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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Sunday, May 14, 2006


Al Gore warms up?

posted by Aziz P. at Sunday, May 14, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
This is an excellent article in the LA Times about Al Gore's movie on global warming. But apart from the fascinating backstory about how the project got started, there's some rather poignant reminiscing on Gore's political fortunes:

Throughout the movie, Gore's fall from politics is abundantly clear: Looking somewhat chunky and weary, he pulls his own bags through airport terminals, and takes off his shoes and empties his pockets at security checkpoints.

Two months into the project, Guggenheim decided it was time to address the election.

They were in a hotel room in Los Angeles, no camera, just recording sound. "There was this long, long pause. And then he says, 'Well that was a hard blow ... But what do you do? You make the best of it,' " Guggenheim recalled. "For a guy who is incredibly articulate and will find the nuance in everything, it was hard to find the words. You could feel how painful it was for him to remember that time. It was devastating."

Meanwhile, a more speculative piece at argues that Gore in 2008 is a distinct possibility:

On stage and in the film, a deadpan Mr. Gore opens, to laughs and applause: "I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States of America."

Mr. Gore, who turns 60 in 2008, could remain noncommittal and enter the presidential fray late, given his fame and fund-raising potential -- unlike lesser-known Democrats already stumping in the early-nominating states to be the Clinton alternative, such as former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh. If Mr. Gore ran -- or were drafted, as Ms. David suggests -- the longtime Washingtonian would run as an outsider, Democrats expect, helped along by his relationship with Internet-savvy activists.

There would be no small irony in Mr. Gore re-emerging with a crusade against global warming. In 2000, he played down the issue he had so long been identified with in Congress, on his consultants' advice. They feared the younger Bush, like his father, would use the issue to reinforce an image of Mr. Gore as a bloodless wonk, and make it a jobs question for voters in swing industrial and coal-mining states. "The campaign took this issue off the table and robbed him of seeming 'big' and visionary," says former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta. "I think he regrets that."

My take on this is that the former article pretty much negates the latter. The point here is that Gore is doing something outside the traditional political realm - the Big Idea ideal for which the political system - as he has found - is utterly inadequate to really process. Gore seeks to engage the national debate; he ironically can't do that from the political pulpit, only the technology and cultural one. Not to say he shouldn't - only to say that Gore has found something to give his life real purpose, and walking away from that only to be sent through the attack wringer all over again is a hard sell.

The RealClimate folks have also weighed in on Gore's new film. While they do praise the scientific foundation overall, they do fact-check Gore on a few key points. They conclude,

For the most part, I think Gore gets the science right, just as he did in Earth in the Balance. The small errors don't detract from Gore's main point, which is that we in the United States have the technological and institutional ability to have a significant impact on the future trajectory of climate change. This is not entirely a scientific issue -- indeed, Gore repeatedly makes the point that it is a moral issue -- but Gore draws heavily on Pacala and Socolow's recent work to show that the technology is there (see Science 305, p. 968 Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies).

Don't miss the discussion that follows in the comment section - as always it's a healthy debate. Given their claim that Gore is rumoured to be a fan of their site, I wonder if Al will leave a comment on the thread? :)


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.