by: Dave Marsh

On Friday night, September 29, at a house party in suburban Washington, D.C., cops rousted a teenage party and gave a dozen tickets for underage possession of alcoholic beverages--open cans of beer. One of those kids was Sarah Gore, 16 year old daughter of Vice President Albert Gore and his wife, Tipper.

The Gores tried to stonewall the story, insisting that Sarah's transgression was a private family matter. This proved untenable coming from a family so eager to police other families' taste in music, film and other areas.

By the following Tuesday, Tipper had to make a statement, which she did to Fox-TV. She said she and Al "are dealing with it privately as a family...I would like to say, that my child made a bad error in judgment is in the national news. And not only does she have to deal with the severe disappointment of her family and friends and herself, but she has to deal with the news media's attention too. And she's only 16 years old."

Fascinating! Mrs. Gore has been known to insist on the importance of taking responsibility for the consequences of one's actions. Yet while she is willing to lay all this weight upon her wayward teen and ascribe an implicit portion to The Media Bogeyman, she reserves none for herself and her husband.

Indeed, it's hard to know what describing Sarah's bust as a "private family matter" could have meant except Mom and Dad imploring, "Don't judge us by our children's behavior." This is hardly the standard of personal accountability that Al 'n' Tipper require from Ice-T, Ice Cube, Prince, Madonna, and their attendant recording executives. In fact, when he was junior Senator from Tennessee, Albert Gore excoriated record executives as pornographers for refusing to testify at his Senate Commerce Committee hearing on record lyrics.

I feel marginally complicit in the Gores' hypocrisy, which will surprise them as much as you. Nevertheless, it's true that I've suppressed a story about them for the past several years. It dates to a day back before Al left the Senate, when I got a call from a friend in DC. "Guess who woke me up this morning?" he asked. "Al Gore. He was looking for his daughter." This would not have been Sarah, but one of her older sisters, though I'm not sure which one. Was she there? I asked. "Well, I wasn't sure," he said. "I knew my son was in his room, though, so I went and asked. And sure enough, she'd spent the night."

That story never got written for a couple of good reasons. I knew that my friend's son had been having some problems, and presumed that the Gore-child shared them. Besides, it seemed only too likely to be taken the wrong way. What interested me about this tale wasn't whether a Gore-brat was having sex or engaging in some other supposed adolescent debauchery. That is and remains a private matter. The important point, in that child's case as in Sarah's was that her parents, who wished to enforce their own supposed standards on the rest of America, evidently had so little communication with her.

I wonder how the Gores would respond to this? By saying that their older daughter was also a troubled private citizen, or by acknowledging that their parenting methods were deficient? In short, I wonder if they would take responsibility for the behavior of their children, as they wish those of us involved in making popular culture to take responsibility for the supposed consequences of our artworks. After all, there is considerably more empirical evidence that bad parenting causes teenage misbehavior than that noxious recordings do. Since the Gores sponsor a conference on family values each year, since Tipper's only current public mission is as Bill Clinton's advisor on teenage mental health, since ol' flat Albert would seem still to harbor Presidential aspirations, it would seem advisable for them to make a clean breast of what really goes on in their own household, from how their young son, Albert III, managed to get loose of his father and hit by a car while attending his first pro baseball game in Baltimore, to what's been going on with their daughters. This would provide a genuine public service, establishing once and for all what the application of rigid Baptist values can really do to the lives of our children. We would also have the opportunity to compare the public and private problems of the Gore brood to those of the children of an avowed anti-censorship atheist such as Frank Zappa. It would also allow, for instance, the parents of Prince, Madonna, Ice-T, Ice Cube, and other performers vilified by the Gore adults to comment on the Vice President's child-rearing techniques.

In my experience as a parent who shoots off his mouth in public, it might also do the Gore children some good, by alleviating the kind of interfamilial tension that makes teenage daughters and sons want to get drunk and stay out all night. One can only imagine the kind of pressure built-up in the psyches of kids whose Mom and Dad set themselves up as paradigms while proving inept and neglectful in their everyday parenting.

Obviously, I don't think much of Tipper and Albert Gore. But I do have a normal measure of compassion for their children and the image stays with me of Sarah Gore being rousted by the cops. Was she as innocent as Bruce Springsteen's "barefoot girl sittin' on the hood of a Dodge/drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain"? Did she react with tears for fear of what her parents would say, of getting up in the morning to hear Tipper hiss, "Do you know what kind of trouble you're causing for your father?" Did she shrug it off, or snicker to her friends, "Daddy will take care of this," or tell the cops, "Do you have any idea who I am?" Poor Sarah, I keep thinking, she's really only sixteen years old. Her parents, however, are considerably older.

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