In a scathing May 1989 Washington Post editorial titled, “Earth’s Fate Is the Nation’s No. 1 National Security Issue,” Al Gore wrote, “HOW CAN WE possibly explain the mistakes â€¦ President Bush has been making on environmental policy. His administration’s decision to censor scientific testimony on â€¦ the greenhouse effect â€¦ may well mean that the president himself does not yet see the threat clearly.” Almost two decades later, Gore is still butting heads with a Bush in the Oval Office over climate control.
After having the 2000 presidential election narrowly swept from under his feet, Gore seemed to eschew Washington’s political limelight. Reeling from a botched election—and perhaps inevitable association with the sex-scandal-marred Clinton presidency—he went underground.
So it wasn’t exactly expected to see Gore re-emerge as a sort of apolitical, populist phenomenon, pointing to the melting ice caps with one hand, and holding the whole world, it seems, in the other. What’s more, Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize along with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last Friday.
His work, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, has been vital to reducing nothing less than “the future threat to the security of mankind.”
Somewhere in America, Kenneth Star is rethinking the “impeach Clinton” crusade, his benefactors worried they went after the wrong politician. Monica Lewinsky is regretting she didn’t charm over Bill Clinton’s less attractive, perennial right-hand man. And if Al’s approval ratings were measured, they’d rise higher than the soaring red lines indicating carbon dioxide levels in his Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”
But what the Washington Post editorial should uncover is that Gore has been sweating over the Global Warming issue for some time. As a congressman in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Gore held the first hearings on carbon dioxide emissions and co-sponsored others on toxic waste. In October 1993 he published the Climate Change Action Plan with President Clinton. In 1994 he launched the GLOBE program, making use of the Internet to educate students about the environment. If anything else, during Clinton’s 1992 presidential race, Gore’s “green” enthusiasm caught the avuncular ire of Bush Senior, who dubbed him “The Ozone Man.”
Politically, however, the results were underwhelming. The Clinton regime wasn’t exactly known for its environmental successes.
Towards the turn of the millennium, the Senate met Gore’s push for the passage of the notorious Kyoto Protocol with hostility. While Gore symbolically signed the protocol, Clinton’s administration never submitted it for ratification. Now, listless under War Resolutions and Patriot Acts, it remains unsigned, and is touted as a symbol of American indifference to a global crisis.
Since then, Gore has been able to accomplish what most politicians only dream of: he has galvanized public support and spearheaded the fickle masses into a focused power.
The global warming issue isn’t simply on the top of presidential hopefuls’ agendas, it’s popular, fashionable, and marketable. With two books, an award-winning film, and a tireless tour on the lecture circuit, Gore’s celebrity factor has done what a two-decade-plus political career couldn’t. But the Nobel Committee didn’t award Gore with the prize for action or political accomplishment, it praised him as an individual “who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.”
There is absolutely no reason to find fault in Gore for raising awareness. His maneuvering has been nothing short of brilliant, but the question remains if his popularity will carry over, because his cause needs White House support.
In a much more recent editorial in the New York Times, Gore called out to enemies and allies alike on Capitol Hill, demanding that “the United States join an international treaty within the next two years.” The rhetoric could signal a Kyoto fiasco all over again. Gore is on the sidelines looking in, and the only obstacle to his campaign is another stubborn President. The Peace Prize is an incredibly prestigious credential, but it won’t necessarily convince our current president or the next.
The most obvious solution is for “Mr. Ozone” to run for President, but he has been hesitant to even broach the subject. Representative and former Clinton White House aide Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) recently commented in a New York Times article, “Why would [Gore] run for president when he can be a demigod?” Contrary to what Bush Junior may believe, gods and demigods hold no sway over White House political affairs.