10/12/2007 10:58 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

2008: Showdown at the Not-So-OK Corral

Since 2000, everyone's said what a cowboy we have in the White House. I don't get it. I never have. At least Vicente Fox called Bush a windshield cowboy, meaning he's more into playing the part than actually being it. I'm not a cowboy (in case the bespectacled, jowly bio photo to your left didn't clue you in). I'm a Jewish dad from the suburbs of Washington, D.C. My people are not real rawhide, yee-haw kind of folks. We're more end users when it comes to cattle...think the deckle cut of the brisket.

From the little I do know of the wild West, I appreciate the cowboy life, which I gather has a lot to do with spurs and lassos and baked beans. Still, I know better than to equate myself with such iconoclastic images of Americana. I'd try, but with my luck, I'd get caught trying to smuggle Vaseline in my saddle pack, as leather chaps tend to chafe my thighs.

Isn't calling Bush a cowboy an insult to real cowboys? Don't they have a union or a lobby or something? Shouldn't Jerry Jones have someone's job over this? Sheesh, you work your tail off trying to become a real cowboy with the dust, the smell of horse poop, the Brokeback Mountain jokes, the bad hats, all that fatback for supper, the incessant harmonica...and for what? So President Bush can sully your good name by driving around his "ranch" in a pickup truck for all the presidential press photographers to see? It doesn't seem right.

A real cowboy (at least to this film studies major) doesn't just wear a costume. He looks like Gary Cooper, John Wayne, or...Al Gore. Yes, Al Gore.

Hear me out. (Okay, go ahead and laugh at the mental image that just shot into your head. I did as well. Does your Cowboy Al have a really tight vest and a tiny cowboy hat, too? My Cowboy Al looks strikingly like Steve Martin's cowboy in Parenthood. Not exactly as intimidating as Yul Brynner in Westworld but beggars can't be choosers. )

How many Westerns are based upon a fallen hero's reluctant return to service? The guys who aren't reluctant, who are chomping at the bit to fight, tend to be the villains, don't they? Most heroes in Westerns have better things to do with their time, like raising their families, licking their wounds from battles long since fought, or fighting global warming. For most heroes, stepping up and making a difference is utterly inconvenient (sorry, too easy). Many times, the Western's hero is only compelled to come back to fight another day once something so precious to him is lost or taken away.

Is it too dramatic to say that exactly such a thing has been lost or perhaps taken from Mr. Gore, along with the rest of us, in the six-plus years since he lost the tin star? I think not. Has our nation not become something almost unrecognizable to its former self? Aren't our horses sort of galloping toward the cliff right now, carrying so much of what we value in the wagon strapped to their backs? Isn't this where the hero appears to aid the damsel in distress?

Al Gore's disinclination to run for president is utterly understandable, and downright attractive. For a long time, I've held out hope that Mr. Gore would come riding in on his white horse, casually leaning forward as his stallion bucks against the silhouette of the sun, tips his hat to the townsfolk, and gallops off to save the day.

In truth, I no longer believe that he's coming back to help us climb out of the Orwellian nightmare that we've been living under President Bush. Perhaps it's the dramatist in me, but I was sure he'd jump in when the time was right. I even bet my friend $100 that he'd be in the race by Halloween. If nothing else, Mr. Gore should send me a check. I think that's fair. Perhaps the moment's lost, but, for the sake of good drama, isn't right about now-ish when the reluctant hero appears? Doesn't every real cowboy wait until the last second, just before the covered wagon goes over the cliff? Well, Mr. Gore, it's getting to be about that time. Cue the music....

As for Clinton, Obama, Edwards et al, fine folks indeed. I'll vote with guarded optimism for any one of them. It's just that I've got my heart set on Gore. I like my presidents with some wear and tear on them. I like to know that they've been there and seen it all before, that they're dying not to be President. I like the idea that they're damaged goods, road weary, and smart enough to know that this isn't a job you want but rather one you have to accept.

I also like that Mr. Gore can fatten up and grow a Depression beard when things fall apart. I can relate to that.

My hero.