Mr. President

A story I’d missed in last week’s New Yorker told me a lot about Al Gore I hadn’t known, but one part of it really struck me as personal and interesting:

Yet, once freed of the apparatus and the requirements of a political campaign, Gore really did savor his time alone, thinking, reading, writing speeches, surfing the Internet. “One thing about Gore personally is that he is an introvert,” another former aide said. “Politics was a horrible career choice for him. He should have been a college professor or a scientist or an engineer. He would have been happier. He finds dealing with other people draining. And so he has trouble keeping up his relations with people. The classical difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that if you send an introvert into a reception or an event with a hundred other people he will emerge with less energy than he had going in; an extrovert will come out of that event energized, with more energy than he had going in. Gore needs a rest after an event; Clinton would leave invigorated, because dealing with people came naturally to him.”

I was never that wild about Gore, but in the intervening years he’s of course come to look better and better. The idea that he might not really enjoy politics, that it might not be what he’s best suited for, had never really occurred to me. I figured, you get to a point where you’re running for president, you’d damn well better like politics.

But there’s a crucial difference between being committed to something, even loving something, and liking it. In my family everybody does something different; nobody’s followed in anybody’s footsteps, so I don’t know what it’s like to have that kind of pressure. But I do know that if you display an early talent for something, and people tell you you’re really good at it, after at while you feel like that’s what you have to do with your life.

And if in reality that thing absolutely makes you nuts, I mean literally makes you nuts, well, then what? You get to a certain level and you’e kind of stuck.

It’s a good story. Go read it all.