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by Jim Lobe

Attack of the Global Warming Denier

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- It was only two days ago that a group called took out a very expensive full-page ad in the New York Times in a direct appeal to former Vice President Al Gore to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in the 2008 election.

"Many good and caring candidates are contending for the Democratic nomination," declared the ad, which spoke in the name of 138,000 people who signed a petition calling for Gore to run.

"But none of them has the combination of experience, vision, standing in the world, and political courage that you would bring to the job. Nor do they have the support among voters that you enjoy and that would lead you to victory in 2008."

Two days later, in the wake of Friday's award of the 2007 Peace Prize to Gore for his work on global warming, as well as to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the same group renewed its call: "This award will only add to the tremendous tidal wave of support for Al Gore and the growing demands that he become a candidate for President in 2008," it said.

"We believe that under these circumstances he has no choice but to take the one step left to have the greatest impact in changing policy on global warming -- run for President."

At least one former U.S. president -- and Nobel laureate -- agreed. "I think he's the best qualified person to be president," declared Jimmy Carter on NBC's "Today" show shortly after the Nobel announcement was made.

"...I've called Al Gore and urged him to run for president so many times, he finally told me the last time, 'President Carter, please do not call me..."

While there is indeed little doubt that his new status as a Nobel Peace Laureate will further enhance Gore's stature and electability, most political analysts, including members of Gore's inner circle, consider it highly unlikely that he will throw his hat into the ring.

"Vice President Gore truly appreciates the sentiment and the feeling behind the ad," said Gore's official spokesperson, Kalee Kreider. "But as a private citizen his efforts are going behind a campaign of a different kind. The vast majority of his energy right now is going into educating people about the climate crisis and trying to get that issue to a tipping point."

Indeed, aside from his distinction as being the most prominent Democrat to loudly warn against Congressional approval of a 2002 resolution giving President George W. Bush authority to take military action against Iraq, climate change has been the signature issue of the former vice president since his controversial defeat by Bush in the 2000 elections.

In fact, Gore's focus on the environment and global warming goes back at least to the publication of his first book, "Earth in the Balance," in 1992, when he was still serving as a U.S. senator on the eve of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The attention gained by both the summit and the book helped persuade Bill Clinton to name Gore as his running-mate in the elections later that year.

Since the 2000 election, in which Gore won the popular vote only to lose as a result of a highly controversial split decision by the Supreme Court, Gore has campaigned aggressively -- from quietly rallying with Christian evangelical leaders to break with the Christian Right over climate change to producing and starring in an Oscar-winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" -- to put global warming at the top of the international public agenda.

Now that those efforts have been rewarded with a Nobel Prize, it would indeed seem an opportune moment for Gore to enter the presidential race as Carter and many environmental and Democratic activists -- especially those who are dissatisfied with the current field and Sen. Hillary Clinton's widening lead -- are urging.

Nonetheless, most analysts believe he is unlikely to jump in.

As Kreider herself noted, Gore may indeed feel that he can accomplish more outside of government and as a leader of a movement than as a politician who will be forced to deal with a whole range of issues on which he will inevitably have to make difficult compromises that can only tarnish his image as a crusader.

"This clearly will help this [climate] campaign [become] even larger, and he'll have an even louder voice," Donna Brazile, Gore's 2000 campaign manager, told AP Friday. "But for now he's citizen Al Gore, and I think he's comfortable being citizen Al Gore."

More practical challenges also tend to weigh against a run, not the least having to raise money and build a nationwide organization from scratch, when the three top-tier candidates -- Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, and former Sen. John Edwards -- already have tens of millions of dollars and well-oiled campaign machinery at their disposal.

A number of key Democratic funders opposed to Clinton approached Gore about running in late 2006 but became deeply frustrated by his apparent lack of interest, according to one informed source who asked not to be identified. "Those who would be most able to help him now have been turned off," the source said.

Moreover, the growing conviction among political pros that Clinton, whose steadily growing lead in both money-raising and the polls, has all but wrapped up the Democratic nomination, if not next November's general election, also works against a Gore bid.

"If he challenged her at this point," said Stephen Clemons of the New America Foundation, "he knows he risks losing Hillary's support for crucial climate change initiatives if she becomes president. The fact that he owns the global climate change franchise will already make it difficult for the Clinton political franchise to find compelling reasons to adopt the issue as its own. It's a delicate relationship."

One Washington veteran noted that the Nobel itself is unlikely to have any lasting effect on the presidential race beyond from the latest surge of speculation.

"I'd love it if it shook up the race," said William Goodfellow, the long-time director of the Center for International Policy here. "But for most Americans, the Oscar is a bigger deal than the Nobel. A lot of people think Gore is an elitist and the Nobel unfortunately won't help that image."

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Albion Monitor   October 12, 2007   (

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