Thursday, June 01, 2006
Al Gore Gets It: Where's The Rest of the Democrats?
Oliver Burkeman and Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday May 31, 2006
Al Gore has made his sharpest attack yet on the George Bush presidency, describing the current US administration as "a renegade band of rightwing extremists".
In an interview with the Guardian today, the former vice-president calls himself a "recovering politician", but launches into the political fray more explicitly than he has previously done during his high-profile campaigning on the threat of global warming.
Denying that his politics have shifted to the left since he lost the court battle for the 2000 election, Mr Gore says: "If you have a renegade band of rightwing extremists who get hold of power, the whole thing goes to the right."
But he claims he does not "expect to be a candidate" for president again, while refusing explicitly to rule out another run. Asked if any event could change his mind, he says: "Not that I can see."
Mr Gore, who appeared at the Guardian Hay literary festival over the bank holiday weekend, is promoting An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary and book detailing the climate change crisis that he warns "could literally end civilisation".
The new levels of attention he is receiving have led some Democrats to call on him to run again for president, while others have responded with anger that Mr Gore did not show the same level of passion in the 2000 campaign.
He has since acknowledged that he followed too closely the advice of his consultants during that campaign, and - before he started to scoff at the idea of running again - swore that if he ever did so, he would speak his mind.
In the years since, he has been a steady critic of specific Bush administration policies. He opposed the war on Iraq at a time when most prominent Democrats were supporting it, and more recently spoke out against what he called "a gross and excessive power grab" by the administration over phone tapping.
In the interview Mr Gore also distances himself from Tony Blair on the subject of nuclear power, which the prime minister has insisted is "back on the agenda with a vengeance". Mr Gore says he is "sceptical about it playing a much larger role," and that although it might have a part to play in Britain or China, it will not be "a silver bullet" in the fight against global warming.
In the US, Mr Gore's environmental campaign has sparked a backlash from some on the right who accuse him of scaremongering. A series of television advertisements, launched by a thinktank called the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argue that carbon dioxide emissions are a sign of American productivity and progress.
Mr Gore's true attitude towards a potential return to the White House - or, at least, a potential battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination - remains unknown.
At the weekend, Time magazine reported that he was telling key fundraisers they should feel free to sign on with other potential candidates. The magazine quoted unnamed Democratic sources as saying that the former vice-president had also been asking the fundraisers to "tell everybody I'm not running".
Mr Gore would not find it difficult to raise millions of dollars, if he did decide to run. But while public denials might prove a wise campaign strategy - not least by prolonging the period of positive attention Mr Gore is now receiving - actively turning away fundraisers does suggest a firmer resolve not to re-enter electoral politics.
It is significant, however, that Mr Gore refuses to go beyond saying that he has no "plans" for such a campaign. "I haven't made a Shermanesque statement because it just seems odd to do so," he has said - a reference to the famous announcement by the civil war general William Sherman, who unequivocally refused to stand in the election of 1884. "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve," General Sherman said.