June 17 , 2008
of Big Al
By Mary Lyon
Now we know Barack Obama is the heir. Al Gore has now stepped forward to give his endorsement. It was not, however, quite the triumphant return to the political stage that I had hoped to see from Al Gore.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I'm an Obama supporter, but Al Gore had my heart first. I'm one of those candle-in-the-window types who finally gave up hope a few weeks ago that Gore would ride this election cycle back into the Oval Office that was stolen from him eight years ago. You think the Hillary Clinton fans were the only big hold-outs?
So, okay, bear with me while I pay another bittersweet tribute to Big Al. It won't be any gushier than Peggy Noonan's foolishly groupie-esque rhapsodizing over Ronald Reagan. To this day, I STILL think Gore is the one. I STILL think Gore was robbed. I STILL think Gore is the gold standard of liberal/progressive politics in general and Democratic Party politics in particular. Watching him speak at the Michigan rally for Obama just reminded me all over again - why I STILL feel that way.
Do we really need more convincing, or more proof, that Democratic ideals and Democratic leaders are better for this country than those of the rabid opposition? Could it be any more clear, if you compare that latest Al Gore speech to the most recent blurts and blaps from the semi-coherent fellow who currently occupies the presidency?
Al Gore was downright majestic as he thundered from the Detroit podium about how elections matter. He journeyed to economically-blighted Michigan - offering hope, comfort, inspiration and a way through the weeds, endorsing a guy who, earlier, had rolled up his sleeves and grabbed a shovel to help with the sandbagging against the floodwaters that threaten to drown parts of Iowa. This, while John McCain issues bland statements from a safe distance somewhere else, and his hero and political soul-mate Dubya joyrides around Europe on one big final globetrotting junket on the taxpayers' tab. It's enough to remind the viewer of those fun photos taken in late August 2005, in which George and John shared an excellent birthday cake adventure in the sunshine while, miles away, New Orleans was drowning. You sure don't need a hurricane to demonstrate a GOP chieftain's disinterest and detachment. Seems like any weather disaster will do, anymore.
Then again, there's nothing like a pampered, well-heeled Republican to preach the gospel of picking yourself up by your own bootstraps especially after you have no bootstraps left with which to pull yourself up.
Al Gore reminded us all of the path painfully not taken. He spoke out against the war, as did a young Illinois State Senator, back when it wasn't considered cool to do so. I was struck by the TV punditry - how many of them actually made the leap so obvious to those of us outside the protective shell of the Beltway. Numerous talking heads just couldn't help themselves - mentioning how Al Gore brings up memories of Selection 2000 and what might have been. Even CNN's David Gergen dutifully acknowledged the reality that struck so many Americans like a sucker-punch long ago - that our country and everyone in it would be lightyears better off if we'd had Al Gore's steady hand at the wheel for the past seven-and-some years. Well, how about that? They noticed. I agree.
We've lost nearly eight precious years because of the recklessness and prideful incompetence of George W. Bush. We would have been almost eight years closer to energy independence - including investment in, and cultivation of, all the energy alternatives we could possibly imagine. Under an Al Gore administration, other ideas than oil, oil, and more oil would not have been ignored, scoffed at, or summarily ruled out.
An Al Gore White House would have provided continuity with the Gore Commision on terrorism that was undertaken during the Clinton presidency - and many of its recommendations would likely have been implemented by a President Gore. That includes the suggested improvements in airport security - making a reasonable argument that 9/11 might not have been possible on Gore's watch. Moreover, Al Gore would not have surrounded himself with frustrated latter-day crusaders suffering from empire-envy, or naive policy geeks, probably some with serious testosterone issues, who think mightier-than-thou American-style democracy must be forced upon other nations at gunpoint.
The chances are greater that we'd have faced far less danger and threat to our health and safety if regulators weren't downsized and regulations weren't ignored by a cavalier group of pennywise/pound-foolish pirates unwilling to remain vigilant against imports of toxic toys and poisonous pet food. After all, according to their reasoning, such annoying protections cost too much and private industry should be able to make a buck off of them instead. An Al Gore administration wouldn't have been led by a mindset that preferred gutting and downgrading the government agencies responsible for gate-keeping. Nor might as many hundreds of thousands of American jobs have been allowed to drain away across the sea, because the priorities of Democrats tend to oppose looking the other way while corporations run wild and run over the little. Never mind that this, too, is Homeland Security.
An Al Gore FEMA wouldn't have shrugged its shoulders and dragged its heels when the need was great after a calamitous Act of God here at home. Exhibit A: Clinton/Gore's chief of disaster response was the highly respected, competent, professional, and effective James Lee Witt. Bush/Cheney's version was "heckuva job" Brownie - the inept and ill-suited crony friend-of-a-friend from college. You be the judge.
Certainly, critics will sneer - it's easy for you to say. How can you possibly know? Get real. Well, true enough. I can't know. None of us can. But if you simply look at who's where this week as a metaphor, you might be able to make a fair guess. Who's here at home, trying to lift America's morale in an area of the country that's hurting, and who's too busy hustling for campaign money from high-roller elites, or rubbing elbows with VIPs in sumptuous overseas photo-ops? Symbolic, perhaps, of which political figures give a damn more, and cares more about offering help to people in need?
It was both pleasing and painful to see Al Gore at work on the campaign stage again, and not only gratifying but validating to see him endorse Barack Obama. Good for Obama, and good for the rest of us. It's another man's stage now. But Gore will always have a place on it. And if we're ever to have a realistic chance, or hope, of pulling ourselves out of the worst run of bad leadership and bad judgment in American history, all of us are going to need for him to stick around there. I'll probably never be blessed with the Gore presidency I've yearned for since 2000. So I'll celebrate the next best thing.