Patricia McGuire
University president

Patricia McGuire

President of Trinity Washington University.

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Mr. Clean's smudge

Q: Senator, vice president, nearly a president, and a Nobel Prize winner -- Al Gore has been successful by any measure. Will the recent allegation that he groped a masseuse -- Portland, Ore. police are reopening the investigation -- significantly change his reputation or legacy? Should it?

Bill Clinton did it, famously. Tiger Woods is working at it. Even PeeWee Herman managed to get there, somewhat.

If those celebrities could recover and move on from their confessed and quite notorious sexcapades, then surely the apparently more straight-laced Al Gore can move on from mere rumors of a mixed-message massage.

Or can he?

Public figures are huge targets for rumors, innuendo and outright accusations. Sadly, too often we learn that the smoke does mask real fires. We cannot forget Bill Clinton's angry-faced finger-wagging denial of sex with "that woman" only to find out that his definition of "sex" was, well, different.

Despite our claims to puritanical values, America loves a good sex scandal -- so much so that we keep demanding more news about the private lives of public people. Woe to the celebrity who appears to have a scandal-free life: the dogs of rumor sniff hungrily in search of love lives gone awry.

Al and Tipper Gore appeared to have a marriage straight out of a Normal Rockwell painting. So idyllic was their image that news of their separation earlier this year sent shockwaves through middle America: goodness, if Al and Tipper can't make it work, can any couple survive?

The dogs were sniffing under the rocky road of the marriage's latter days. A masseuse in Portland, Oregon provided the raw meat. Whether Al Gore actually did anything improper remains speculation of the kind that keeps the National Enquirer presses running. Al Gore should have thought more carefully about being alone with a masseuse to begin with -- that is, if he was thinking about consequences.

What makes the alleged scandal more titillating, however, is Al Gore's image as Mr. Clean, a sterile and cold image lacking passion. Now, there's a smudge on Mr. Clean. We pause to consider Al Gore's possible conversion from Mr. Clean to Mr. Casanova. Hmmm. Not impossible, just very hard.

Gore will certainly survive the rumors and even the reopened investigation. In time, if nothing else turns up, the moment will fade into folklore. That could change if it turns out that he lied about the encounter. The public tends to forgive indiscretions, but is less tolerant of lies. Bill Clinton excepted.

By Patricia McGuire  |  July 8, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Success and controversy Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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His legacy can be summed up in one word:

lockbox.

Posted by: ObamasArizonaLawsuitWillBeTheDownfallOfTheDemocratsInNovember2010 | July 12, 2010 7:29 PM
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