Former Vice President Al Gore shaved off his beard, but
he was still treated like a terror suspect on a recent trip to
Wisconsin to address a Democratic Party convention.
Passengers boarding a flight to Milwaukeee at Reagan
National Airport in Washington last week were shocked to
hear Gore being told, "Sorry, sir, you have to go through
extra screening," and see guards rifling through his briefcase
and suitcase, a witness told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"You're looking out and seeing Al Gore's unmentionables in
his big, carry-on suitcase," Mark Graul of Green Bay told the
paper. "You could tell he was thinking, 'This is not happening
to me.' He did not have a happy look on his face. Basically
the whole plane boarded before they got through looking
through his stuff."
Graul says a bunch of passengers whipped out their cell
phones before the plane took off. "People were calling
friends," Graul says, "[telling them] 'You're never going to
believe what I just saw.' " Adding insult to injury, Gore was
taken aside at the gate when he left Milwaukee for New
York the next day and thoroughly searched again.
"My understanding is he was randomly selected both times,"
says Gore aide Jano Cabrera, who was traveling with the
ex-veep. "And both times he was more than happy, as all
Americans are in these troubled times, to cooperate."
Cabrera insists Gore wasn't mad. "Despite the fact that he
won more votes than anyone else in the history of America,
except for Ronald Reagan, he is more than happy to do his
part for airport security," Cabrera says. "As I recall, he
shook the hands of all the airport screeners afterward and
thanked them for doing the jobs that they're doing, and asked
them to keep up the good work."
A rep for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration
said that the agency "does believe that screening at the gate
is an additional level of security," and noted that former
dignitaries do not merit special treatment.
Meanwhile, Gore is planning to meet with top Democratic
contributors and members of his old campaign staff later this
month in Memphis to discuss another bid for the presidency
"Memphis is going to be an opportunity for many old, and
some new, friends to get together who have been the
financial backing for many Democratic campaigns in the
past," veteran fund-raiser Mitchell Berger told the AP. "This
is an opportunity for them to get together and be with Al and
Tipper and discuss the state of Democratic politics currently
and in the future."