Is Gore A Professional Politician?

I’m in communication with my brother, who leans almost as far to the right as I do to the left. It’s a very interesting conversation, and one comment he’s made seemed to me worthy of public discussion. He’d expressed disdain for Al Gore and I’d asked why. Central in his response was the observation that Gore was a “professional politician.”

That set me to thinking. I’m currently reading Gore’s 1992 book, Earth In The Balance, and he doesn’t–or didn’t then, I guess–strike me as a politician: obviously he was, though. He currently holds no office, of course, and claims he isn’t interested in running again. He’s doing considerably better than I as an environmental writer (Nobel Prize and all), which is decidedly what I think of myself as being. Shouldn’t that count for something?

But there is a “draft Gore” movement out there and, as far as I know, the only thing Gore has done to discourage it, besides say he wasn’t interested, is eat some more ice cream. But, in today’s political environment, what could be more sincere or effective?

I have to say, though, that, like my brother, I’m not sure whether Gore’s a pro politician or not. I flirted with politics for a while in college. At San Jose State College (its name then) I was elected Freshmen Representative to the Student Council, was the Vice Chairman of that body, my mentor was a leading member of S.P.U.R., the only student political organization, and I probably would have been President of the Associated Students, some 12,000 strong at the time, within three years had I just won my election to the Sophomore Representative position. For those who don’t know how it works, it’s exactly this kind of start (minus the defeat) that puts a great many real politicians on the road to the center of power. Most of those who don’t start with big money, for sure.

I’ve been tempted by politics numerous times since. But let me tell you, being defeated in an election stings. Stings as is very hard to understand until it happens to you. And especially so when your opponent is so clearly inferior. The guy who beat me, Fred Best, had nothing going for him except his name and the fact he was a member of a fraternity and I was not, which was a big advantage in those days and probably remains so today. It stung so much I questioned American values like I’d never done before, quit politics almost overnight, changed educational goals, switched schools, and lived the life I have.

I’ve checked Gore’s resume and, sure enough, he’d never been defeated until George W. did it in 2000, unless you count the presidential nomination in 1988–and that clearly wasn’t the same thing at all. That Bush was an inferior is so obvious to me I can’t see how a mere difference in political philosophy of the observer could warrant an opposite opinion, but, then, that’s got to be one of those places my brother and I may well disagree. But certainly it felt that way to Gore.

Additional self-chastisement on Gore’s part would surely come from the fact that the decision to not contest the election must still leave unresolved questions in his mind. “Should I have risked tearing the country apart?” “Did I underestimate the extent to which the nation was already torn, and how far the neo-cons would be willing to continue tearing it apart to maintain control once they got it?” “If I’d thought of the possibility of an Osama Bin Laden getting away with murder, or of the hundreds of thousands of innocent people killed for no reason in Iraq, would I have fought to the last breath?” “If my vision of the Earth’s future under a neo-con environmental policy is even nearly correct, did I do right by backing down?” “Do I really have good political instincts, or was it just the ‘silver spoon’ and ‘Jr.’ that got me where I was?” “What about international American prestige?” “Torture?–Oh, God, let’s not think about torture!”

All these many years after leaving it behind, there’s still a pull toward politics for me. That’s despite the fact I’m very glad I got out of it when I did, for I’ve come to see how very corrupting that profession is. Fortunately, I’ve seen it from afar by watching others destroyed as real people by it, without my having to suffer the compromises to my own beliefs that the job extracts from everyone who chooses it. I think it way too much to suggest Gore isn’t attracted by the allure of the White House. That said, it remains to be seen if he returns to the political arena or not.

Lot’s of us never go back after that kind of sting. And I’ve just read the section in The Balance that makes it clear Gore’s view of politics has always been sophisticated and contains a realistic assessment of its dangers (start of chapter 9, Self Stewardship, for those who have the book).

I certainly hope he doesn’t return to the cesspool that politics is, for he has something far more important–a cause. Part of the appeal of politics is the power to promote a cause that comes with high office, but I suspect Gore will recognize that the downside is worse: with such a position also comes responsibilities to thousands of other causes, each diluting your ability to pursue the one. And, when the final analysis of relative importance is made, based on Earth In The Balance and An Inconvenient Truth, I expect Gore to conclude, as have I, that nothing compares. And, of course, unless and until he returns, the charge of his being a “professional politician” is as hollow as GW’s skull.

(Oh, that wasn’t really true or probably even fair, despite the catty weight thing fired at Gore earlier. But it was so much fun I couldn’t bring myself to edit it. Hope Dick doesn’t shoot me in the face for it. If I just disappear, though, someone raise a stink, okay?)

Namaste

P.S.: Since last entry a reader posted an interesting comment on the blog having pertinence to the election season . Let’s keep those comments coming! (I’ll be responding to her `soon, but it would be very good to hear what readers think first). Thanks to both she (Kathleen) and Barbara for taking the time to help make the blog a living entity.

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5 Responses to Is Gore A Professional Politician?

  1. Barbara says:

    George Writing: There’s a comment awaiting moderation (as soon as I have time) with a number of charges well worth investigating, but, because it is cut and pasted, I want to independently verify the charges, lest it be more flame throwing than contributing to the discussion. I invite he writer, “Rick,” to contact me at gwdrake@intheserviceofgaia.com to discuss which “facts” he has personally verified. In any case, I’ll post the comment as soon as I’ve had an opportunity to look at it, as I think the issues raised, and/or the manner in which they’re raised, will stimulate a good discussion. George

  2. Rick Webber says:

    [**Monitor’s comment: The following is the second comment submitted by Rick Webber. I pulled the first because it was an unattributed cut and paste full of vitriol against Gore, and nothing more. I did so after spending way too much time running down some of the claims in the “hit piece” Mr. Webber had wanted to post as if it were his own. Most of the claims contained in it, as far as I could determine without getting to the U.C.D. library (Sac State might also have done) were distortions and/or misrepresentations.

    My conclusion was that Mr. Webber was passing on–and wanting me to help pass on–right wing anti-Gore propaganda, the validity of which he had not even attempted to confirm. In view of the prevailing trend in the peer reviewed literature, the view he wished to pass on seemed to me to be politically, not scientifically motivated.

    The following, at least, is attributed. I’ve decided to run it on this blog not so much because I suspect it’s been better vetted (I don’t), but because I’ve found a surprising resistance amongst my personal friend base to the observation that there is a growing divide in this country with one side lofting insults at the other as a rule, and, unfortunately the other side (ours) increasingly commonly responding in kind. I also hope posting it will elicit response from people with better access to the appropriate journals and current discussions than I.

    I will be submitting my own response shortly, for there are a few points I can do so meaningfully without having to invest a lot more time reinvestigating some of the finer points of logic, or reinventing the wheel, or doing a careful analysis of who the players might be.]

    the following was in the WSJ today…
    http://online. wsj.com/public/ article/SB119387 567378878423. html

    My Nobel Moment
    By JOHN R. CHRISTYNovember 1, 2007; Page A19
    I’ve had a lot of fun recently with my tiny (and unofficial) slice of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, though I was one of thousands of IPCC participants, I don’t think I will add “0.0001 Nobel Laureate” to my resume.
    The other half of the prize was awarded to former Vice President Al Gore, whose carbon footprint would stomp my neighborhood flat. But that’s another story.

    Large icebergs in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. Winter sea ice around the continent set a record maximum last month.
    Both halves of the award honor promoting the message that Earth’s temperature is rising due to human-based emissions of greenhouse gases. The Nobel committee praises Mr. Gore and the IPCC for alerting us to a potential catastrophe and for spurring us to a carbonless economy.
    I’m sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never “proof”) and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.
    There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts of the climate system, however, we don’t find the alarmist theory matching observations. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite data we analyze at the University of Alabama in Huntsville does show modest warming — around 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century, if current warming trends of 0.25 degrees per decade continue.)
    It is my turn to cringe when I hear overstated-confiden ce from those who describe the projected evolution of global weather patterns over the next 100 years, especially when I consider how difficult it is to accurately predict that system’s behavior over the next five days.
    Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us. As my high-school physics teacher admonished us in those we-shall-conquer- the-world- with-a-slide- rule days, “Begin all of your scientific pronouncements with ‘At our present level of ignorance, we think we know . . .'”
    I haven’t seen that type of climate humility lately. Rather I see jump-to-conclusions advocates and, unfortunately, some scientists who see in every weather anomaly the specter of a global-warming apocalypse. Explaining each successive phenomenon as a result of human action gives them comfort and an easy answer.
    Others of us scratch our heads and try to understand the real causes behind what we see. We discount the possibility that everything is caused by human actions, because everything we’ve seen the climate do has happened before. Sea levels rise and fall continually. The Arctic ice cap has shrunk before. One millennium there are hippos swimming in the Thames, and a geological blink later there is an ice bridge linking Asia and North America.
    One of the challenges in studying global climate is keeping a global perspective, especially when much of the research focuses on data gathered from spots around the globe. Often observations from one region get more attention than equally valid data from another.
    The recent CNN report “Planet in Peril,” for instance, spent considerable time discussing shrinking Arctic sea ice cover. CNN did not note that winter sea ice around Antarctica last month set a record maximum (yes, maximum) for coverage since aerial measurements started.
    Then there is the challenge of translating global trends to local climate. For instance, hasn’t global warming led to the five-year drought and fires in the U.S. Southwest?
    Not necessarily.
    There has been a drought, but it would be a stretch to link this drought to carbon dioxide. If you look at the 1,000-year climate record for the western U.S. you will see not five-year but 50-year-long droughts. The 12th and 13th centuries were particularly dry. The inconvenient truth is that the last century has been fairly benign in the American West. A return to the region’s long-term “normal” climate would present huge challenges for urban planners.
    Without a doubt, atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing due primarily to carbon-based energy production (with its undisputed benefits to humanity) and many people ardently believe we must “do something” about its alleged consequence, global warming. This might seem like a legitimate concern given the potential disasters that are announced almost daily, so I’ve looked at a couple of ways in which humans might reduce CO2 emissions and their impact on temperatures.
    California and some Northeastern states have decided to force their residents to buy cars that average 43 miles-per-gallon within the next decade. Even if you applied this law to the entire world, the net effect would reduce projected warming by about 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, an amount so minuscule as to be undetectable. Global temperatures vary more than that from day to day.
    Suppose you are very serious about making a dent in carbon emissions and could replace about 10% of the world’s energy sources with non-CO2-emitting nuclear power by 2020 — roughly equivalent to halving U.S. emissions. Based on IPCC-like projections, the required 1,000 new nuclear power plants would slow the warming by about 0.2 ?176 degrees Fahrenheit per century. It’s a dent.
    But what is the economic and human price, and what is it worth given the scientific uncertainty?
    My experience as a missionary teacher in Africa opened my eyes to this simple fact: Without access to energy, life is brutal and short. The uncertain impacts of global warming far in the future must be weighed against disasters at our doorsteps today. Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus 2004, a cost-benefit analysis of health issues by leading economists (including three Nobelists), calculated that spending on health issues such as micronutrients for children, HIV/AIDS and water purification has benefits 50 to 200 times those of attempting to marginally limit “global warming.”
    Given the scientific uncertainty and our relative impotence regarding climate change, the moral imperative here seems clear to me.

    Mr. Christy is director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a participant in the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, co-recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

  3. Hank says:

    Well Gore certainly WAS a professional politician. Now he’s a professional..what? Not sure what the correct title is, but he certainly is making a living doing his current work. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I keep hearing rumors about his carbon footprint etc. Not sure what the facts are there.
    -Hank

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  5. I personally do not care whether Gore is a professional politician. Although I am very greatful for all that he is doing to make us aware of the danger we are in due to our abuse of Mother Earth; still, I cannot stand the man or his personality. Whenever I see his picture, I have to turn my face away.
    I have a scientific-minded friend who believes that the warming up of our planet has actually been caused by the detonation of atimic bombs in strategic places specifically designed to cause a serious earthquake on the opposite side of the earth. This practice was suddenly stopped, although those who stopped it have not ever told us their reason why. My friend says this nuclear bombing would cause the Earth to heat up the exact number of degrees that it has, and that the heat would be burbling up from the crust of the Earth. Interestingly, the glaciers at each Pole have been melting from the bottom up, which corroborates this theory! If the global warming were caused by pollutants in the air, then the heat would have moved from the upper atmosphere down!
    So, Gore is a very crusty character, whose behavior reeks of a drive for power. Perhaps the most mature thing he has ever done has been to turn the other cheek when he was outvoted due to Bush-driven ballot stuffing. More power to him! OOPS! I DID NOT MEAN THAT LITERALLY!
    Kathy Azevedo

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