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March 20, 2006

Al Gore reboots

Ezra Klein's story about the new Al Gore is on the cover of the latest issue of The American Prospect. The article is about how Al Gore reinvented himself as a new media mogul after losing/winning the 2000 election.

Since then, Gore has founded an alternative television channel, made a movie about global warming, and teamed up with MoveOn.org. The former VP circumvented the media by creating his own distribution channels and forging alliances with internet-savvy New Democrats. Ezra argues that Gore decisively repudiated his old political persona in December, 2003 when he endorsed Howard Dean over his own former running mate Joe Lieberman.

Ezra writes:

The Dean campaign’s architect, Joe Trippi, told me, “What I’ve learned from people who are close to Gore was that, had he gone in 2004, he had this vision of running a disintermediated, Internet-driven, decentralized campaign. His vision was the Dean campaign! So one of the things that attracted him to the Dean campaign was that he looked and saw that, ‘Holy shit, these guys are running the campaign I wanted to run.’”

In endorsing Dean, Gore did more than signal support for the chaotic, democratized nature of the campaign. For a wonk like Gore, the endorsement of Dean -- the DLC’s bête noire during the 2004 primaries -- was an embrace of the new “it” Democrat. If the DLC’s “New Democrats,” led by Clinton and Gore, were the buzzworthy wing of the Democratic Party in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the 2004 election ushered in their successors, led by Dean.

Call them the New New Democrats, MoveOn Democrats, or whatever you want. They were the liberal response to Clinton’s triangulation and Bush’s ascension.

Gore says he doesn't intend to run for president in 2008. However, this part of Ezra's analysis makes me very nervous...
Planned or not, Gore’s alliance with MoveOn and Dean’s army of online volunteers has ensured him unique access and affection among one of the richest, most easily activated cash sources in the Democratic Party. Trippi estimates that a well-timed entrance, under certain conditions, could raise Gore $50 million almost instantly, and hundreds of millions more if he won the nomination. “Remember,” he told me, “McCain in 2000 has 40,000 people sign up on the web and raises a couple million bucks. A few years later Howard Dean raises $59 million. The next [netroot darling] is going to be as exponential as Dean was to McCain.”

And it could be Gore, if he wants it.
I share Ezra's admiration for many of the policies that Gore has advanced in recent years, including single-payer health care. I also agree that Gore has given some very good speeches lately. That said, Al Gore should never run for president again.

Irrespective of whether he would make a good president, Gore is a bad candidate. He's more interested in policy than performance art, and it shows. Any liberal will have a hard time in 2008. A non-telegenic liberal with a lot of political baggage will be completely unelectable.

Remember that the media hated Gore in 2000. Every one of his campaign mistakes was amplified by a hostile press that couldn't resist embellishing their giant in-joke with outright lies. Gore still hasn't debunked all the urban legends the press corps spread about him last time around. The media cared more about spinning a funny story about a pointy-headed liberal getting his ass handed to him by a good ol' boy than about covering an American presidential campaign (cf. Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media?).

And all that was before Gore declared war on the press. As Ezra stresses in his essay, Gore has embarked on a one-man crusade against the shallowness of mainstream campaign coverage:

Over the next 48 minutes, Gore laced into the state of the media, lamenting the “systematic decay of the public forum,” and echoing Walter Lippmann’s belief that the propaganda emanating from the press corps was rendering America’s “dogma of democracy” void. Journalism, Gore said, had grown “dysfunctional,” and now “fails to inform the people.”

The speech wasn’t just an isolated blast aimed at wresting some headlines or settling some scores. Gore has long been quietly obsessed with excising the media from the politician-public relationship.

Gore's outspoken criticism of the press reassures me that he doesn't intend to run in 2008. He probably understands the odds against him better than anyone else. Let's hope his fellow Democrats don't talk him out of a very wise decision.

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Comments

I've played with the thought of Gore running in 2008. His speeches have been that good. The problem is he is tagged with loser. (Even though the Florida recount was an embarrassment.) He can never escape that label. He can help mobilize the base. I like to hear him urge single women to vote. Democrats needs these ladies badly.

Gore's got a lot to contribute to progressive politics, no question about that. I just don't see why he should for president again. His talents lie elsewhere.

"Loser" isn't the worst of it. If he runs again, the media will have to tell the story of a sore loser.

The Washington press corps would see a Gore candidacy as a personal affront to its collective wisdom. After all, they tagged him as an arrogant bore last time around. Then he the temerity to tell the whole world what superficial losers they were for doing so. He's got no chance.

I think he's the strongest of a weak bunch. And he didn't lose last time, remember that, even with the media beatdown and wooden delivery and crappy advisers. He's shed two of these, and has had the epiphany of how to bypass the media if Ezra is correct. So, let's REELECT GORE IN 2008!

I dunno, I think it's possible that the press might be more inclined to go easy on Gore after eight years of Bush.

And "Gore gets his due after eight years in the wilderness" is a pretty appealing frame itself.

If the American People had seen the Spike Jonze documentary I think our view of Al Gore would be totally different. In it he is human, warm, passionate, and more presidential than anyone I've seen since before Regan.

I love Al Gore - my Senator from ages 2 through 10.

You're right, though, sadly. Gore is reviled by the press in a way I'll never understand. He'd be eaten alive. Every day would be a new Dean scream.

I dunno, I think it's possible that the press might be more inclined to go easy on Gore after eight years of Bush.

I think there's about as much chance of that happening as there is of Duke Cunningham garnering the GOP presidential nomination. The press at large has yet to turn on W (no matter how low their polls go) and even if they did, what makes you think they'd suddenly embrace Gore? Nobody likes to admit they were wrong, and most people aren't prone to sudden bursts of affection for people they have always held in contempt.

And "Gore gets his due after eight years in the wilderness" is a pretty appealing frame itself.

How about "Gore gets his due after eight years in the wilderness, and a pony?"

I think that Gore's reinvention is largely a marketing ploy, and that in fact if elected he's going to revert to the same waffling policies that characterized Clinton. His endorsement of Dean doesn't mean anything; in 12/2003 Dean had a lock on the primaries, and tons of politicians, including Gore, endorsed him simply because he was the winner.

Hanson of NASA on Global Warming h/t Left Coaster

"Dr. Hansen believes that we must slow down and reverse our carbon emissions within this decade or it will be too late to stop the worst of the consequences from global warming."

Gore has a cause, we are in catastrophic circumstances. It is Gore's cause. And the media is not part of the problem, or a symptom, the media is the problem. As Ezra explains. If we do not take them on very soon, decredentialize them and grab the narrative, it will be too late. If not now, when? If not Gore, who?

Gore is in the perfect position, because he is already at war with the media. It has to be done.

indeed. I am that very moveOn.org cash resvoir demographic. And a technologist more comfortable with Gore's apparent deapth in issue like global warming that I worry about. He STILL looks like a candidate to me. What is wrong with that?

I don't think that this is so much a re-invention as a re-awakening. We all saw in his 2000 concession speech the very statesman that had been suffocated by the Democrat's now-infamous "political advisor" class. And his recent speeches have been very much like those he's been giving for five years now, full of what we old-timers call Vim and Vigor. His only real weakness is that he really would call on the American public to challenge itself, make what sacrifices were necessary, and tackle in a realistic way the immense problems of global warming, oil dependency, and international terrorism.

I'd like to think there are enough Americans that are sick of being patted on the head and told to run and play "consumer" at the local Wal-Mart, but I just don't know. He's still the best democrat we have, and I'd be proud to vote for him despite the odds. We might lose the election, but the Dems would have stopped running from the fight and finally stood up for something.

I would be very excited about a Gore candidacy. He's always been to the left of Clinton on the pocketbook issues, and he became an environmental crusader back in the 1980s. He also never backed down from his defense of Social Security and affirmative action, and came out very strong against vouchers in 2000.

And he ran a very good campaign. He was tainted by Clinton's scandal, and Clinton's sellout of much of the party's base. He had a 3rd party challenger taking votes from him, his opponent didn't. Gore ran against a charismatic "centrist," was outspent by a lot, and endured nonstop lies from the press (search www.dailyhowler.com for "gore" if you really want to be sick).

And he won.

Thank you lindsay, the very idea of gore running, again, scares me senseless because however good he would be as president, and that's not really in dispute, he sucks as a presidential candidate, a pre-television nixon-with-morals candidate versus whatever ammoral sociopathic JFK the repugs will send up.

I have to go with Lindsay. Gore's actual strengths and weaknesses are irrelevant here. The bottom line is that the cool kids don't merely dislike Gore; they hate him.

If you can find some magical means by which MoDo, Tweety, Pumpkinhead, and all the rest of them can somehow be marginalized out of all significance by November 2008, I'm all ears. Otherwise, forget it.

And no, I don't have a suggestion for a viable Democratic candidate whom the Beltway Heathers won't come to hate with an equally intense and inexplicable passion. I just feel in my bones that Gore would be torn to bits if he were to run...and frankly, I think he deserves better. Let him find an elder statesman - eminence grise kind of role for himself; it's really what he's best suited for at this point.

I agree that the press hated Gore. They also hated Kerry, and they hated Clinton (at least from about 1995 onward).

We can come up with one individual reason after another for why the press hated and made fun of each of those candidates, but after a while I start to notice a pattern. And I make a prediction: Whoever the Democratic nominee is, no matter how carefully the nominee is picked to be someone the press can't or won't or doesn't want to make fun of, the press will find some reason to hate that candidate. The triviality of the press's jabs at Gore and Kerry (how he combs his hair; how he eats a sandwich) ought to be pretty clear evidence that the press can find such complaints about anybody.

I don't think the problem is that we've picked weak candidates. Sure, the candidates looked weak in retrospect, because they lost. (Or at least didn't take power, which is funcionally the same as losing.) But fundamentally the problem is that we have a press that is willing to use Republican talking points for its accepted narrative about Democratic candidates. Until we learn how to deal with that problem, every candidate will look just as weak in retrospect as Gore and Dean and Kerry did.

Lindsay, if launching a war against the press is bad for your political prospects, someone needs to tell the GOP.

For the last decade, we've seen the fruits of Republican efforts to "work the refs" by claiming media bias, and the GOP has been the beneficiary every single time. The media bends over backwards to appease them, which just encourages them to scream "media bias" all the more.

Gore is likely to enjoy equal success by having the guts to actually come out and say "the media likes to spread lies about me." They don't like to be challenged - else they'd be standing up to the GOP - and it will make them more gunshy. And if they keep repeating the same lies, then the public will start to say "hey, Gore is right, the press really does give him a raw deal."

I think we could all grow old and die waiting for a Democrat to come along whom the press will fawn over. No one could be more charismatic than Clinton, and yet the press served as vehicles for every anti-Clinton attack imaginable. If they won't give us a fair shake, Gore's approach of declaring frontal war is probably the best we can do.

I am a Tennessean living inside the Beltway, and I have been a Gore admirer since his Daddy was my Senator. Little Al would be our strongest candidate by far. He knows the issues and has exactly the right positions on most of them. He also has a tremendous amount of experience in government, in politics, and now, in media. He no doubt has the wisdom that losing and failing and picking yourself up can bring with it. I have the sense that he has been properly humbled somewhat, which, for him, is a mighty good thing. I have been to the Gore family farm in middle Tennessee, and think Al has just enough of the country boy left in him to be able to relate nationally. I would be an instant contributor, and I expect there would be many others who would do the same. I think the smart aleck press jumping on him again would look just plain silly.

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