Back in 2000, I voted for Al Gore, but not enthusiastically. His campaign was ineptly run, and he seemed wholly insincere even to those of us who voted for him. He was the victim of putting too much faith in media consultants. Love or hate George W. Bush (and clearly, I am in the latter camp) you had a good idea of what he stood for. He was not going to be appointing any namby pamby liberal judges, that was for sure. In addition, there were going to be tax cuts forever. Most importantly to many Americans, he represented a clean break from Bill Clinton’s well documented (though in retrospect, largely irrelevant) deficiencies.
Despite all the hoopla about how that election finally turned out, I didn’t shed too many tears for Al Gore. Granted, I shed a lot more a few years later when it became clear of the magnitude of our (or should I say our Supreme Court’s) mistake. The United States will be paying the karmic debt for the Bush Presidency for decades. It is not as if 9/11 would have been a cakewalk for any president. One thing is clear in retrospect: Al has the brains and common sense that all but the most diehard Republican fools now admit that Bush lacks. You know that had the CIA presented its information on Iraqi intelligence to President Gore, rather than going to war, Al would have told the CIA, “This is crap. Get me something that is better sourced.” The Iraq debacle simply would not have happened in a Gore Administration.
Instead, Gore withdrew from public life, did some adjunct teaching and tried to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. He got in some trouble for asking Democrats to endorse Howard Dean for president in 2004. (In retrospect, his endorsement was probably smart, because Dean is authentic, whereas Kerry was not.) After the 2004 elections, Gore zeroed in as the most public and passionate advocate for his most important issue: global warming. As you may have read in the news, his film An Inconvenient Truth is now in theaters. It has been well received and has shaken up even many of the most diehard global warming skeptics. By communicating on a subject that he is passionate about, Al seems to have found is mojo at last. Although I have yet to see the film, I have seen the previews. At least in the previews, his performance is stunning. Gone is the Wooden Al that made us cringe in 2000. Finally, we have the real and authentic Al, and I love what I see.
Al says he is not running for president in 2008. However, he does often sound like a candidate. Most noticeably, he has been the major speaker at a number of lectures sponsored in Washington by MoveOn.org. In his speeches, he has delivered devastating critiques of the Bush Administration that were not just coherent, but delivered passionately and convincingly.
Richard Nixon lost the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy. For a while, it appeared that he had gone out to graze permanently in a different pasture. Of course, he reemerged and managed to win the 1968 election. Ironically, he won that election because the Johnson Administration could not find a way out of Vietnam. Nearly forty years later we find ourselves in a similar situation in Iraq. Al is too smart to have a “secret plan” to end this war. Yet one thing is now clear: America needs effective leadership in the war on terrorism. We need someone with a realistic and nuanced plan, not someone whose strategy amounts to slavishly following an ideology.
When I survey the likely 2008 presidential candidates, I am largely uninspired. Howard Dean has ruled out running so that he can tackle the arguably larger problem of bringing Democrats back into the majority. There are likely candidates like Russ Feingold whom I feel passionate about, but who I also know probably leans too far to the left to be elected. Hillary Clinton is the early favorite, yet she claims she is concentrating on her own senatorial reelection this year, not a White House bid. (However, she is raising boatloads of money, far more than she will need to win reelection, which is in the bag anyhow.) I have heard Hillary speak. When her husband was running for president, I even had the opportunity to shake her hand. There is no question that she is an excellent speaker. However, she has a huge percentage of people who will not vote for her under any circumstances. In fact, most of these people totally loathe her. Kerry clearly is positioning himself to run again, but as a well-understood candidate now, he is unlikely to generate new enthusiasm. Of course, others want to try or try again. They include John Edwards, Joe Biden, and even Christopher Dodd (who most Americans do not know). Wesley Clark is my current favorite among these potential candidates, although he too has some passionate enemies.
Clark is no longer my top choice. I want Al. (However, Clark could make an excellent vice president.) I want the Al that I see in An Inconvenient Truth. I want him passionately. This Al Gore is the real deal that he withheld from us in the 2000 campaign. This is the authentic Al, stripped of his masks. He no longer has to worry about triangulating, his poll numbers or following the dubious wisdom of the Beltway insiders. It should feel creepy that old Wooden Al has metamorphosized at last into the Authentic Al. His sincerity, genuineness and passion is now plain for all to see.
It is time to draft Al Gore in 2008. Yeah, I know he says he is not a candidate. I think that he can be persuaded to change his mind if we keep speaking up. Because not only would he be the best Democrat to run for the presidency, I think he is by far the best person to lead our nation at this crucial time in our history. As he goes across the nation speaking and listening, we need to speak to him. We may need to shout. Al, the country needs you. You are being called to service your country. Do not let your country down at this critical time in history.