Friday, October 12, 2007

Better than President


Why would Al Gore want to be president?

A darling of the Democratic left, Gore has now garnered the ultimate in bragging rights by winning the Nobel Peace Prize. So naturally the idle speculation about how to convert this into a late-entry presidential bid is in high gear, as if there is only one thing an ambitious, talented person would find worth buying with life's chits in the Big Box Store of America.

Clever liberal pundits love joking that since Gore won the presidency in 2000 it's
In short order Gore has garnered an Oscar, and Emmy and a Nobel Peace Prize. He's rich. He's young and has good hair. He is beloved by the right people and reviled by the right people. To paraphrase an old Frank Sinatra song, why would he want to go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like "I'm running."
about time he starting serving out his term, and a group which seems not to be a stalking horse for the man himself took out one of those discount (legitimately, this time) New York Times ads urging the former vice president to heed their call and get into the 2008 nominating process.

Let Them Just Swoon

In short order Gore has garnered an Oscar, and Emmy and a Nobel Peace Prize. He's rich. He's young and has good hair. He is beloved by the right people and reviled by the right people. To paraphrase an old Frank Sinatra song, why would he want to go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like "I'm running."

There is a swooning part of the population that has a huge crush on Gore, a reputed stiff whose genuine ability to tell a joke is never more evident than when he is mocking himself. Sometimes these kinds of yearnings seem deeper than they truly are -- you know, the romance is impossible, the love is unrequited. Most literature and every movie released before September is based on this tired theme.

Yes, you're third in those national polls which insert your name. Al -- we love you, but it's a trap. You'll wake up and we'll both realize it was just physical -- and then it'll be too late. You don't want to jeopardize our friendship for a brief sizzle. It isn't you -- it's us.

But consider benefits of the high road, which, in this case, lets you be both selfish and selfless. Remember: Times heals all.

History Wasn't On His Side

Jimmy Carter -- fellow Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter -- was ignominiously booted from office. His presidential afterlife has been stunningly more productive than his four years in office, where his successes were drowned out by the Iran hostage crisis, unbelievable inflation and a gasoline shortage that provided iconic images of lines at gas stations and elevated OPEC almost as much as the current president has Al-Quaeda.

Bill Clinton served out a second term despite a sex scandal but in the end such was the fatigue -- and Gore's miscalculation about how to exploit the Clinton/Gore legacy -- that Clinton's glow was too weak to ensure a third successive Democrat occupant in the White House.

[While he did win the popular vote nationally and a pivotal Florida electoral vote count was halted by the US Supreme Court, history may not have been on Gore's side. The last time a Democrat occupied the White House for three successive terms was in the 1940s, when FDR was elected to a third term in the days before the 22nd Amendment. Before that -- and the only time an incumbent Democrat vice president was elected president -- was when Vice President Martin Van Buren succeeded two-term president Andrew Jackson in 1837. But I digress.]

Gore has now entered a rarified space that even few ex-presidents inhabit. He is an internationally renowned celebrity in the best meaning of the word, able to spend considerable capital and relish vindication from being tarred by incumbent President GHW Bush in the 1992 campaign as "Ozone Man." He is unencumbered by any failures as president, because he has never been president. On the downside, his role in advancing the Internet is still incorrectly mocked, and there are a small handful of other tidbits in this narrative. But that's it.

The good Gore can do, unencumbered by the restrictions and obligations of office, are incalculable, as Carter has demonstrated for a quarter of a century and Clinton since he left office.

It would be a mistake of Greek proportions for Gore to be tempted by the vanity of electoral vindication to jump into the 2008 race. I can't imagine being president matters to him anymore, and I can't imagine why it should.

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1 comment:

suburbancorrespondent said...

Plus, the Democrats need someone who can break that "half the vote" barrier. It would be nice to have a candidate who appealed to more than approximately half the voters. I count on the Democratic Party to mess up an easy win in 2008, however, by picking someone that no middle-of-the-road conservative could bring himself to vote for, no matter how much he hates what the Bush administration has done to this country over the past 6 1/2 years.