Dixie: Fort Rucker, a virtual city of 21,000, put out the Army Flier newspaper, where Gore went to work.
CAPTION: His Final Run: Sen. Albert Gore, with Pauline, concedes defeat in 1970. Al's Army service had failed to help him, and a folksy ad showing the senator playing checkers with Carthage locals (top right) had backfired.