The Scrapbook has no official observation on last week’s surprise announcement that Al and Tipper Gore have separated after 40 years of marriage. Other than the obvious, of course: namely, that it is never good news when a marriage which has endured for four decades comes to an end by way of press release; and presumably, the Gores will be seeking a divorce. In which case, since their four children are grown, there will be some mutually agreed-upon division of assets and property before any final decree.
Which brings us to our friends at the Washington Examiner, who provide an interesting accounting of the Gore family holdings. Before he left public office in January 2001, Vice President Al Gore’s family net worth was estimated to be in the range of a million dollars. Six years later it was thought to be somewhere in the vicinity of $100 million—an impressive jump, even by the standards of Bush-era prosperity.
But what really widened The Scrapbook’s eyes was the list of residences owned and inhabited by the former Second Couple. Just a few weeks ago the Gores purchased a 6,500-square-foot villa in the gated community of Montecito, California, featuring five bedrooms and nine baths, a spa, swimming pool, and ocean view (price: $8.8 million). This was in addition to their multimillion-dollar mansion in Nashville’s exclusive Belle Meade neighborhood, a Tudor-style house in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Va., the famous Gore family farm in Carthage, Tenn. (where young Al used to “plant, raise, cut, and dry” tobacco), a condominium in San Francisco, and a 100-foot houseboat called Bio-Solar One.
Far be it from The Scrapbook to begrudge anyone enjoying the fruits of their labor—or procuring enough space to house their Shaker furniture and stamp collection. But by our rough calculation, the eco-minded, empty-nested, Nobel laureate Gores seem to occupy something well in excess of 20,000 square feet of planet Earth, with all the attendant electrical outlets, sewerage hook-ups, gas mains, labor-saving devices, land lines, water pipes, light bulbs, heaters and air-conditioning units, ranges, microwave ovens, computer paraphernalia and Internet connections, assorted motors, compressors, generators, and crankcases—not to mention the cost of transportation between the houseboat and the condo, Arlington and the farm, or Christmas in Belle Meade followed by New Year’s in Montecito.
Surely, that’s a carbon footprint worthy of Al Gore’s stature, and it ought to keep the family lawyers busy for awhile.
Two who reside high on the (short and selective) list of people THE SCRAPBOOK really admires—Amy and Leon Kass—are retiring at the end of this term after nearly three and a half decades of teaching at the University of Chicago. They are being showered with appropriate honors—Amy is receiving the Norman Maclean Faculty Award for outstanding contributions to teaching at the alumni convocation on June 5, and students from around the country are coming to Hyde Park to celebrate and express their gratitude to the Kasses at a reception on campus.
For those who won’t have been in Chicago, and who may not be direct students of the Kasses, there’s still a chance to learn from and about them, and to honor them, in a different way: Acquire the volume of essays that’s just been published by Rowman & Littlefield, Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver: Honoring the Work of Leon R. Kass. The book features, along with an invaluable bibliography of Kass’s works, 16 essays whose “consistently high quality . . . makes this volume a fitting tribute to a stellar thinker and gifted teacher” (as our colleague William Kristol observes in his blurb).
Some of the contributions deal with Kass’s own work—notably, the essays by frequent TWS contributors Eric Cohen, Yuval Levin, and Paul McHugh. Others address varied writers and thinkers in diverse but always insightful ways: You’ll read Homer, Sophocles, Jane Austen, and Henry James differently (and better!) after pondering Amy Kass on the Odyssey, Paul Ludwig on Antigone, Adam Schulman on Pride and Prejudice, and Harvey Mansfield on Washington Square. It’s a spectacular festschrift, assembled for a remarkable thinker and teacher. And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of the marvelous anthology edited, appropriately, by both Kasses: Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying.
The Scrapbook is pleased to join in the celebration of both of the -Kasses’ achievements.
Flying Pigs Alert
A rare tip of The Scrapbook’s homburg to the editors of the Washington Post for a pungent attack on the all-Democratic Montgomery County, Md., board and its free-spending, public union-coddling ways:
The cozy ties between elected officials and public employees unions in Montgomery have formed the backdrop for a drumbeat of reports about county employees’ bountiful benefits, perks and abuses. . . . More than half the officers who retired recently from the police force left claiming “severe disabilities,” some of them dubious, entitling them to huge taxpayer-funded benefits for life. Veteran firefighters may retire at age 46 and continue working for three years while simultaneously accruing pension payments that increase at a taxpayer-guaranteed rate of 8.25 percent annually, regardless of market performance. Meanwhile, Montgomery’s teachers union has wielded such outsized electoral clout that politicians who received the teachers’ endorsement in the most recent elections reached into their pockets and wrote checks to the union. As far as we know, this occurs nowhere else in America.
The Potemkin Condo
"The itinerary said ‘rural village,’ but we were actually in a suburb. A nice suburb. It looked like a small slice of Northern California had been transplanted onto the outskirts of Dalian, China. . . . This nice little suburb, it turned out, had been built in 2006. And like a lot of things in China, it was built all at once, on top of a village that already existed. The obvious question with this sort of rapid development is what happens to the people who had the shack that sat on the land where the government wanted to put condos? The answer, at least in Dalian, was that they bought the previous inhabitants off. A conversation with some residents revealed that they didn’t just get one free apartment in the new building. They got four free apartments, three of which they were now renting out. And medical coverage. And money for furnishings. And a food stipend. And—I’m not kidding, by the way—birthday cakes on their birthdays. Sweet deal.” (Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, on a journalists’ tour of China sponsored by the China United States Exchange Foundation.)
Credit Where Due
In our cover story on the relocation of the holdings of the Barnes Foundation to Philadelphia (“An Act of Vandalism,” Lance Esplund, May 31, 2010), image credits were missing for Henri Matisse’s Seated Riffian on page 17, The Dance on pages 18 and 19, and his Joy of Life on page 28. The credit in each case should have read: © 2010 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Buy This Book!
The Scrapbook is feeling like a proud parent again, and this time in honor of our literary editor, Philip Terzian, whose fascinating study—Architects of Power: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and the American Century—has just been published by Encounter Books ($19.95). At 116 pages, Architects of Power is just long enough to take an authoritative look at an endlessly interesting subject, and just brief enough to be suitable for beach reading.
Terzian’s thesis, in a nutshell, is that the historical reputations of Ike and FDR are at odds with the reality of their lives and careers, and that what they did and believed—as “architects” of America’s rise to global dominance—still resonates in the 21st century. It’s a biographical study of two vital (and seemingly dissimilar) figures in our history, an unconventional treatment of America’s superpower status, and not least, an object lesson for the present day.
It is also written, The Scrapbook hastens to add, with our colleague’s characteristic elegance, skill, and humor. But don’t just take The Scrapbook’s word for it; here’s what presidential historian Richard Norton Smith has to say:
The volume may be slender, but the ideas with which it grapples are as large as the American Century. This shrewd, persuasive double portrait captures two of the century’s most influ-ential—and elusive—leaders. Moving beyond stale debates over FDR’s health at Yalta and the subtlety of Ike’s Cold War policies, Terzian recasts each man as an architect of the world we inhabit. Compelling history, gracefully written and hard to put down.