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Reflecting On My Al Gore Encounter

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During my approximately 13 years as a newspaper reporter I had many highs and lows. I learned everything from how to manufacture a meth lab – a defendant argued, from the witness stand, that she could not have caused the meth lab fire that claimed the lives of her kids, because she was too skilled at what she did, as she spelled it out step by step – to why writing music criticism is not my cup of tea.

I stop and reflect from time to time about some of those experiences.

Sure, there are a few nightmares like covering the trial and sentencing of a serial killer or covering way too many fatal traffic accidents. And there were the funny moments, especially when interviewing people as they turn 100 and hear what it is they are mad about. ("They took away my driver's license! Just because I drove into a house! Who hasn't?")

But today I wanted to stop and answer a question a friend asked me recently. She wanted to know the circumstances of this photo, probably the favorite photo taken of me while in action.

The backstory to the photo: It was about a month or two after the election. We'd heard that his son's lacrosse team was playing a local private school's team. I volunteered for the interview thinking, “How often would I get a chance to meet and interview a president I'd voted for?”

gore and II arrived and had a dilemma. He was sitting by himself in the stands and was clearly enjoying the freedom of being away from everything. And here I was about to burst that bubble and ask, in so many words, how's life after one of the most public and contentious presidential election losses in recent history.

If I walked toward him from in front of him he'd see me, note the reporter's notebook and would have the chance to say, "no comment" and I'd have to return to work, head down, saying I didn't have a story. In the photo you see a Newsweek in my jacket pocket, proving once again that I take reading material everywhere I go.

I wrote down things Gore said which consisted of brilliant, eloquent comments like "Go!" and "Yeah!" Finally I decided it was time to make my move. I jumped onto the bleachers behind him, jumped a few steps (i was so afraid I'd fall and be really embarrassed since I am a total klutz.

The good news is my plan worked. As far as he was concerned I appeared out of nowhere, standing next to him, asking him how the game was going, what he thought of our fair county, before moving on to tougher ground like "What's he going to do now?" I was counting on him being too polite to end the interview amid discussion of his son's lacrosse game. Amid that interview that photo was shot.

But speaking of shot, I almost was. Shot, that is.

Seems that the photographer said he spotted at least three men,secret service guys – who I'd detected before but ignored – who reached for their guns when I jumped over to the former vice president. It probably didn't help that I was taking something out of my pocket. That it was a notebook, not a gun, was known to me but not to them. So I got my interview but also could have been maimed, if not killed. And THAT – as Paul Harvey would say – is the REST of the story

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • So where can we read this interview, Scott?

    I could write reminiscences of my discussions with Gore, but no one would be interested in his ideas of chair placement, how many donuts to provide for conference attendees or audio/video equipment.


  • JustOneMan

    Wow..how exciting! Gee Al “E”Gore..the guy is such a fucking bore! Forget about global warming Al “E”Gore is responsible for the dramatic rise in narcolepsy!


  • At least he’s not a one trick pony like some. That’s really boring…

  • Scott Butki

    “At least he’s not a one trick pony like some. That’s really boring…”

    You mean me or Al Gore?

    Dave: You’d be underwhelmed since most of the article was about local stuff, how pretty the region was, etc.

    But I’ll see if I can get a copy of it to share.

  • Neither…

  • moonraven

    [Entire comment deleted]

  • Arch Conservative

    Post 6# Deleted?

    What good is having a village idiot if you’re not allowed to observe and laugh at them?

  • Scott Butki

    Here is the resulting story:
    Here’s the story.

    Wednesday, April 18, 2001

    Gores visit local school By SCOTT BUTKI

    Former Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper were at St. James
    School Wednesday evening to watch their son, Albert III, play lacrosse
    for the Sidwell Friends School team.

    Sidwell won the game 8-1.

    Gore said he was impressed with St. James School and said both schools
    have good lacrosse teams.

    “It is a good day for lacrosse,” he said.

    He spoke while standing in the wooden stands in front of the field.

    He has returned to private life after losing his bid for the presidency to George W. Bush.

    Gore said he and Tipper are writing a book about families and he is
    teaching classes at Columbia University.

    “I am making a contribution in other ways,” he said.

    He said he has not decided whether he will return to public office.

    If one didn’t know he had been vice president, Gore, clad in cowboy
    boots, blue jeans and a brown jacket, would not have stood out in the

    From the wooden stands, he shouted encouragement to the Sidwell team:
    “Let’s go, Sidwell,!” “Way to go,” “Good defense,” and “Good save.”

    Few people went over to talk to him.

    Frank Joyce, who lives in Washington, D.C., and has a child on the
    Sidwell team, was watching the game from a spot nearby.

    It was no surprise that Gore was at St. James to watch his son play,
    because he attends all home and away games, Joyce said.

    Two men watching the game said they were impressed but not surprised to see Gore at the game, cheering on his son’s team.

    “I think it’s great. I understand he is a pretty good father,” said
    Blackwell Davis, of Charles Town, W.Va.

    “It is good to see him here supporting his son

  • Interesting that Gore sent his kids to Sidwell Friends when he attended St. Albans – that’s what gave me an in to get a job with him back when. Probably a good choice. I think it offers a more well-rounded education, plus it’s co-ed. If I had stayed in DC I’d probably have sent my daughters there. A son I might have sent to StA to continue the family tradition.

    Good article, btw. Nicely focused on the local news while slipping in just enough about Gore to show you’re paying attention.


  • Scott Butki

    The news that Al Gore is getting a divorce made me think back to this story, one of my highlights of my journalism career.