Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Unlikely Rise of Al Gore


(image via acslaw)

After six years in the political wilderness surviving on a diet of locusts and honey former Vice President Al Gore is, curiously, metamorphosing into the Progressive-visionary alternative to those prevaricating 2008 Centrist candidates (Allen, Richardson, Bayh, Vilsac, Clinton, et al.). We add "curiously" because, well, no one ever mistook the maddeningly cautious Al Gore as anything remotely approaching a visionary; at least not in his previous incarnation as Congressman, then Senator and, ultimately, the Vice President of the United States. After conceding the Presidency in 2000, and refusing to run in 2004 (opting, instead, to appear on SNL -- averted gaze), Gore returned to private life, teaching at Columbia Journalism School and then at Fisk in his native Tennessee; he started Current TV; he gained weight. That was supposed to be the end of the public Al Gore, at least until his epitaph.

The pendulum swings. Something happened on the way to political obscurity. It smacks of Nixon in '68. Nixon, who had left politics to become a lawyer in Los Angeles made -- unpredictably -- the greatest political comeback in American history, winning the Republican nomination and, ultimately, the Presidency. This, after his infamous, citric "They wouldn't have Nixon to kick around anymore." (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment) Now, according to Ben Smith of The Observer:

"A crowd of nearly 500 in the Library Theater in Park City, Utah, stayed on through a standing ovation and into the question-and-answer session as Al Gore�one Kentucky reporter actually addressed him as 'Mr. President,' to laughs and cheers�restated his warnings about the 'planetary emergency,' global warming.

"...Mr. Gore�no longer Bill Clinton�s straight man, no longer the wooden, cautious candidate of 2000�has been raising his profile through a series of impassioned speeches against the Bush administration. They began in September 2002, when he warned against the invasion of Iraq, which he said �has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world.�

"He dwelled, presciently, on the risk of post-invasion chaos. That speech and others like it, along with his once-mocked warnings about global warning, have transformed him for Democrats into a kind of Cassandra, always right and always ignored. And his clear anti-war stand is in sharp contrast to Hillary Clinton�s obsessively monitored but hard-to-explain position on Iraq. Nobody in Mr. Gore�s political circle suggests, on the record or off, that he is actively planning a run for President in 2008. But the film 'falls into the we�ll see if that gives anything legs category,' said a major Democratic donor who backed Mr. Gore in 2000 and is in touch with the former Vice President�s circle of friends and allies."

(A considerable pause) He's running. Getting in touch with his inner "visionary" (environment; the one issue he has consistently cared about in his political career) is a fresh change for Gore, who ran in 2000 as a pseudo-Centrist (the kind, ironically, Hillary is running as now). Policy geeks will note that Gore, in 2000, actually campaigned for a larger defense buidup than Bush (Hows that for a Democrat?). If Gore can make up with Bill Clinton -- which may be difficult if the race with Hillary gets acidic (Since both are cool pro's this is unlikely, but not in the realm of impossible in Presidential races) -- really and truly, not just for the sake of politics, it would significantly strengthen his game in 2008.

Gore's then-quixotic backing of Howard Dean in 2004 now seems, in retrospect, an astonishingly bold political maneuver with no negatives. At the time, remember, there was a great questioning as to how he could betray Joe Lieberman like that; now, 4 years later, Lieberman is all but a Republican (Lieberman is a top name to replace Secretary Rumsfeld, and Lieberman's opponent in the Senate reelection campaign this year, is supported by the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party), and Dean is, well, Dean. and the Progressive Left will not soon forget that kind turn done to the good doctor. Already, Arianna Huffington -- the unoffical Mayor of Hollywood and go-to gal for LA fundraising -- likes what she sees; Martin Peretz and The New Republic, likewise.

As does the blogosphere.

He's running and will win the Democratic nomination. Count on it.

1 comment:

Solomon Grundy said...

Hm, cool post, but it'll take more than a few speeches to erase the memory of Gore as a leader of the 'third way' centrists.

Among his less than progressive accomplishments: support of corporate trade agreements, support of the death penalty, role in the Nine Mile privatization of public lands, etc., etc.

I like him on global warming, and that's it. Why can't he become the Michael Moore of global warming?