Gore dismisses presidential bid speculation

May 28, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- "I wanted it, and it was not to be," said Al Gore, the former vice president and two-time presidential candidate. "I am not pursuing it. I have been there, and I have done that."

Gore was on the telephone from New York, taking a break from promoting his book and documentary about global warming, to dismiss speculation that his rising profile should be interpreted as the first stirrings of another bid for the White House.

"Why should I run for office?" Gore asked. "I have no interest in running for office. I have run for office. I have run four national campaigns. I have found other ways to serve my country, and I am enjoying them."

After a period in which he had worn out his welcome in some quarters, these have been days of some vindication for Gore, the Tennessee Democrat who likes to introduce himself as "the man who used to be the next president of the United States," a melancholy reference to his defeat - a characterization he might be inclined to dispute - by George W. Bush in 2000.

The warnings of global warming that led the first President George Bush to mock Gore as "Ozone Man" in 1992 hardly seem far-fetched in these days of melting ice caps and warm winters.

Gore's tough condemnation of the war in Iraq, once derided by the White House as evidence of Gore's extremism, seems positively mainstream today.

He and his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, have been celebrated from Cannes to Hollywood - "Even Bill O'Reilly liked it!" Gore said - as he has become the toast of the Democratic left and blogs.

With some Democrats recoiling at the prospect of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as their party's nominee, there is entirely plausible speculation of how Gore could beat her and capture the Democratic presidential nomination, should he chose to do that.

Yet if Gore has any annoyance these days, it is at the suggestion that An Inconvenient Truth was nothing more than the calculated first stirrings of a campaign for president by a man who has spent most of his life practicing politics and is no stranger to its manipulations and machinations.

"I am not trying to feed that or stimulate that," he said.

When Gore started promoting the movie, he methodically sought out environmental reporters rather than political reporters, an aide said, to head off the is-he-running-stories that his friends insist offended him, even as they helped draw attention to his movie.

What Gore wanted to talk about in a call from New York, as he waited for his daughter to arrive with his grandchildren, was the threat facing Earth.

"My whole objective is to change the mind of the American public so all the presidential candidates in both parties will want to talk about global warming," he said.

To hear Gore talk about the state of politics and journalism today - this from a man who has a history in both professions - it is hard to imagine him ever running for office again.

Politics, he said, has become a game of meaningless, mindless battles, conducted by unscrupulous methods and people, designed to transform even the most serious policy debates into sport.

His documentary, he said, was trying to break through that.

"We need to shift gears in Corporate America and in our politics and in our economy and in our culture," he said. "Most of all, political scribes have to take off their cynical lenses through which they view every moral challenge as political spin."

"It's getting a really good response," Gore said of the movie. "And people see it outside of a partisan context. Now I know you will not see anything outside of the political context." He laughed. Gore's statement that he had no interest in running in 2008, if not the kind of ironclad assurance that politicians and the journalists who cover them tend to demand, came about as close to approaching finality as any he has made.

It is not that Gore does not want to be president, as several of his friends said. When asked whether he thought he would have more influence fighting global warming in the White House or making movies, he responded instantly.

"I am under no illusions," he said. "There's no position anywhere equal to the president of the United States in terms of one's ability to influence policy."

Yet Gore has told friends that as much as he wants to be president, his pride, image and legacy - think the defining first clause in his eventual biography - could not absorb another race in which he lost again, or really lost.

What that means, his associates said, is that Gore would run only if he was absolutely confident that he could win.

Still, the man who used to be the next president of the United States says he wants the world to know that he wants none of that. "That was not to be," Gore said.

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