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Gore’s Triumphant ‘Second Act’ Dramatizes Bush Failures,
Signals Reversal

By Robert S. Becker, Ph.D.

16 November, 2007

Like comets once viewed as heavenly omens, Al Gore’s triumphant blaze of glory ripples with significance, sharply reminding us of what could have been, what is, and what may well come to pass. Positioned nicely before the ’08 election, Gore’s redemption presages a major paradigm reversal, beyond global warming, threatening the conservative dominance begun by Ronald Reagan.

Gore’s sterling achievements – the Oscar, the acceptance of global warming, the Nobel Peace Prize - are historic. They also establish an especially dramatic opposition between the more effective leadership style of a private citizen -- inclusive, global, open to innovation -- with the “go-it-alone,” counterproductive insularity of the Bush-Cheney reign. While White House creditability withers, here and abroad, Gore’s influence expands, embracing world-class scientific research, wide-ranging solutions and international co-operation.

The contrast is astonishing, especially between a lone private citizen and an entire administration. If a divine force indeed favors the democratic spirit, Gore’s eminence haunts us all, delivering at the least a severe election reprimand. While a democracy may tolerate voting legalisms to trump the popular will, as in 2000, is not jeopardy attached? Five members of the Supreme Court can wipe away a 500,000 plurality, but look at the destructive outcome when the Electoral College system anoints the lesser man.

Gore’s Peace Prize frames Bush’s lost wars

If that same divine force orchestrates history, as fundamentalists claim, is there any question He (or She) has a wildly ironic sense of humor? Why of late has fate granted Gore, the loser in 2000, a charmed life crowned with the world’s great Peace Prize – all the while hammering Bush’s presidency, linking it forever to belligerent, questionable crusades against terrorism, Iraqi women and children, and American citizens, capped by the no-win war that targeted a dictator but devastated an entire country? Losing becomes winning and winning only reveals all too boldly the inadequacies of the victor.

Gore’s mission to restrain climate shifts elevates humanity without hating gays or politicizing procreation or distorting religion. Strident as ever, Bush rails against perceived enemies in Iran, defends torture, suspends habeas corpus, and violates citizen rights with illegal eavesdropping. Could the contrast be greater, even without the latest scary administration saber-rattling against Iran?

Beyond the personal Gore vs. Bush, consider other historic breakthroughs, namely that finally a presidential loser need not vanish into the anonymous mist. Never before has a devastated election loser morphed into an international superstar, proving overt government power offers only one kind of leverage for change. Compare Gore’s re-emergence to Dole or Dukakis, Mondale or McGovern.

In short, Gore reverses, not just disproves F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quip, “There are no second acts in American lives.” Here’s a celebrity who’s started a movement yet without conspicuous charisma or charm, most notably without public office or huge corporate sponsorship or selling out.

A ‘second act” that dwarfs the first

America likes winners, especially heroes who go it alone. Gore’s special status, advanced by not running for president, grants him the enormous clout of former leaders, approaching even Bill Clinton without his baggage. Imagine Gore’s impact as he campaigns for liberal Democrats, declaring, “Elect this partner” to help us save the world – the ultimate vision quest.

Were top GOP candidates silly enough to persist in doubting the science or denying human influence on climate, Gore can rush in on his relatively non-partisan white horse and destroy so many regressive, faith-based, life-threatening ideologies, with cultural and political ripples beyond this one issue.

There’s a special grace when one is deflected, even anointed to save the world, not just lead a country. No one has gone from Oscar to Nobel Prize to international acclaim, putting Gore into the ranks of a Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela.

Is it irony or payback?

Certainly, history will not miss a most dramatic irony – Al Gore’s voice against climate change would be less conspicuous had not big oil and big energy fought so hard, and funded countless distortions, denying global warming and impugning proponents as “sky-is-falling” partisans or outright fakes. Nor will historians ignore this further irony – the likely election of liberal politicians and funding of sustainable energy will be propelled by the oil industries’ two most ambitious executives, George Bush and Dick Cheney.

For me, Gore haunts America’s last seven years like a living ghost, his ultimate impact extends beyond one misguided election or the reversal of personal fortunes. Through Gore, we may say Providence has spoken: He did not endorse the 2000 election result, nor the invasion of Iraq (as this president once boasted). Instead, Gore's unique, certainly unusual narrative invites rational earthlings to reject all sorts of black and white parochial mindsets, the sort both taking us unwisely into the wrong war against terrorism while scorning the very compelling battle for planetary balance staring us all in the face.

For that blessing, and the hope we are moving out of this dark, dark age, we owe Gore a lot.

Former university teacher and business executive, free-lance writer Becker lives in Mendocino CA.


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