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Bush End Game
George W. Bush's presidency since 2007
Bush - Second Term
George W. Bush's presidency from 2005-06
George W. Bush's presidency, 2000-04
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The secret world of Defense Secretary Gates
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Is the national media a danger to democracy?
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Contra drug stories uncovered
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From free trade to the Kosovo crisis.
Al Gore's Moral Imperative
When Al Gore encountered New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof at a recent conference on climate change, the former Vice President lamented the lack of public urgency toward the looming catastrophe from global warming.
“I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers … and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants,” Gore told Kristof, who was accompanied by his teenage son. [NYT, Aug. 16, 2007]
Yet, if Gore means what he says – that global warming is such a threat to the future of mankind that young people should throw their bodies in front of bulldozers – then the obvious question to him is: “Why won’t you submit to the personal unpleasantness of another presidential campaign so you can lead the fight to save the planet?”
Gore certainly can’t believe that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton would make climate change a centerpiece of her presidency. Already, she’s acting as if her party’s nomination is in the bag and she can shift toward a general-election strategy that stresses consensus, not controversy.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Sen. Clinton said her goal is “to build a centrist coalition” on key issues like health care, energy independence and national security. She vowed to steer clear of polarizing positions or an over-reliance on the Democratic Party “base.” [Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2007]
Though the New York senator does give a nod of concern toward the issue of “climate change” during Democratic debates, she doesn’t show the passion that she does for, say, health care – and certainly nothing close to Gore’s commitment to the environment.
So, if Al Gore stays on the political sidelines and Hillary Clinton wins the White House, he can expect some polite attention to his grim warnings about global warming, but likely no dramatic action. Climate change will have a spot on the list of priorities, though probably not near the top.
Given the right-wing hostility toward the global-warming issue, it certainly wouldn’t fit into Clinton’s vision of bipartisan consensus. Any serious attempt to address the country’s reliance on fossil fuels would stir a determined resistance from powerful forces, including the oil and automobile industries.
Sen. Clinton is an unlikely champion for such a difficult fight, especially if she models her presidency after her husband’s, which often preferred what were called “micro” initiatives, such as putting more school children in uniforms.
In her Post interview, Sen. Clinton likened her centrism to “what I remember when I was growing up,” an apparent reference to Dwight Eisenhower’s administration known for not rocking the boat too much on controversial questions like racial integration and gender equality – problems left to fester until the social explosions of the 1960s.
Clinton’s fondness for Eisenhower-like complacency certainly shouldn’t be very encouraging to Gore, who has talked about the urgency to act now on global warming before the temperature trends cannot be reversed.
In short, Gore would seem to have both a practical incentive – and a moral imperative – to enter the Democratic presidential campaign. At minimum, he could force the global-warming issue to the forefront of the debate.
Plus, if he were to win the nomination, he could make Election 2008 a referendum on whether the United States will confront real dangers to the nation’s future – from global warming to the Bush-era assault on reason – or continue to fret about exaggerated threats from al-Qaeda and to accept the erosion of constitutional liberties.
On a moral level, a Gore candidacy would be putting his body where his mouth is. Metaphorically at least, he would be throwing himself in front of the bulldozers. He would be taking the personal risks that he wants the young people to take. He would be providing real leadership, not just words.
Al Gore may have plenty of excuses for not running for President again. But he must recognize that he has some very compelling reasons to do so.
[For an investigative look at how Gore’s 2000 campaign was undermined, see our new book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush]
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
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