Al Gore, "improbably charismatic"? That's the premise of this week's cover story in Time magazine, titled "The Last Temptation of Al Gore." He is, according to the ogling opening of Time writer Eric Pooley, everything the Democrats could want, "the perfect stealth candidate for 2008," with "the grass-roots appeal of Barack Obama," who "spoke out loud and clear and early" against the Iraq war, but also " candidate with the operational toughness of Hillary Clinton—someone with experience and credibility on the world stage." In short:
In other words, you would want someone like Al Gore—the improbably charismatic, Academy Award–winning, Nobel Prize–nominated environmental prophet with an army of followers and huge reserves of political and cultural capital at his command. There's only one problem. The former Vice President just doesn't seem interested.
He doesn't want it, Pooley writes, because he was so painfully tortured by not being granted a victory despite winning the 2000 popular vote (but not electoral vote) for president.
In the face of wrenching disappointment, he showed enormous discipline—waking up every day knowing he came so close, believing the Supreme Court was dead wrong to shut down the Florida recount but never talking about it publicly because he didn't want Americans to lose faith in their system. That changes a man forever.
It changed Gore for the better. He dedicated himself to a larger cause, doing everything in his power to sound the alarm about the climate crisis, and that decision helped transform the way Americans think about global warming and carried Gore to a new state of grace. So now the question becomes, How will he choose to spend all the capital he has accumulated? No wonder friends, party elders, moneymen and green leaders are still trying to talk him into running.
He never talked about it publicly? That's a little too strong. In Gore's concession speech, he was magnanimous, but he did say he felt the court was dead wrong: "Let there be no doubt," he said, "while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it." It also completely ignores how Gore had spent the previous month and a half routinely suggesting that Americans should "lose faith in their system" unless he was declared the winner.
Whether or not Time magazine is right (and smart for the Democrats) to ogle over Gore, there is no doubt this story packages the former vice president exactly as he would like it: the wise man that just may be too virtuous and smart for America to deserve. It seems to say for Gore "Beg me! Beg me to run again!"