Why not Gore?

T.A. Barnhart

Al Gore endorse Barack Obama in Detroit, June 16 2008By January 2005, it seemed obvious to me that Al Gore was not going to run for President. Like millions who had been inspired by his post-2000 career — his fiery speeches against Bush in 2004 and, of course, his "An Inconvenient Truth" campaign to save the planet — I had hoped he would seize the opportunity to win again the office that had been stolen from him by an immoral Supreme Court decision. But for a variety of reasons, Gore chose not to run. Like millions of other voters, I began looking elsewhere for a candidate. Deciding to support Barack Obama was an easy, and, for me, obvious choice. I am damned pleased I was more prescient than most people. (Yay me.)

One of the more enjoyable sideshows of the summers campaign, of course, is the guessing over who Obama and McCain will pick for their running mates. I'm hoping McNasty picks the Exorcist, Louisiana Gov Bobby Jindal: someone from the certifiably fanatic wing of the GOP is certain to put Obama into office. (On a serious note, however, despite Jindal's manifest shortcomings, his nomination would represent a great moment for Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in this country; the wrong candidate, to be sure, but a step towards the national recognition and credibility they deserve.)

For Obama, there are a host of Democrats who would make tremendous running mates: Sibelius, Kaine, Richardson, Clark (who I think is the front-runner at this point) and more. But while watching Al Gore endorse Obama in Detroit last night, I found myself asking: "Why not Gore?"

First, the objections, and the first objection is that he probably doesn't want the damn job. He's done it once before, and though given unprecedented responsibilities by his friend Bill Clinton, he was still "just" the Vice-president. Given his current stature — Oscar-winner and Nobel laureate — and the freedom to follow his own path, why would he give that up to be the kid's back-up?

Well, this is not just any kid. This is a young man who may be the leader who leads America from its current despair to the kind of bright future Al Gore undoubtedly wishes for his nation (and towards which Gore himself could have led us starting eight years ago). But even if Gore sees the value as being Obama's running mate and partner, many Americans may not want any part of the Clinton Administration returning. Gore has, of course, been a source of ridicule on the right for over a decade, but for many Americans, his recent career has "rehabilitated" him in their eyes. I don't think the kind of half-ass treatment he received form the media in 2000 would be tolerated this year. He's not that Al Gore anymore.

On the plus side, I see several compelling reasons for Obama to select Gore. One — and this is crystal clear as you watch the video from Detroit — is that he has become a dynamic campaigner. I think he always was, but he listened to a so-called strategy team in 2000 that brought out his absolute lamest. Watching him in Detroit, you hear fire, power, humor and passion. Sure, he'll bring that to the campaign without being Obama's running mate, but the added cachet of being on the ticket will add even greater strength to his already tremendous abilities. He will be a regular presence on the news, and no matter who the Rs pick to shore-up McCain, the VP debate will likely be as one-sided as Bentsen-Quayle.

One of the qualities many are calling for in Obama's choice is a counter-balance to his youth and supposed inexperience. With Gore, Obama gets more than an elder statesman. Gore brings maturity to the ticket, of course, but not the stodgy ancient history uber-maturity of Sam Nunn, whom some are irrationally touting. Gore has credibility with young Americans because of "Truth," of course. They know he is not merely a visionary for the gravest danger facing the planet — he is the Gore-acle, a moniker of which he should be proud — but also someone who actually cares. "Truth" may be frightening and funny, but it is also revealing of a vital truth: Al Gore really does care. Not merely about the issue, but the people of Earth who face an unspeakable future if we do not act soon to change our course. Al Gore has an appeal now that he lacked in 2000, and it's an appeal that is complementary to Obama's.

I also believe the young voters who were not around for the Clinton years and don't remember the debacle of 2000 will view Gore as a fresh face. One of the great things about post-millenial irony is that old guys can get a new start. It's as if Gore 2000 and Gore 2008 are two different people. Watching him in 2004 and in Detriot, it's a thought that's hard to deny.

And those voters who won't reject him out-of-hand because he's a Democrat or because he has been in the same room as the Clintons will give him a second chance. Most Americans now believe, I think, that even if Gore was not robbed in 2000 (and a huge number believes exactly that), the country made a terrible mistake in not electing him. To take only two minor issues, the war and global warming, Americans understand how much better off we'd be today under a Gore Administration (added bonus: no Liebermann in the Senate).

One thought that must be borne in mind in considering a vice-president, of course, is: Can we see that person rising to the presidency? Either in the case of tragedy or as a successor in eight years' time? I know that I would trust Al Gore as I would trust few others to lead the country in much the same way Barack Obama will. Should he be forced to take office in that unthinkable way, I believe he would shepherd the nation through what would be one of the darkest periods in our history. Al Gore would see us through, and he would then build on Obama's hope.

But I don't think he would run in 2016, and that is, frankly, something I find myself wanting in a vice-presidential nominee: Someone not likely to use the office to jump-start a presidential run. By the time we get into Obama's sixth year and necessarily start thinking of who we want to succeed him, I would like to be able to start from scratch and not have the choice pre-determined by who is the veep. In 2004, we had no idea that the Illinois state Senator making the keynote address at the Democratic Convention would be the nominee next time around. How can we foresee now who will be poised to take leadership of the party and nation in 2016? I like the idea of a vice-president who is there to do that job and not to prepare for the step up.

Listen to the whole speech if you haven't yet; it's only 15 minutes. The lines about a "T in your BLT" and "even cats and dogs know..." are wonderful. As you watch, think of what you know about Al Gore: He's incredibly smart, he knows government and many of the leaders of Congress, he's absolutely dedicated to saving our planet (from us), he knows how to communicate effectively, he was against the war from the very beginning, and when it comes to a national campaign — well, kids, he's been through this shit before. He knows what to expect and he knows what it takes. To me, even if he is older and a bit heavier, he seems fresher and more alive than in 2000.

I can picture an Obama-Gore ticket easily, the bright young man carrying the promise of a new future and the proven elder statesman providing gravitas and wisdom. Yes, there are reasons not to pick Gore, but given all the reasons for picking him, I say, why not?

Obama-Gore 2008. I like the sound of that. I like the look of that.

  • (Show?)

    For many Americans - me, included - the election of 2000 was the moment when our country went off the rails.

    Can there be any doubt that elections matter? And that the Democrats and the Republicans have two very different ideologies and views of the world?

  • Gene Kelly (unverified)

    You don't need E-GORE THE PUCKER MAN (Gore) He is a real screw-head from the BJ Groper (Clinton) administration

  • Eric Ramon (unverified)

    according to Politico (ok, not my blog of choice...) Gore is "unlikely to appear on the campaign trail". Supposedly he's had his fill with politics.

    His speech the other night did not rouse me like those of Richardson or Edwards, frankly. We can praise Al Gore for what he's done and is still doing but it's time for a new generation. Now watch....Obama will pick Joe Biden and confound me!

  • anon (unverified)

    Why not Gore?

    Because we want Obama to win.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    Sorry, but I do not think that we can have an ecozealot like Gore running with Obama because the issues of the environment would be too skewed for the tastes of many involved. Don't get me wrong, the environment is important, but Gore would bring too much of it to the table when we need to have a balance of issues to balance out the ticket.

    Besides, 2000 left him with quite a sour taste in his mouth, which was the catalyst for him to move on with his ecozealot agenda.

  • Harry (unverified)

    Gore is a snore.

    Mr Wooden Personality.

    What a great contrast to the main man. Gore will put everybody to sleep, then Obama will wake them up.

  • trishka (unverified)

    i think the answer to the question "why not gore?" is "because gore doesn't want to."

    not much more one can say than that, really, and no reason to believe that it isn't the case.

    why on earth would he want to go back into politics? he's having the greatest success(es) of his career right now.

  • Sam Philburn (unverified)

    Algore is the typical elistist democrat. He runs around and preaches about the environment, while his own home is a complete environmental resource HOG: http://tennesseepolicy.org/main/article.php?article_id=764

    Do as I say, not as I do.

    Perfect Obama/Gore campaign slogan.

    Obama pushing muslim women out of his campaign shots while preaching Unity. Gore demanding everyone REDUCE their carbon footprint - while he does the opposite at his home.

    That's CHANGE the democrat way. You CHANGE your ways, but it's business as usual for the party elitists.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Al Gore and Jimmy Carter are living examples that there is indeed life after political defeat. Leave Gore alone. The "Draft Gore for President" rigamarole went on well into 2006, as I recall, maybe even into 2007, defiant in the face of all evidence that Gore had found a path in life outside electoral politics. Please don't repeat that mistake.

  • Michael (unverified)

    I love Al Gore and would love to see him in the Oval Office someday. However, I don't think he would be a good fit for the Obama ticket for many of the reason that Clinton is also not a good fit.

    Obama is attempting (and with much sucess) to be an agent of change and a fresh face in politics. I think that if those who are looking for "change" are faced with the choice of McCain and Obama - they'll vote Obama. However, if Clinton is added to the ticket, she'll represent the "establishment" and "old school" politics and McCain may seem more of a fresh choice, as hard as it may be for us Dems to rationalize.

    I see Gore playing an active role in the Obama administration (should he win in November). Perhaps even in a role as visable as Sec. of Interior - although I kinda doubt it.

    My hunch is that Obama would like to tap either Jim Webb, Dick Gephart, or Sam Nunn as his VP. Biden is also a good choice - but a bit too much of the political furniture in DC.

    Anyhow - just my 3 cents worth (adjusted for inflation).

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    Welcome, GOP trolls! Your pathetic mewling, brought on by sheer desperation, is music to my ears!

    I personally don't think Al Gore has any intention of stepping down into any position within the Obama campaign. He's already been Vice President. Why do that job again?

    Insofar as Gore's personal environmental footprint, the price he pays for his energy bill is higher specifically because uses green sources. The problem he has pointed out is carbon dioxide pollution reducing the habitability of the planet. Not use of energy.

    The nice thing about clean, renewable, energy is that it renews. It's really quite simple.

    Now go crawl back under the rock you came from. America stands tall specifically because this great nation has a history of overcoming hate-filled conservativism. We'll just add you environmental pollyannas to the long list of other scourges the left has long since vanquished: witch burners, royalists, slave holders, stock fraudsters, plutocrats, snake oil salesmen, religious bigots, war profiteers, racists, chickenhawks, etc. You've had your day. Now shut up and let the grownups fix the mess you've made.

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    Harry, you didn't even watch the video. you probably haven't seen Gore since 2000, otherwise you wouldn't be parrotting the media's idiocy from back then. i'm not sure what the need for such laziness is, other than you're perhaps pissed at the votes Gore took away from Nader....

    there is no perfect vp candidate. they all involve difficulties for the campaign, from Biden's loose-lippiness to any woman not being Hillary to dreary boring old white men to being too southern and/or too militaristic. the same people also bring strenths that make them worth consideration.

    Gore brings more strengths than most, his negatives of 2000 have mostly disappeared, and he adds to the excitement that is a part of the Obama brand without, as Hillary would, conflicting with Obama. remember, in 2004, Gore endorsed Howard Dean; he clearly understands the nature of progressive politics and recognizes a progressive leader worthy of his support (Dean's success at the DNC has vindicated Gore's endorsement).

    this is all just fun & games for now anyway. i trust Obama to make the best choice for him.

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    t.a. I rarely watch the videos and didn't watch this one because you can't get high-speed internet in my part of inner SE Portland (duplex in south Woodstock neighborhood on 39th just across from Eastmoreland, go figure). I'm trying to figure out about using broadband through a mobile phone provider, but meanwhile ... Maybe Harry has dial-up too.

    On Gore as VP, what trishka says. And beyond that, would VP help or hinder his global warming work?

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    public library, Chris. it's free, broadband, has audio & they're all over town

    you're in my neighborhood, less than a 10-minute walk from the Woodstock library. open 7 days a week, as is the liquor store you'll pass on the way. life is good!

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)

    Kari asked: "Can there be any doubt that elections matter? And that the Democrats and the Republicans have two very different ideologies and views of the world?"

    (1.) No

    (2.) Yes

    The ideology that matters is not the difference between the two corporatist empire builders; it is the agreement between them. The international criminal conspiracies that the two major parties represent will not be ended by the election of either Obama or McCain. But elections do matter. Support a progressive.

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    from John Nichols, The Nation, via Alternet:

    Gore's warm written endorsement left open only one question. Would the line "I intend to do whatever I can to make sure he is elected President of the United States" be read as an acknowledgment that he would accept the Democratic nomination for Vice President. Gore's appearance with Obama in Detroit on Monday night - before an enthusiastic crowd that packed the sprawling Joe Louis Arena - only fed the speculation. The last time Obama unveiled a major endorsement, it was also in Michigan - when former Senator John Edwards appeared with the presumptive Democratic nominee in Flint last month. The Obama-Edwards appearance spurred substantial ticket talk. But, in many senses, Gore is an even stronger vice presidential prospect than Edwards. He has far more legislative and executive-branch experience. He has global respect. He is recognized as a moral leader in the environmental debates that will be central to defining the 21st century. And no one is better positioned to unite Democrats. Always popular with the party base, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is arguably even more well-regarded now - especially with core Democratic constituencies that may still be smarting over Obama's defeat of New York Senator Hillary Clinton in the race for the party's 2008 nomination. The notion of a former vice president or other top figure in a national political party joining a new ticket is hardly radical. In 1980, Ronald Reagan seriously considered -- and almost agreed to -- selecting former President Gerald Ford, who had also served as vice president, to a GOP unity ticket. In 1964, there was much talk about making United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, who had twice been the Democratic nominee for president, Lyndon Johnson's running mate. In Gore's case, the argument for ticket speculation is even stronger than it was for Ford or Stevenson. After all, Ford and Stevenson were both defeated in their runs for the presidency. Gore, on the other hand, won the popular vote for president in 2000. And the bitter experience of being denied the office that a clear plurality of Americans wanted him to occupy has taught the former vice president the essential lesson of American politics: "Elections matter." Gore understanding of that fact could make him an invaluable addition to an Obama-led ticket.

    i'm only saying....

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    Actually t.a. it's more like 20-25 minutes walk (I'm at the bottom of the hill of Errol Heights, across from the Holy Family school one way and the Missouri Synod Lutheran church in another, and I like to walk the back streets, less traffic, & so don't go by the liquor store -- mostly drink beer & wine if anything anyway and certainly not at the library ;->.

    Woodstock Branch is way cool, they did an awesome design job when they rebuilt it. I love the multi-lingual poem-panel sculptures on the outside with the poem by Kim Stafford, especially the Zulu language panel with the depiction of an early modern printing press in use. But I go to the library for the books, I'm afraid :-( -- yeah, life can be good :->

    Sala kahle (stay/keep well).

  • Gregor (unverified)

    Wes Clark would be my choice. The General would outrank McCain's military achievements and provide assurance to the Reich wingers we would not abandon the troops, as they so often like to suggest. It would do wonders to erode the McCain base. Gore can have EPA or Energy, Edwards gets the Dept of Labor.

    The real worrisome question with the cabinet is what to do with the Baathists of Homeland Security?

  • MCT (unverified)

    Kari...once again...nail on the head. 2000 was the year of the first train wreck. What stunned me was that it happened again in 2004....right before our very eyes. And I am so proud that Americans are finally standing up and saying NO MORE.

    As for Gore as VP...the idea is stale and he would be wasted in that position. Why not head of the EPA, or Dept. of the Interior? Or since creating new cabinet Depts is not unheard of (Lord I shuddered to my soul when I first heard the words 'Dept. of Homeland Security' come out of GW's mouth)...why not create a new Dept? Dept. of Sustainability? Nah....I think Gore might serve on some panels, or work to spread the word as he has been doing, but he would not be interested in long term gov. appointments. I think he is deep down bitter about his experiences. I would be.

    I heard a pundit say that if Obama doesn't choose a woman for VP, McCain very well might. It's tricky, huh? As a woman I just can't understand the Hillary loyalists taking the deal-killing stance some of them have.

  • Ernie D (unverified)

    Don't be surprised if the VP selection is Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska)

    Hagel, age 60, is a decorated Vietnam veteran (Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, ...). He has fought Bush on the Iraq War, branding the Iraq troop surge strategy as the worst foreign policy blunder since Vietnam.

    He's not seeking re-election this year and has said he's considering endorsing Sen. Obama.

  • Adam (unverified)

    "In 2004, we had no idea that the Illinois state Senator making the keynote address at the Democratic Convention would be the nominee next time around."

    <h2>Well, to be fair, I think a whole lot of us were hoping he would after that speech of his. Everything we've learned about him since then has just gone to reinforce that hope.</h2>

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