VIEWPOINT: The Other Gore

Yes, he’s an oracle; yes, he deserves the Prize; but a return to politics? Nah!

| October 17, 2007
Gore as oracle
Gore as oracle

Let me stipulate: Al Gore is the deserved winner of the Nobel Prize, as his film documentary on the subject, An Inconvenient Truth, had previously merited the Academy Award it got. Gore's unstinting campaign to alert the nation - nay, the world - about the perils of global warming has been his finest hour.

Equally praiseworthy are the political points the former Tennessee senator and vice president has publicly made since his Supreme Court-assisted defeat for the presidency in 2000. An early critic of the Iraq War, Gore accurately foresaw the extent of the debacle, and he has been eloquent and on point concerning the ongoing erosion of Americans' constitutional liberties.

Having materialized as a veritable tribune of the people, even an oracle, should Gore not, then, seek again the presidency which, so many think, he was unfairly deprived of?

The answer is no. As Gore himself as noted, such a course would prove divisive - and perhaps destructive -- to his current cause. It would also necessitate his moving away from a position of unquestioned moral authority into the murky untruthiness of politics -- a world which, despite his scaling its heights, Gore may never have been ideally suited for.

A current myth has it that, in 2000, a wicked establishment press made the perverse decision to waylay Gore, mischaracterizing as lies his essentially accurate statements about his own past and otherwise finding fault relentlessly.

So dedicated did the Establishment press become to the downfall of Gore that its members embraced the patently undeserving George W. Bush, who was regarded as an acceptably hail-fellow-well-met alternative to the goody two-shoes Gore.

Or so goes the story.

The truth is not much prettier but is, well, different. In fact, the media animosity to Gore (and that part was certainly real) was probably born not in indulgence toward good-ole-frat-boy Bush but in solicitude toward the honest if plodding Bill Bradley, the recently retired New Jersey senator who was Gore's Democratic primary opponent. The unfortunate Bradley was gleefully being attacked by Gore as often and as gratuitously as Gore himself later was by an unforgiving media.

When Bradley and Gore tangled in a debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in October 1999, ABC's Jake Tapper, then with Salon, was watching the affair via closed-circuit TV in a nearly media room. He remembered it this way: "The reporters were hissing Gore, and that's the only time I've ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event." Time's Eric Pooley: "Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd."

Gore had been mauling the preternaturally docile Bradley fore and aft, on everything from the New Jerseyan's alleged indifference to disaster aid for Iowa flood victims (The New YorkTimes: "Mr. Gore's accusation was false and unfair. Mr. Bradley supported the 1993 legislation that provided $4.8 billion in emergency flood relief for farmers...") to his racial positions (Campaign chroniclers James W. Caesar and Andrew Busch: "Bradley landed few clean blows and even took some unfair blows from Gore, who charged before [a] mostly black audience that 'racial profiling' of blacks by the police 'practically began' in Bradley's New Jersey.").

The Daily Kos's Markos Moulitsas Zúniga recalled the Gore campaign's "blatantly unfair" attacks on Bradley, as did The Nation's David Corn, who found Bradley "more progressive,.. less irritating [and] sincere in his desire for political reform," while Gore's campaign "bends, manipulates, dodges or obliterates the truth....."

Said Newsday: "...Gore effectively criticized former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley for proposing an expensive health care reform, for being too liberal, and being out of touch with ordinary voters...[H]is aggressive tactics worked."

And the Washington Post's Dana Milbank reported Bradley's responses to Gore in that Dartmouth debate: "'Attack, attack, attack, every day, the people are fed up with it...You're the elephant of negative advertising....Why should we believe you'll tell the truth as president if you won't tell the truth as a candidate?'" And, to bring us full cycle, Milbank segued into this: "In the WMUR press room, my colleagues laugh derisively at Gore's offensives...."

That feeling, fair or not, was the likely cause of the media animosity, and not any imagined bonhomie of Bush's. The gallant Gore has at length found - nay, become -- his better angel. He should, we should, leave well enough alone.

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Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Al Gore can do far more good by following his current path. Still, it would be nice to see President Gore re-elected.....He would be a great president!

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Posted by Barbara Burch on 10/17/2007 at 9:07 AM

Can I point out a problem with this reasoning? The mainstream press had been kicking the crap out of Gore long before Bradley formally announced his candidacy. ("Invented the Internet" began in March '99. The Love Story flap started in December '97.) Bradley was no saint here, either, joining with the mainstream media in attacking Gore's honesty. And can I also say that I feel columns like this are something of a waste. Gore has said over and over that he isn't planning to run for president. Do people still think he's such a lying phony that they don't believe he means it? All that propaganda must still hold some power. And finally, when you're offering us your opinion about some event, you might want to think twice about using expressions like "the truth is...".

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Posted by Jim Lillard on 10/20/2007 at 5:30 PM

Thanks, Lizzard King, but you're only partially correct. The "Internet" canard does indeed date from March 1999, but the Love Canal fuss took place in December '99, at a time when the primary contest between Gore and Bradley was going hot and heavy in both Iowa and New Hampshire. The point of the column, btw, was not that Gore was a sinner and Bradley a saint. It was, however, that the myth of a pure and noble Gore being dumped on by a hostile media is just that -- a myth.

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Posted by JB on 10/20/2007 at 9:06 PM

To continue (we apparently lack paragraphing in our comment section; so I'm breaking up my response this way): Gore's campaigning excesses came back to haunt him in the three debates against Bush, too; it wasn't the press that caused him to behave so strangely that he "lost" debates he actually won (with the exception of debate #2, when he was bizarrely nolo contendere.)

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Posted by JB on 10/20/2007 at 9:10 PM

As for what Gore or anyother politician says about his intentions, aw, come: You can't be that naive. Although I DO believe him in this case, the fact is that a would-be Amen Chorus is pressuring him hot and heavy to run. Many a mind has been changed that way. And, as for the phrase "the truth is," it was a corrective to a mistruth that was gaining acceptance ("mean Bush-loving media dumped on Gore"), and I stand by it.

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Posted by JB on 10/20/2007 at 9:13 PM

If you'll reread my comment, you'll see I said Love STORY, not Love CANAL. I was referring to the "controversy" ginned up by Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich (liberal columnists for the liberal NYT) over an offhand remark published in a Time magazine interview Dec. '97. MoDo wrote two op-eds that month trashing Gore for the remark, Rich one, and the rest of the mainstream media ran with it from there. But your confusion is understandable. There was so much garbage written about Gore before, during and after the 200 election that it's hard to sort it all out

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Posted by Jim Lillard on 10/21/2007 at 1:20 PM

And it's not whether I believe any old politician, it's whether I believe Gore. Whatever he may be, he's not a dummy. Were he to run again, the BS would simply pick up where it left off. Almost all of the pundits and reporters responsible for it are still holding down their jobs and would just dust off the old lies and get them back in front of the public. And they were very effective at it the last time. Tell me, how many people do you meet a day who still believe Gore said he invented the Internet? Shoot, YOU still seem to be holding on to some of that.

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Posted by Jim Lillard on 10/21/2007 at 1:38 PM

Let's move on to a larger issue; what the press treatment of Gore means for any Democrat running for Prez. Hillary is leading in the polls and already Chris Matthews has trotted out Vince Foster and insider trading "scandals" that had been ruled on years ago. John Edwards haircut is Al Gore's earth tones redux. How much newsprint and airtime was wasted on how much he paid for those haircuts? In all of that, did you hear anyone mention how much Bush pays for his custom tailored suits, by way of comparison? We got to hear all about how much his house cost; in all of the coverage, did any of the MSM tell you that Romney's summer home cost more? If a Republican candidate had gotten the kind of press treatment Gore got at Dartmouth, the screaming would have never stopped. Democrats get trashed over and over in the mainstream media and our pundits tell us that bias doesn't exist, that it's a "myth".

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Posted by Jim Lillard on 10/21/2007 at 2:13 PM

L.K., let's suppose I credit some of your point in particular, and the spirit of them all in general. Then I wonder why you're arguing so intensely. If Gore isn't going to run, why bother? A point that our 750-word-max form didn't permit me to deal with in the op-ed is this: Regardless of how a wicked media might have mistreated and misrepresented Gore, didn't he blow the three debates with Bush all by himself? In other words, wouldn't he be just a terrible candidate, as bad as a candidate as he is great as a public conscience? Are we not on the same page concerning that?

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Posted by JB on 10/21/2007 at 4:54 PM

See, that's all I'm saying. I'm all for the man, but his failure to charm the media and his own mistreatment of Bradley and his blowing the debates are all of a piece: He wouldn't be a good candidate now any more than he was before. What I'm saying. Since you are insisting that he won't run, what is there for us to dispute? I just don't want the egg-on chorus to get all bent out of shape in a pointless cause.

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Posted by JB on 10/21/2007 at 4:58 PM

What's my point in arguing about this? To stop crap like what happened to Gore from happening again. See my final comment. The press' savaging of Gore grew out of the similar treatment given to Bill Clinton, was extended (albeit in milder form) to John Kerry, is being dished out now to Dem hopefuls such as Edwards and Mrs. Clinton and will be handed to whoever gets the Dem nomination. Unless people start speaking out against it now, and for me part of that means yelling when I think someone is misrespresenting the record. You keep harping on Gore's alleged mistreatment of Bill Bradley. Well, I'm not seeing it. The notion that somehow Gore was mistreating Bradley (who, again, repeatedly attacked Gore's honesty during his campaign, ingratiating himself with those in the media flogging this tale and helping to set the stage for the eventual Dem defeat) by challenging his proposals was another of the media's treasured scripts. (The "attack, attack, attack" catchphrase was repeated over and over, by a variety of journos and pundits, in print and on the talkshows.) Likewise the notion that Gore blew the debates with Bush all by himself, as opposed to having his performance spun that way. It's not your business to help elect anybody. But I think the last seven years have pretty much been a gold-plated disaster for this country. I think the mainstream media bear some responsibility for that, not just in the way they cover elections but in things like the run up to Iraq, the health care debate, etc. I'm positive they are showing a double standard in how they treat Dem vs Rep candidates and proposals, though I don't read minds and can't say why. Look at how the Washington Post chose to handle the announcement about Gore's Nobel Prize - by running a sloppily written, misleading article about a court decision in Britain that actually found his movie to be "broadly accurate" and threw out the plantiff's case. This award could have been an opportunity to educate the public about this state of affairs. Instead, we get another round of the same old stale Gore bashing propaganda. Or in your case, cherry-picking a single incident from the many in the 2000 campaign and offering a poorly supported theory about it as "the truth".

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Posted by Jim Lillard on 10/21/2007 at 8:09 PM

Liz, this has turned masochistic enough without my trying to read that long-ass paragraph. So I'll just respond to your early mention of Bill Clinton. They threw everything they had at Clinton, not just in 1998 with Monica, but in 1992, when he first ran. He survived. They lie about everybody in politics, L.K. It's part of the job. End of story. Please. I'm done. I like Al, too, OK?

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Posted by JB on 10/21/2007 at 10:16 PM

I'll just add this: I don't subscribe to a single one of the Gore slurs (Love Story, Love Canal, Intenet, etc., etc.) They don't even figure in what I wrote. You don't deal with a single point I do make and evidently don't intend to. So good night.

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Posted by JB on 10/21/2007 at 10:41 PM

Good job, Lizzard King!

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Posted by Lucy Cole on 10/21/2007 at 11:34 PM

Vanity Fair this month (with Nicole Kidman on the cover) has a great article about the mainstream media and their coverage of Gore during, and prior to, the 2000 election.

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Posted by marycash on 10/22/2007 at 12:20 PM
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