Al Gore: The Ethical President Who Might Have Been

David Remnick sums up the qualities of Gore’s leadership that might have been put to good use over the past 6 years:

It is past time to recognize that, over a long career, his policy judgment and his moral judgment alike have been admirable and acute. Gore has been right about global warming since holding the first congressional hearing on the topic, twenty-six years ago. He was right about the role of the Internet, right about the need to reform welfare and cut the federal deficit, right about confronting Slobodan Milosevic in Bosnia and Kosovo. Since September 11th, he has been right about constitutional abuse, right about warrantless domestic spying, and right about the calamity of sanctioned torture. And in the case of Iraq, both before the invasion and after, he was right—courageously right—to distrust as fatally flawed the political and moral good faith, operational competence, and strategic wisdom of the Bush Administration.

And now, compare and contrast:

In the 1992 campaign against Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush mocked Gore as “ozone man� and claimed, “This guy is so far out in the environmental extreme we’ll be up to our necks in owls and outta work for every American.� In the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush cracked that Gore “likes electric cars. He just doesn’t like making electricity.� The younger Bush, a classic schoolyard bully with a contempt for intellect, demanded that Gore “explain what he meant by some of the things� in his 1992 book, “Earth in the Balance�—and then unashamedly admitted that he had never read it. A book that the President did eventually read and endorse is a pulp science-fiction novel: “State of Fear,� by Michael Crichton. Bush was so excited by the story, which pictures global warming as a hoax perpetrated by power-mad environmentalists, that he invited the author to the Oval Office. In “Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush,� Fred Barnes, the Fox News commentator, reveals that the President and Crichton “talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement.� The visit, Barnes adds, “was not made public for fear of outraging environmentalists all the more.�

Remnick also provides some good insights on “An Inconvenient Truth”:

The imminence of catastrophic global warming may be a subject far from the ever-drifting mind of President Bush—whose eschatological preoccupations privilege Armageddon over the Flood—but it is of growing concern to the rest of humanity. Climate change is even having its mass-entertainment moment. “Ice Age: The Meltdown�—featuring Ellie the computer-animated mammoth and the bottomless voice of Queen Latifah—has taken in more than a hundred million dollars at the box office in two weeks. On the same theme, but with distinctly less animation, “An Inconvenient Truth,� starring Al Gore (playing the role of Al Gore, itinerant lecturer), is coming to a theatre near you around Memorial Day. Log on to Fandango. Reserve some seats. Bring the family. It shouldn’t be missed. No kidding.

“An Inconvenient Truth� is not likely to displace the boffo numbers of “Ice Age� in Variety’s weekly grosses. It is, to be perfectly honest (and there is no way of getting around this), a documentary film about a possibly retired politician giving a slide show about the dangers of melting ice sheets and rising sea levels. It has a few lapses of mise en scène. Sometimes we see Gore gravely talking on his cell phone—or gravely staring out an airplane window, or gravely tapping away on his laptop in a lonely hotel room—for a little longer than is absolutely necessary. And yet, as a means of education, “An Inconvenient Truth� is a brilliantly lucid, often riveting attempt to warn Americans off our hellbent path to global suicide. “An Inconvenient Truth� is not the most entertaining film of the year. But it might be the most important.

The catch, of course, is that the audience-of-one that most urgently needs to see the film and take it to heart—namely, the man who beat Gore in the courts six years ago—does not much believe in science or, for that matter, in any information that disturbs his prejudices, his fantasies, or his sleep. Inconvenient truths are precisely what this White House is structured to avoid and deny.

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3 responses

  1. It’s tough, but living in the past of what could’ve been is not as productiove as what cannot be again!

  2. An even sadder aspect to this is that our (Australian) Prime Minister (John Howard) is so besotted with Bush the Junior that he appears to agree with all the Administrations actions…including the most awful human rights abuses of our era. Even more sad is that Tony Blair apears to go along with it too.

  3. Don, Thanks for your comment. With so much at stake in maintaining an alliance with the US, it is difficult for other countries to take a stand against the problems engendered by the misguided policies of our current administration, but it is good to know there are voices of conscience such as yours.

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