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06.09.10

The Way They Were

The Gores, once Washington’s own perfect Cleaver family, have unraveled before our eyes these last 13 months: First Kristin and her husband split, then Al and Tipper, now Karenna. VIEW OUR GALLERY of the clan in happier times.

All happy political families are alike: dull, close-knit, a tad sanctimonious, prone to group hugs.

Until last week, no one exemplified this better than the Gores.

Click Image to View Our Gallery of the Gore Family Through the Years

Lloyd Grove: Why the Gores Split

Leslie Bennetts: Was the Gore Marriage Like Yours?
Al, Tipper, Karenna, Kristin, Sarah, and Al III, plus the assorted pets and in-laws, always seemed remarkably functional and well-adjusted, especially considering the company they kept. In the 1990s, while the Clinton marriage dissolved into farce, things at the Naval Observatory were positively Rockwellian. Karenna got married before a crowd of 300, in an impeccable ceremony at Washington’s National Cathedral. Tipper launched her family-values crusade with her own perfect family smiling at her back. The entire crew seemingly couldn’t stop themselves from throwing their arms around each other in front of professional photographers: at an old New England barn, in a hammock, on the beach.

Mark McKinnon: Don’t Blame Bush for Gore Split We crave domestic perfection in our leaders, and for so long, it felt like the Gores were the only sane ones left in Washington. They weren’t as charmingly folksy as the Carters before them, or as scrumptious as the Obamas now. But they had a certain mature cohesion that inspired confidence, if not excessive warmth. They may not have been the Cleavers, but at least they weren’t the Kennedys, the Edwardses, or any of the three depressing incarnations of the gruesome Gingrich clan.

Maybe the Gores always seemed happier than they really were because they were surrounded by nuclear family bombs. But for the four decades of their marriage, until their shocking separation announcement last week, Al and Tipper sure seemed like they were in it for life. And now, this week, comes news of Karenna’s separation from husband Drew Schiff, a year after her younger sister Kristin divorced her husband, Paul Cusack. In 13 months, the Gores have unraveled before our eyes.

Where did they go wrong? Were they ever as happy as they appeared? The family album certainly suggests so—even if it was a bit affected, even if it didn’t last. That kiss at the Democratic National Convention was a little creepy, like watching your parents make out, but also sweet and reassuring. Curled up on the hammock, surrounded by their kids and puppies, it really looked like love.

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