Ex-VP no airport VIP
Gore searched twice during Wisconsin trip
By KATHERINE M. SKIBA
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Washington - Midwest Express Airlines boasts the "best care in the air," but Air Force II it ain't.
You're looking out and seeing Al Gore's unmentionables in his big, carry-on suitcase.
- Mark Graul of Green Bay,
on Al Gore
Private citizen Al Gore learned that last week - not once but twice.
Traveling to Wisconsin, the former vice president was pulled aside for random security screening at Reagan National Airport before boarding the 7:15 p.m. flight to Milwaukee on Friday.
Passengers sharing Flight 406 were startled to hear Gore being told, "Sorry, sir, you have to go through extra screening," and to witness security personnel rifling through his briefcase and suitcase, a witness said.
"You're looking out and seeing Al Gore's unmentionables in his big, carry-on suitcase," said Mark Graul of Green Bay. "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.
"He patiently went through it and then took a seat in the front row with, I assume, an aide," Graul said.
Gore was en route to Madison to address the Democratic Party of Wisconsin convention Saturday.
Graul, chief of staff to Rep. Mark Green, House Republican from Green Bay, said a handful of passengers fired up their cell phones before the plane left the gate.
He was one of them. "People were calling friends: 'You're never going to believe what I just saw.' "
What are the chances?
On Saturday afternoon, when Gore was leaving Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport, he was taken aside for some extra scrutiny at a Midwest Express gate before boarding a flight to New York, said Gore spokesman Jano Cabrera, who accompanied him during both checks.
"My understanding is he was randomly selected both times," he said. "And both times he was more than happy, as all Americans are in these troubled times, to cooperate."
Does the ex-veep and almost-commander in chief see any irony in being frisked and wanded like your average passenger from the rear of coach?
Does he crave being Big Kahuna?
"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.
"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."
At Midwest Express, based in Oak Creek, Lisa Bailey, director of corporate communications, referred questions to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
TSA spokeswoman Deirdre O'Sullivan stifled her laughter long enough to issue a statement indicating that dignitaries do not merit special treatment.
"The TSA does believe that screening at the gate is an additional level of security that acts as a deterrent to persons who wish to do harm," she added.
Meanwhile, there's been no decision on whether so-called "trusted traveler" cards will be issued to whisk good-intentioned frequent fliers through security, O'Sullivan said.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on June 14, 2002.