They should watch out for Al Gore

Published 4:26 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2007

With all due respect to my fellow election observers, I don’t think nearly enough attention is being paid to the plans and potentialities of former Vice President Al Gore.

Gore is a man who, less than seven years ago, won the votes of over half a million more Americans than the ultimate winner of the presidential election, George W. Bush. If Gore’s votes had been a little differently distributed in the Electoral College, he would have become president and might currently be rounding out his second term.

But it didn’t work out that way. Instead, Gore returned to private life, put on some extra weight and found a new, and highly popular, cause: the supposed dangers of global warming. In the last few years, Gore has moved into the leadership of the national and international crusade against this alleged menace, a highly popular cause, especially among the liberals and leftists who dominate the Democratic Party. This quest has enabled Gore to travel the globe in a seemingly nonpolitical campaign to save humanity from all sorts of perceived perils, which may very well win him a Nobel Prize later this year.

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That’s quite a comeback for a defeated presidential candidate. It makes him look like an indefatigable battler for the good of the whole human race. Even if he is wrong (and he probably is) about global warming, who can deny that he seems sincerely devoted to the best interests of mankind?

But, without in any way questioning the sincerity of his concern, note that Gore’s environmental campaign also has had the important political side effects of keeping him high in the public eye by certifying his devotion to a thoroughly nonpolitical effort for the benefit of humanity. As the Democratic nomination battle seems to be settling down to an ugly slugfest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, one would have to be a pretty embittered Republican not to admit that Gore looks positively attractive as a possible alternative.

What are his negatives? It’s hard to think of many. His name and conventionally liberal-Democratic views are almost universally well known. Experience? He was a U.S. senator, who then served eight years as Bill Clinton’s vice president. His background appears to conceal no scandals, and his health seems robust at 59 years old.

Gore hasn’t declared his candidacy for president in 2008 and says he has “no plans” to do so, the politician’s stock phrase for keeping all options wide open. Why on earth should he wade into the fray now? Why not just keep on winning kudos for his battle against global warming while letting Clinton and Obama beat each other to a pulp for the rest of this year. Then he can decide, not long before the primary season opens in early 2008, that Americans might like a different choice — a well-known and highly experienced former vice president, freshly endowed with new, worldwide, nonpolitical laurels?

Unlike Clinton, Gore would not inspire the Republicans to the heights of frenzy that would be generated against the Ice Queen. And his record as an office-holder, let alone global do-gooder, would simply overwhelm Obama’s pitiful three empty years in the Senate.

It may be objected that Gore has been around too long, while Clinton and Obama haven’t yet had their chance at the Oval Office. But Americans have short memories, and recollections of Gore as a politician will be at least eight years old by the primary, obscured by his newer fame as Savior of the Planet. Republicans will neglect him at our own peril.

(William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy.)