After blaming the 2000 election for the breakup of the Gore marriage on Tuesday’s CBS Evening News, Sally Quinn of The Washington Post returned to CBS Wednesday morning for an interview with The Early Show, where she repeated the blame-Bush line, in a milder way: "You know one of the hard things is when you lose, this was their home. You can’t live here anymore." But mostly, Quinn suggested that if the Gores couldn’t make it, then maybe no one could:
And the interesting thing is that usually when something like this happens you get a sense of glee, people sort of saying, "I told you so, or I knew it," or whatever. I have only encountered sadness, and as you can imagine I’ve been on the phone with friends ever since I heard it yesterday and everyone feels as though somehow their own marriages have split up. You know watching the Gores is sort of looking at the possibilities of what a good marriage could be and when it doesn’t work for them you sort of think "oh my God, maybe it’s not possible."
People at CBS aren’t willing to consider that maybe someone’s selfishness is ruining the marriage. Quinn laid it on thick about how wonderful the Gores were in raising their children, and how talented they were:
I never heard one rumor ever in all the years that I’ve known Al and Tipper about an extramarital affair. And what I think is that they grew apart. I think what people are saying is actually true. You know one of the hard things is when you lose, this was their home. You can’t live here anymore. So they had, they were sort of nomads in a way. They went back to Tennessee but they didn’t really live there, and Al traveled a lot. They sort of migrated to the West Coast where Tipper has an apartment, and Al’s got a lot of business, but he was traveling all the time, and I think their interest just diverged.
And I also think Tipper has always played the good wife and she’s never been really able to set out on her own and be her own person, and it may be that she’s just tired of being the wife and wants to be someone who can accomplish something on her own. She’s a fantastic photographer, she’s also–and both of them by the way were great parents. And she spends a lot of time with her children, I think he’s on the road constantly. And I just have a feeling that this may be, as sad as it is, it might be a real opportunity for both of them–they’re only sixty, which is very young–to have a new and different life apart from each other.
Both were born in 1948. Quinn concluded with supportive happy talk: "You know, I think you have to listen to what they said, which is that this is mutually supportive, and think that, you know as sad as it might be, this might be the best thing for both of them." [Transcript by MRC intern Alex Fitzsimmons.]
Glee is not a proper response, but the intense personal admiration for their fellow liberals from the media is the opposite of their usual hard-boiled cynicism. They seem to want to avoid what's really been going on, and perish the thought that maybe some of the liberal media-boosted public romance had a plastic quality.
Washington Post writer Ellen McCarthy took Quinn’s panic and took it a step further, pleading with the Gores to stay together on Wednesday:
Please Al and Tipper, don't do this. For our sakes -- don't.
We can't handle it.
These kinds of things stopped bothering us long ago. Name almost any famous couple, and we're happy to place under/over bets on the date they'll divorce.
But the Gores were different. We believed in them. Even if we didn't agree with their politics, we admired their marriage -- the way, after all these years, they still genuinely seemed into each other.
They're like the couple down the block with the lush garden and the annual Labor Day cookout. The pair who are always power walking together and drinking wine on the front porch, who make you nudge your husband and say, "See? I want that."
Sure they had their ups and downs -- her depression, their son's life-threatening accident -- but after four kids and 40 years they were still in it. And still, we thought, held on to some enduring kernel of love.
So this doesn't just make us sad. It makes us scared.
It means that maybe marriage isn't something we can conquer. That you can have all the necessary ingredients -- romance, good morals, mutual respect and a healthy family -- and still see this precious thing, built over decades, crumble in the end.
It makes us frightened for our parents, our friends, ourselves. After all, couples together for more than 40 years almost never get divorced.
McCarthy broke the media mold as she even wrote she hoped there was adultery involved, which would melt her personal panic:
As news of the Gore's separation emerged, we jumped to speculate that that "something else" was really someone else, already waiting in the wings.
The truth is, we don't just think there's an affair involved. We hope there's one. That makes it easier and understandable -- unequivocally someone's fault. Then it can be detestable, not just sad.
"It's more threatening to us if we see a couple who we thought were happy just drift apart," [Johns Hopkins professor Andrew] Cherlin says. "If even well-behaved people get divorced after 40 years, then some of us will worry about what our own marriages will be like later in life."
McCarthy lamented that even the Gores foresaw this could happen:
The Gores knew as much. In their 2003 book, "Joined at the Heart," -- see how seriously they took this endeavor? They wrote a book about it! -- the Gores explored the way a prolonged life expectancy could affect American unions. "If couples are in unhappy marriages they are more likely to eventually divorce as they face so much of their lifetimes together after their child-rearing years are over," they wrote. [Italics hers.]