Last night, my colleague Kim posted about the arrest of Al Gore III on charges of speeding and drug possession — a LOT of drug possession, in diversity if not quantity. I said at the time that I didn’t agree with publicizing this incident, noting — along with a lot of others — that the only really newsworthy element of the story was that he was doing about 100 MPH in a Toyota Prius. (It also featured someone misspelling the car’s name as the “Pious,” which I thought was a delightful Freudian slip if inadvertent, and a great pun if deliberate.)
I’ve made a bit of a cause out of this sort of thing. I’ve said numerous times that the children of politicians should be off-limits for political attacks, and I still stand by that.
There are times when it is entirely appropriate to discuss such things. But I use a couple of questions that I use to judge whether the behavior of the children are worth public attention:
1) If the deeds were being done by someone not related to a prominent politician, would they be newsworthy?
2) Are the deeds of the child directly related to the prominence of the parent?
3) Is the child invoking the parent in their deeds?
4) Is the individual a public figure in their own right, or seeking to become one?
In the case of young Mr. Gore, I would have to say that the answer in each case is “no.” (Some might make some hay out of his driving a Prius, but that’s a hell of a stretch.) His driving record might make local news, as he’s obviously a committed threat to others’ safety on the road, but it’s hardly national news. His driving record is not germane to his father’s prominence (unlike, say, the apparently-genetic tendency of Ted and Patrick Kennedy to get tanked and wreck cars). And his position as an editor of a magazine might be related to his father’s prominence, but I’d hardly call it a position of national prominence.
Some have observed that when he was a child, young Mr. Gore was struck and severely injured by a car — and the kinds of injuries he suffered can sometimes lead to a lifetime of problems. Quite frankly, I don’t care. He’s obviously a menace on the roads, and should be denied a license for some time. And he needs some serious help.
But the last thing he needs — and the last thing he should want — is to be used as a bludgeon against his father. I’d like to see the national spotlight on him fade away, and let him try to pull his life together.
In the end, he’s the only one that can decide which it will be. And it should not be a national spectator sport.