Good timing for another Gore run

May 05, 2006|By CLARENCE PAGE

WASHINGTON -- If Al Gore is not planning to throw his hat in the ring for president in 2008, he's doing an excellent imitation of someone who is.

The former vice president officially has discouraged the notion that he will run for the White House again. But he is a man on a mission. And his cause is beginning to bear more than a passing resemblance to a national political crusade that, with a little tweaking here and there, could be transformed overnight into a weapons-grade presidential campaign.

On the road, Mr. Gore sounds almost as if he's on the stump. He has escalated his critiques of the Bush administration, for example, by accusing President Bush's domestic eavesdropping program of violating the law.

"I'm Al Gore and I used to be the next president of the United States," he says, by way of introduction.

Hint, hint.

Now the former future president's slide shows on the global warming crisis have been turned into a critically praised documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, that opens in theaters May 24.

If this film was the launching pad for Mr. Gore's 2008 presidential bid, which he insists it is not, his timing could hardly be better. If ever there was a time for the author of Earth in the Balance, Mr. Gore's powerful 1992 book on global warming and other environmental threats, to say, "I tried to warn you," this is it.

Mr. Gore's book drew ridicule from George H. W. Bush, who called Mr. Gore "Ozone Man" in 1992, and from George W. Bush, who admitted without embarrassment that he had never read it.

Today, with the media carrying poignant stories about people struggling with rising gas prices, polar bears drowning amid crumbling glaciers and Republican congressional leaders proposing a laughable $100 rebate check to compensate taxpayers for higher gasoline prices, Mr. Gore's push for fuel efficiency and environmental protection sounds right on time.

Even President Bush celebrated his love for hydrogen cars on Earth Day, in sharp contrast to his usual passion for fossil fuels. This is the same president who watered down the Environmental Protection Agency, put the brakes on the Clinton administration's push for fuel-efficient cars and scoffed at the Kyoto treaty on global warming that Mr. Gore helped to negotiate as vice president.

Now, with Mr. Bush's approval ratings falling to 32 percent in some polls and with regular unleaded gasoline soaring past $3 a gallon in many areas, the president's speech rhetoric is turning as green as Kermit the Frog.

Ozone Al is way ahead of Mr. Bush in addressing global warming.

Despite the nattering nabobs of anti-Al negativism, there is no longer much dispute that global warming exists. The only argument centers on how quickly it is going to cause more devastation and how much of it is caused by humans. That's a debate Mr. Gore has been itching to have, and his side is looking more prescient by the day and too credible to be ignored.

And what better place to have that debate than a presidential campaign?

Sure, Mr. Gore's not running. Not yet. But he has a ready-made base of strong support from and Howard Dean's army of feisty volunteers. Both groups tap him into the left's richest vein of fundraising and volunteers outside of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's political and fundraising juggernaut. The New York Democrat is way ahead in the polls and in fundraising, but if the significant number of Democrats who doubt she can win the White House needs to coalesce around someone else, Mr. Gore is well-positioned to be wooed. And his movie hasn't even been released.

None of this means Mr. Gore is going to run, of course. But if I were Mrs. Clinton, I'd be looking over my shoulder.

Clarence Page is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His column appears Tuesdays and Fridays in The Sun. His e-mail is

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