Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Gorging on Gore

The Guardian interviews Al Gore:

Al Gore has made his sharpest attack yet on the George Bush presidency, describing the current US administration as “a renegade band of rightwing extremists”.

In an interview with the Guardian today, the former vice-president calls himself a “recovering politician”, but launches into the political fray more explicitly than he has previously done during his high-profile campaigning on the threat of global warming.

Denying that his politics have shifted to the left since he lost the court battle for the 2000 election, Mr Gore says: “If you have a renegade band of rightwing extremists who get hold of power, the whole thing goes to the right.”

But he claims he does not “expect to be a candidate” for president again, while refusing explicitly to rule out another run. Asked if any event could change his mind, he says: “Not that I can see.”

Mr Gore, who appeared at the Guardian Hay literary festival over the bank holiday weekend, is promoting An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary and book detailing the climate change crisis that he warns “could literally end civilisation”.

The new levels of attention he is receiving have led some Democrats to call on him to run again for president, while others have responded with anger that Mr Gore did not show the same level of passion in the 2000 campaign.

He has since acknowledged that he followed too closely the advice of his consultants during that campaign, and – before he started to scoff at the idea of running again – swore that if he ever did so, he would speak his mind.

Okay, he’s got a movie out, he’s on the cover of magazines, and, as the Guardian notes, he’s making all the noises that politicians make when they’re sending up trial balloons (witness John Kerry’s recent resusitation of his battle against the Swift Boat scumbags). In spite of the fact that it seems pointless — to me, at least — to be wasting time and pixels on the 2008 election when there is a more pressing election looming in five months, this interest in the doings of Al Gore isn’t going to go away, so we might as well deal with it.

Forty years ago Richard Nixon came back from ignominy after a razor-thin election loss to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and a humiliating defeat in 1962 in his run for governor of California in which he famously told the press they “wouldn’t have Nixon to kick around any more.” But by 1968 with the Democrats in tragic disarray, Nixon had collected enough IOU’s from the Republican base for supporting them in local races and he won the election by promising a return to “law and order” and a swift end to the war in Vietnam. (We got neither.) And while Mr. Nixon may not the be best role model for a defeated presidential candidate, he proved that even a man with a likeability quotient on the level of an alligator in Florida can run and win again. Certainly Mr. Gore has more charm and affability than Mr. Nixon ever had — if those are qualities that actually matter in choosing a president.

It used to be that presidential candidates were easily recycled from one campaign to the next. William Jennings Bryan was the nominee three times, Thomas E. Dewey ran twice, as did Adlai Stevenson. The fact that all of these men lost is not insignificant, but it does indicate that their parties were either willing to give them another chance or they were so lacking in alternatives that they had no choice. Nowadays — at least in the last forty years — a defeated presidential candidate is forgotten as quickly as the bumperstickers can be pulled off (whatever happened to Michael Dukakis?). But in this time when we’re talking about renewable resources and recycling, does make sense to reject the possibility that a candidate who won the popular vote and took his defeat gracefully should be rejected just because he lost? Mind you, this is not an endorsement of Mr. Gore running again per se, but it also doesn’t mean he should be dismissed out of hand.

Yeah, I know he’s saying he’s not running. (And John McCain used to be uncategorical in his statements that he wasn’t running either, so you know how valid those claims are.) So, whaddaya think…should Al Gore try again?