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"Actually, I was trying to send a message to Tipper."

So said Vice President Al Gore, when asked if he was trying to send a message to the country with the Gores' nationally televised smooch on the final evening of the Democratic National Convention.

For some reason I can't quite grasp, people are making a big deal about the not quite X-rated kiss Al gave Tipper right before he began his nomination acceptance speech. They're asking questions like:

* Was it a sincere demonstration of affection, or were they faking it to enhance his family man image and distinguish the Gores from Bill and Hill?

* Did the Gores take a poll before launching their hug and kiss?

* Was it real or was it Memorex?

There's no pleasing the media. If you don't kiss and hug your wife in public, you're obviously unfaithful. And if you do, you're too lewd and lascivious to be our Prez.

I must own up to some bias here. No, I'm not talking about political bias, though I'll admit to favoring Al Gore (both the kissy-face and kiss-free models.) I just find it easy to believe a public display of affection is genuine. Why? Because, much to the chagrin of family and friends, my husband Mark and I often kiss and hug in public. And neither of us is running for office.

Not only are our public smooches sincere, but we've never taken a pre-kiss poll.

In the wake of the Gore's lovey-dovey brouhaha, I asked a few friends how Mark and my public demonstrations of affection compared to the Gore's on-stage (but I'm betting not staged) love-fest. Here's what some of them said:

"Are you kidding? Compared to you two, Gore's a priest and Tipper's a nun."

"Give me a break. I'm still digesting my dinner."

"How am I supposed to know? I always cover my eyes till it's over."

Then there's the rabbi who (after 22 years years) still hasn't recovered from our "you may kiss the bride" spectacle.

Now that I've established my credentials, you can trust me when I say -- Al and Tipper rock.

You cynics can believe whatever you want. But in my expert opinion, that was no pre-planned performance. I'm convinced that the Gores are the real deal -- a genuinely loving, happily married couple.

I can only hope they have as good a time in the privacy of their home ... and in the White House.

© August 2000 Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.

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