Saturday, October 20, 2007

Is this Al Gore's New Campaign Strategy?

Am I the only person to find Al Gore’s winning of a Nobel Prize a little irksome? Sure he has brought the problem of global warming to a wider audience. Sure he has helped raise consciousness of environmental problems and pushed ‘green’ issues onto the agenda of mainstream America. But I cannot help but find it all a little too cosy. A snub to Bush? A feather in his cap for a 2008 presidential campaign?

In last Saturday’s London Independent, (Oct 13) Rupert Cornwell details Al Gore’s political history and comments on the likelihood of him running for the presidency at any time in the future. Mr Cornwell points out that were Gore and Hillary Clinton to compete for the Democrat nomination for 2008 it would possibly have the effect of splitting the party. He also comments that the Clinton psychodrama when added to the Gore ‘mantle of saviour of the planet’ might be just a little too much psychodrama for the American electorate. All of which would be good news for the Republicans.

But my problem with Al Gore is not just with this political past but with what is suggested in Rupert Cornwell’s title, ‘An Oscar. The Nobel Peace Prize. Now, can Al Gore win the presidency?’

Firstly, Mr Cornwell overlooks some ‘awkward facts’ about Al. It was Al who claimed to have invented the Internet. It was Al’s documentary, that last week was found by a British High Court judge to contain ‘nine crucial scientific errors and was a political film rather than an impartial analysis of climate change. It was Al who with a leaden campaign in an election considered his to win, threw it away and let Bush junior at the reins.

Whenever thinking of Al Gore I am reminded of his distant cousin’s description, ‘a genial chump’. Gore Vidal, (the distant cousin), in his book Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace informs us that Al is said to be a fan of the WWJD mantra, (What Would Jesus Do?). Al, when contemplating serious political matters claims to ask himself this simple question – WWJD. Distant cousin Gore comments Al surely would be better asking, ‘what would the founding fathers do?’; a sentiment someone genuinely concerned about their country’s future should concur with.

There is something irksome about the whole ‘save the planet’ movement. It ties in with the WWJD mentality. It comes over with an apocalyptic, self-righteous tone. I do not question the fact that many scientists have grave concerns. But there are others who are not convinced. And the purpose of scientific inquiry is to find the facts. To uncover truth. Historically scientific inquiry has tended to support conclusions based on a variety of factors determining a situation. And no doubt, some time in the future, we will learn that global warming is not a single reason problem. That it is more complex than we thought.

The ‘green’ issue has become a kind of exercise in collective flag waving. It especially suits the burgeoning middle class as it allows them to overlook questions of distribution of wealth, the relationship between poverty and health, poverty and education, poverty and opportunity. The planet is at risk. There is urgency. What we need to do is cut back on this, cut back on that. Our sense of social well-being is counted in the number of energy-saving bulbs we have in our homes.(not cheap). How much organic food we eat. (not that the disadvantaged can afford it). And how often we drive to recycle all those boxes in which our plastic computers, kitchen utensils, labour saving devices come in. (we don’t want to stop being consumers we just want to become greener consumers).

The question we have to ask is, has Mr Gore grasped this salient point and does he, despite his protestations otherwise, still harbour presidential ambitions?

I cannot help but fear that the relevance in Al Gore winning the Nobel Prize may not be the effect it will have on the climate change debate but in the discovery of a new political strategy. First drop out of mainstream politics. Discover a somewhat ‘outside’ concern - preferably with ‘high’ moral tone. Get the media involved for example make a movie, documentary, television special. Win an Oscar or some such award, then a ‘high’ profile but meaningless political prize. Go back to the electorate cleaned of the taint of back-room deals, horse trading, compromise and the need to balance competing interests.

Al Gore, really, has done little to deserve this award. He has helped publicise one argument in an ongoing and complex debate. He has championed a viewpoint without really having to accredit the difficulties of it. If he were to run for the 2008 Democrat nomination and win it and then to win the Presidency on the back of this prize we would be witnessing a form of ‘ambush’ politics. He would have come at the political fray from outside the political fray. He would have renounced politics in order to further his political ambitions. He would be saying the way to be a politician is to pretend not to be a politician at all.

Copyright (C) Peter Millington Oct 2007