Saturday, October 13, 2007


There really is nothing else anyone can say this morning. Gore Obama. Not Obama Gore, but Gore Obama.

Al Gore should first of all be congratulated for winning the award for his work on global warming. I’m not a scientist, so I cannot personally vouch for the accuracy of his claims, but I believe his fundamental point: that he is backed by the vast majority of credible scientists. And whatever the vast majority of credible scientists believe about matters of science – not theology, not politics, but science – is what I believe. Who am I to argue with them?

Al has fought the good fight in order to save our planet, and his recent work on climate change has been the culmination of decades of passion as an environmentalist. That’s what is really impressive here. This isn’t just a politician who latches onto an idea that happens to be the right idea for his time. He’s a national politician who has focused on a particular set of problems for most of his adult life, and has actually succeeded in transforming the world’s consciousness in this area. How rare is that? Combine that fact with the undeniable truth that this man won the majority vote in his “democracy’s” Presidential election and yet didn’t win the Presidency, and you have a guy who truly deserves all the rewards he’s now receiving … and then some.

So yes, let’s congratulate Al. But once the congratulations are over, once the applause dies down, then what? Was yesterday’s award just another opportunity for Fat and Happy Al to take another walk on the red carpet? Or will he be able truly to leverage that award into real power – power to fight global warming on a massive scale, and to tackle some of the other enormous problems facing our country (like our health care crisis)?

Nobody knows the answers to those questions. But those are precisely the questions that everyone who isn’t a complete right-wing ideologue has got to be asking.

Oh yeah. There is one more question. Assuming we agree that Al needs to leverage his award to gain power, how best does he do it? Does he remain an unofficial “ambassador” for the environmental movement? In that capacity, he can roam around the world, giving speeches and earning bazillions. Maybe he can make another movie. I bet Spielberg would be willing to direct it, and they could get any actor in Hollywood to lend his or her face to the cause (whatever that cause might be). Al could become ubiquitous, in fact – just as Sharpton and Jackson have become the faces of the black civil rights movement, and Oprah has become the kingmaker of the literary world, Al can become the face of environmentalism, heath care reform, anti-poverty measures, the peace movement … He can become as omni-present as Spinoza’s God.

But is that real power? When you look at Sharpton and Jackson, for example, you see two people who find themselves constantly in the news and who have undeniably made a difference on certain issues – such as the firing of Don Imus. But have they really made the kind of impact on the African-American condition that is fundamentally transformative? I don’t think so. If you want transformative, there’s only one tried and true way: take over the White House.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the current occupants. Say what you want about Bush Cheney, but there’s no debate that they’ve made their presence felt. Saddam is gone, Uday and Qusay are gone, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are gone, several thousand Americans are gone, and hundreds of billions of American dollars are gone. I call that an impact.

And it’s not just Bush and Cheney who have “leveraged” the power of the Presidency. Look at Ronald Reagan. He helped tear down the Iron Curtain (yeah!), though he also helped foster massive economic inequality. Once again, though, the issue isn’t whether he did a great job or a horrid one, but did he wield real power, not just red-carpet-like status. And the answer, unquestionably, is yes.

If Al wants power, then, he ought to try to seize it from within. He doesn’t have to be President – Cheney isn’t – but he needs to dominate the agenda of the White House. From that perch, a person can do so much in so many different ways, especially if he is focused. Reagan was focused. Cheney has been focused. And Al appears to be focused – or at least he was focused before he became fat and happy.

According to the conventional wisdom, Al won’t run. One after another, party insiders are quoted in the media saying things like Al recognizes that “Democrats are happy with the candidates they’ve got” and don’t need another in the race.

Are we now? Are we really that happy? Even Barack Obama has acknowledged that Hillary Clinton has become the “default candidate.” So it’s safe to say that the only Democrats who are happy with the status quo are those who want to see Hillary elected President. And is that really part of the formula for Al Gore to leverage his new found fame?

Just think about what we’d have if Clinton was President, and Gore was the unofficial ambassador for all things holy. It sounds a lot like 1992, doesn’t it? Clinton Gore. We’ve seen it before. And tell me, how much power did Al have back then? He was a committed environmentalist before he became Veep – but did that translate into seismic shifts in American environmental policy? The fact of the matter is that if there’s a Clinton in the White House, the two most powerful Americans will be Clintons. By the time his eight years as VP were over, Al was so fed up that he essentially told the Clintons to get lost and, yes, it cost him the 2000 election. In Hillary, we’re not exactly talking about a natural ally. We’re talking about a rival.

Al has one opportunity to make the kind of impact that Dick and Ronald have made, and that is to go for the White House … and this time, not as Clinton’s lap dog. It’s obvious that a huge percentage of the electorate would toss aside Hillary in a second and support the Nobel Prize Laureate. It’s also obvious that in Barack Obama, he could select the ideal Vice Presidential candidate. Barack, like Al – but unlike Hillary – has been an opponent of the Iraq War from the start. Barack, like Al – but unlike Hillary – comes across as a lover, not a fighter. Barack, like Al – but unlike Hillary – is perceived by the party’s base as a progressive and not a triangulator. And most importantly, Barack would probably accept Al Gore as belonging at the top of the ticket should the two men join forces. Hell, even Barack probably realizes that his ideal moment as a statesman is in the future, and not in the present.

Today, the moment belongs to one of two people. Not Barack. Not Guiliani. But Gore or Clinton. The nation deserves that choice. Al, if you love democracy as much as you hate climate change, please give it to us.


Finding Fair Hope said...

Gore-Obama is my dream team too. It would take a lot to make it happen, but for once we wouldn't have to hold our noses when we vote.

I wrote about Gore several times in February and Marchand still think he's the most impressive Democrat on the horizon. I didn't support him in 2000 (when he won), but I see the error of my ways now. Hope others do too.

Daniel Spiro said...

I don't understand why more people didn't like him in 2000, but even he would have to agree that he has matured a lot as a statesman between 2000 and today.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Why didn't I like him in 2000? It's the distant past now, but I wanted him not to say in the rose garden that Clinton would go down in history as one of the best American Presidents, when he so clearly disliked the man as much as I did; I wanted him to speak up on issues about which he felt strongly (for example, as it turns out, the environment and global climate change). I wanted him not to have hired Naomi Wolff or any other handlers who would advise him to take on the persona of Alpha Male. I wanted him not to embarrass me with that extended kiss of Tipper at the convention.

Water under the bridge. He did win the election, and he did it without my vote, so I hope by some stroke of fate he gets his deserved time as leader of the free world in my lifetime. Maybe if we could persuade Obama to make the grand gesture and throw his support to Gore before it's too late, he will prevail.

Let us continue to dream, America.

Daniel Spiro said...

Nobody seems to think Al will run -- unless we have something like a split convention and the need for a White Knight to come in and save the Party. Somehow, I have a feeling that won't happen. As of now, at least, we have a clear front runner.