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Al Gore’s Not an Alpha Male? Well, Duh . . .

James P. Pinkerton is a lecturer at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. E-mail: pinkerto@ix.netcom.com

Naomi Wolf even looks like Monica Lewinsky. Same creamy cheeks, same bee-stung lips, same startled-fawn eyes. Indeed, Lewinsky, an obviously intelligent woman a decade younger than Wolf, could, if she puts her mind to it, aspire to write a book like “Promiscuities,” Wolf’s most recent tome.

Recently revealed to have been a $15,000-a-month advisor to the Al Gore presidential campaign, Wolf reportedly told the vice president that he is the “beta” male to President Clinton’s “alpha” male.

Sheesh, you’d think someone would have told him that for free.

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More controversial, of course, have been her other writings: In “Promiscuities,” published in 1997, she suggested teaching children masturbation and oral sex as alternatives to sexual intercourse. The Gore campaign has reaffirmed its commitment to Wolf (albeit at a much-reduced salary), but the painful parallels between Wolf and Joycelyn Elders, the onanism-obsessed surgeon general finally fired by Clinton in 1994, suggest that Wolf soon will be looking for employment elsewhere.

However, she has always been adept at surviving, at having it both ways by changing her ways. She burst into national prominence in 1991 with “The Beauty Myth,” in which she blamed the male-dominated fashion and cosmetics industries for making women feel inadequate about their looks. Yet, even here, she played a double game: As she denounced familiar notions of beauty, she posed and primped for a glam shot on the book’s cover.

In 1992, she celebrated the victory of Bill Clinton as a defeat for the old patriarchal politics, although soon enough it became apparent that the 41st president wasn’t quite the Alan Alda-like ally feminists had wished for. Indeed, Clinton showed himself to be a wolf of his own kind, proving that the feminist movement--which stayed doggedly loyal even amid his multiple confessed sexual misbehaviors--was little more than an auxiliary of the Democratic Party.

Yet while her older sisters remained stolid in their support of that man in the White House, Wolf released a second book in 1993, “Fire with Fire,” in which she shed her righteous humorlessness for a less politically correct stance, which she dubbed “power feminism.” A slew of Wolf-wannabes soon published books of their own, all with provocative titles such as “Bitch,” “The Lipstick Proviso” and “Last Night in Paradise.” And in 1997, Wolf capped the genre with a bad-girl book of her own, “Promiscuities,” which was written, she declared, in “the first-person sexual.” Liberated at last to celebrate “the roll-on-your-back abasement of any animal in love,” Wolf proclaimed that women wanted to be “goddesses, priestesses or queens of our own sexuality.”

Now married and approaching middle age as well as motherhood, Wolf is getting too old for such frolic. Michiko Kakutani, writing in the New York Times, concluded that any worthwhile points Wolf had to make in “Promiscuities” were “buried beneath reams and reams of bad writing, narcissistic babbling and plain silliness.”

After such a review, maybe Wolf figured that working on the Gore campaign was an easier way to earn big money. Just as a needy intern found an even needier president, Wolf found her beta male. And as Clinton struggled to conceal his physical relationship with Lewinsky, so Gore labored to hide his fiscal relationship with Wolf. Yet it was inevitable that the truth would come out, proving that Gore had not only a tin ear for public morality, but also a deafness to concerns about staff morale; Wolf’s salary dwarfed that of any campaign aide.

(Note to campaign finance reformers: If you believe that enforcing existing laws is as important as enacting new laws, you might file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission about the Gore campaign’s secreting of Wolf. You can cite the precedent of former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), who, in a settlement released on July 10, 1998, agreed to pay a $40,000 fine for, in part, failing to disclose adequately the names of advisors his campaign was paying through a consultant.)

In the meantime, Wolf looks like a winner yet again. Thanks to her latest torrent of publicity, she surely has the makings of yet another book. And so, like Lewinsky, she could lose the guy and gain the advance. But in elective politics, there is no winning by losing; there’s only losing. And how many people will be interested in Gore’s memoirs?


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