Fraught with political symbolism, it was a kiss, which seemed far longer than it actually lasted and telegraphed to the country that this was a man and wife whose long commitment to each other could restore to the White House a sense of propriety lost during Bill Clinton's tenure.
For all its symbolism, that kiss did not get Al Gore to the White House. And for all its passion it could not keep the Gores together.
After 40 years of marriage, the high school sweethearts announced Tuesday they would divorce, shocking friends and observers, who long considered the couple one of the Beltway's most happily married.
"I was shocked. I've spent a lot of time with the two of them. They had a very close relationship," said Tony Coelho, Gore's former campaign manager. "They had a nice solid relationship. It was fun, personal, romantic. I spent hours with the two of them and I was always impressed by how they got along. I'm totally surprised."
Over the course of the previous decade the couple went from loving "with my whole heart since the night of my high school senior prom," as Al Gore put it in 2000, to having "decided to separate," as they put it in a statement Tuesday.
"We are announcing today that after a great deal of thought and discussion, we have decided to separate," the Gores said in an emailed statement. "This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further."
In that same decade, Gore refashioned himself into the world's most well-known environmentalist, winning both an Academy Award and a Nobel Peace Prize.