Former Vice President Al Gore distinguished himself by annumber of colorful claims, including his invention of the hiternet,nhis status as inspiration for the plot of Lxive Stor’, and hisncrime-busting investigations that pulled the covers off LovenCanal and the villainy of both the internal-combustion enginenand flush toilet. During last year’s presidential campaign, wenwere treated to lurid tales of his dog’s drinking and drug problemsnand his uncle’s exposure to tear gas at the battle of Thermopylae.nSuqjrisingly, he never mentioned his historic appearance at quarterbacknfor the 1958 Detroit Lions. Surely Mr. Gore, Renaissancenrole model for our time and inspiration to Buddhist monks,nballot-recount scammers, and celebrity race-hustlers, would wantnus all to understand that he, not George Plimpton, got there first.nhi Gore’s case, each of these grandstanding absurdities was clearlynmeant to wow gullible members of a particular constituency,nincluding the techno-geeks of Silicon Valley, the literarj’ crowd,nand the save-the-schnauzer environmentalists. W’liy were ^4ondaynNight Football enthusiasts not reminded how, fuzzy-cheekednlad often, he came off the bench to relieve the alcohol-befuddledni3obby Lavne, tossed the winning touchdown, and began to takenshape as his own favorite hero? As outlandish as all this is—andnwho can tell what other preposterous assertions he may make beforenwe hear tiie last of him — the problem for ever}’one is that ournformer Vice Renaissance man thinks all this nonsense should bentaken absolutely seriously. For him and for other practicingnmembers of Hie Society’ of Ersatz hitellectuals, freedom of speechnmeans never having to say you faked it.nIt is not new for those in the public eye —even for thosencelebrities famous, as media pundits like to say, only for beingnfiimous —to fancy themselves experts on a wide range of subjects.nIn the past, there have been many people eminent in onenarea who were legitimately knowledgeable about other things.nTony Outhwaite is a literary agent in New York City.nRenaissance Fraudsn”Fm Not a Doctor, But I Play One on TV”nby Tony OuthwaitenGranted, it is probably too late to determine whether HeinrichnHimmler actually made the most spectacular chickweed soufflesnin all of Central Europe or whether Russian astronaut YurinGagarin really could name the starting lineups for ever)’ MajornLeague Baseball team throughout the 1950’s. It is more likely,nthough, that Gagarin did not know a baseball glove from annoven mitt and, if he ever heard the name “Detroit Tigers,”nthought they were a gang of street hooligans who hung outnaround die corner from Hie main railway station, wearing blacknleather jackets, sucker punching the occasional tourist, andnstrutting their stuff for the girls.nBy contiast, Theodore Roosevelt, a genuine Renaissance man,nis celebrated in an inscription on the fagade of New York Cit}”snMuseum of Natiiral History’ as “ranchman / scholar / explorer /nscientist / conservationist / naturalist / statesman / autlior / historiann/ humanitarian / soldier / patriot,” and could claim real accomplishmentsnin all these areas. Tliese are credentials that notneven a hard case like Alec Baldwin could truthfully disparage, asnhe prepares for his move to Paraguay in protest of the Bush administiationn(and where he may beH:er indulge his enthusiasmsnfor public urination and stoning members of Congress). But forna self-proclaimed expert like Mr. Gore, comparing himself to Jesus,nhosting symposia on “metaphor” and tossing off moralisticnstatements tiiat “evil lies coiled in the human soul,” tiie satisfactionnseems to come from seeing how much he can f;ibricate—nusually out of whole cloth —for special occasions.nToday’s Renaissance celebrit)’ experts are remarkably comfortablenwith their many versions of themselves. With four ornfive minutes’ preparation and an absolute minimum of actualnknowledge, tiiey are always ready to bob, weave, riff, and pontificatenon any number of issues, figuring—righdy-that neithernthe media nor the general public will check carefully enough toncatch them in yet another outrageous pretension. Whether it isnMichael Douglas riled up about nukes, or Shirley MacLainennnlUNE 2001/19n