Saturday, October 13, 2007

Does the Nobel Prize Vindicate Al Gore?

From the New York Times: "With Prize, Gore Is Vindicated Without Having to Add President to Résumé." Here's an excerpt:

Al Gore's seven-year journey from loser to laureate began in bitterness, settled for a time into self-imposed exile and led him in the end to rediscover his voice on climate change.

The question now is what he will do with the prestige and attention that comes to him with the Nobel Peace Prize. The answer appears to be that he will neither embrace nor reject another quest for the presidency, but harness the speculation about his intentions to become a more formidable force on environmental policy and a power within the Democratic party.

Mr. Gore’s close friends and advisers said Friday that he had no desire to be drawn into the race for the presidency but that he saw the clear advantage of leveraging the acclaim. The clearest expression of his true feelings, they said, was his brief statement of thanks for the prize in an appearance in Palo Alto, Calif., where he talked about planetary politics and uttered not a word about the kind unfolding in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“This obviously turns everybody toward the presidency, but I think he’s saying what he means,” said Paul Begala, a political adviser in the Clinton White House who prepared Mr. Gore for his 2000 presidential debates against George W. Bush. “He knows there’s a Democratic field that Democrats are happy with, and that they don’t need a white knight riding in.”

Democrats also said Mr. Gore’s entry into the messy world of politics would undermine the stature that comes with the prize and his role as a wise man and conscience among many liberals.

“Why would he run for president when he can be a demigod?” said Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, who was a top aide in the Clinton White House. “He now towers over all of us because he’s pure.”

Michael Feldman, a Gore strategist who was meeting with him on Friday near San Francisco Bay, also said that Mr. Gore was not entering the 2008 race. “He’s focused on trying to solve the climate crisis,” Mr. Feldman said.

The speculation that Mr. Gore would win a Nobel Peace Prize began soon after the success of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the documentary on global warming he starred in that won an Oscar.

But Mr. Gore’s close aides said they did not believe it would come to him as soon as this year. When his phone failed to ring early Friday morning, Mr. Gore assumed he had been passed over. He and his wife, Tipper, then turned on CNN to see who had been awarded the prize, only to learn it was him.

Although he shares the award with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it was in many ways a personal victory for Mr. Gore, one achieved beyond the shadow of the disputed 2000 election and outside the orbit of the couple to which he has been linked for so long as a partner and a rival, Bill andHillary Rodham Clinton.

The presidency was within Gore's reach in 2000, but after his disastrous presidential campaign - where he stiff-armed Bill Clinton, who was leaving office with approval ratings in the 60 percent range - Democratic insiders snubbed their former standard-bearer. If there's any vindication here, it has more to do with the distant memory of Gore's incredibly poor political skills during his White House bid (rather than the controversy surrounding the Florida recount). To his credit, though, at least Gore didn't wind up like Michael Dukakis, who still wallows in that special ignominious obscurity reserved for presidential losers.

I blogged on Gore's Nobel win on Friday. With its history of controversy, I doubt the Nobel Prize committee will ever be vindicated (and I'm not alone).