Al Gore Redux

When I read that Al Gore was riding high on the consulting circuit and putting together a glossy documentary on global warming, I thought back to the night in early 1992 when I was in the audience with about 100 other members of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations listening to the then—senator from Tennessee promote his book, Earth In the Balance.

My first thought that night when Gore began talking about the evils of the internal combustion engine was: He isn't serious with this Chicken Little bit, is he? 

After all, time and again history has proven the environmental pessimists wrong.  In 1798,  Thomas Malthus predicted world population would soon outstrip food production.  In 1968, the Club of Rome predicted we'd run out of oil and other strategic minerals by the 1980's. That night on my way to Chicago's University Club where Senator Gore was to be speaking, I had to dodge lots of fat people driving automobiles down Michigan Avenue.

My second thought was: If this yahoo thought he was presidential timber, he must have been seriously delusional. Gore had been a distant also—ran in 1988 even though the so called Super Tuesday southern primary schedule was created, in part, to favor the candidacy of someone with his resume, a so—called moderate Southern Democrat.  Neither intelligence, moral courage nor political leadership was on display that night in 1992, merely a monstrous dose of the bromides that pass for wisdom among the political and media elite. In addition, as I watched Gore work the room before and after his talk, I found myself unfavorably comparing his interpersonal skills to those of the typical Chicago alderman.

None of the questions from the audience that night addressed the 1992 primaries, which in hindsight was a real shame as Bill Clinton was just starting to be taken seriously as a Democratic presidential contender. I suspect the issue simply never came up because Al Gore was very much seen as a political has—been on a quixotic personal mission and not a key power broker in the Democratic Party.

Thus I was most surprised a few months later when Democrat presidential nominee Bill Clinton selected Al Gore as his running mate. Tennessee is not an electoral power house, and, as another moderate—to—liberal (at the time) Southerner, Gore commanded no rival force within in the party and offered no tip of the hat to that time—honored idea of having a regionally balanced ticket. Nor was Gore personally an appealing campaigner.  About the only balance Gore contributed to the ticket was his recent critically well—received book on the environment.  That and a lifetime spent inside Washington DC.

Of course, I now know the Clintons' true political genius has been to surround themselves with people whose overfed egos, vaunting ambitions and politically correct sensibilities vastly exceed their intellectual and administrative talents. They know such people are likely to do just about anything in order to keep a high status positions near the seat of power.

Thus it is that an old fashioned word best describes Gore.  He is a courtier, born and raised inside the Washington elite, well attuned to its customs, rituals and etiquette, visibly uncomfortable outside them, and full of disdain for those perceived to be of lesser status. By their very nature, such men are predictably reactionary.  If a critically well received book on the environment revived Gore's presidential ambitions in 1992, it follows that he would produce an environmental documentary to do much the same in 2006.  And of course, like his 1992 book, the critics just love An Inconvenient Truth.

What makes this all so rich is that if Gore's third presidential race is to be the charm, he will first have to contend with one half of the couple who plucked his political career out the dustbin of failed presidential wannabe's in the first place.  I have no idea how that story might end, but if the choice does come down between Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, my best guess is it will be one ugly fight.

It's in the nature of a sure thing, however, that most of those who have railed endlessly about Vice President Cheney's allegedly nefarious relationship to Halliburton will raise few questions about a candidate Gore's financial connections to Google, a company whose policies are increasingly suspect to those Americans in favor of political liberty abroad and the free flow of information back home.

Rosslyn Smith is an attorney and C.P.A.

When I read that Al Gore was riding high on the consulting circuit and putting together a glossy documentary on global warming, I thought back to the night in early 1992 when I was in the audience with about 100 other members of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations listening to the then—senator from Tennessee promote his book, Earth In the Balance.

My first thought that night when Gore began talking about the evils of the internal combustion engine was: He isn't serious with this Chicken Little bit, is he? 

After all, time and again history has proven the environmental pessimists wrong.  In 1798,  Thomas Malthus predicted world population would soon outstrip food production.  In 1968, the Club of Rome predicted we'd run out of oil and other strategic minerals by the 1980's. That night on my way to Chicago's University Club where Senator Gore was to be speaking, I had to dodge lots of fat people driving automobiles down Michigan Avenue.

My second thought was: If this yahoo thought he was presidential timber, he must have been seriously delusional. Gore had been a distant also—ran in 1988 even though the so called Super Tuesday southern primary schedule was created, in part, to favor the candidacy of someone with his resume, a so—called moderate Southern Democrat.  Neither intelligence, moral courage nor political leadership was on display that night in 1992, merely a monstrous dose of the bromides that pass for wisdom among the political and media elite. In addition, as I watched Gore work the room before and after his talk, I found myself unfavorably comparing his interpersonal skills to those of the typical Chicago alderman.

None of the questions from the audience that night addressed the 1992 primaries, which in hindsight was a real shame as Bill Clinton was just starting to be taken seriously as a Democratic presidential contender. I suspect the issue simply never came up because Al Gore was very much seen as a political has—been on a quixotic personal mission and not a key power broker in the Democratic Party.

Thus I was most surprised a few months later when Democrat presidential nominee Bill Clinton selected Al Gore as his running mate. Tennessee is not an electoral power house, and, as another moderate—to—liberal (at the time) Southerner, Gore commanded no rival force within in the party and offered no tip of the hat to that time—honored idea of having a regionally balanced ticket. Nor was Gore personally an appealing campaigner.  About the only balance Gore contributed to the ticket was his recent critically well—received book on the environment.  That and a lifetime spent inside Washington DC.

Of course, I now know the Clintons' true political genius has been to surround themselves with people whose overfed egos, vaunting ambitions and politically correct sensibilities vastly exceed their intellectual and administrative talents. They know such people are likely to do just about anything in order to keep a high status positions near the seat of power.

Thus it is that an old fashioned word best describes Gore.  He is a courtier, born and raised inside the Washington elite, well attuned to its customs, rituals and etiquette, visibly uncomfortable outside them, and full of disdain for those perceived to be of lesser status. By their very nature, such men are predictably reactionary.  If a critically well received book on the environment revived Gore's presidential ambitions in 1992, it follows that he would produce an environmental documentary to do much the same in 2006.  And of course, like his 1992 book, the critics just love An Inconvenient Truth.

What makes this all so rich is that if Gore's third presidential race is to be the charm, he will first have to contend with one half of the couple who plucked his political career out the dustbin of failed presidential wannabe's in the first place.  I have no idea how that story might end, but if the choice does come down between Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, my best guess is it will be one ugly fight.

It's in the nature of a sure thing, however, that most of those who have railed endlessly about Vice President Cheney's allegedly nefarious relationship to Halliburton will raise few questions about a candidate Gore's financial connections to Google, a company whose policies are increasingly suspect to those Americans in favor of political liberty abroad and the free flow of information back home.

Rosslyn Smith is an attorney and C.P.A.