By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2007 7:38 AM
If you're Al Gore, you gotta be wondering: Now they like me?
Gore supporters are convinced that their man got a raw deal from the media in 2000. There was all that focus on his sighing, his makeup, his earth-tones wardrobe, his supposed invented-the-Internet type exaggerations. Some Gore advisers concede that he ran a flawed campaign, but still believe that the press held their candidate to a different standard than George W. Bush.
What a difference seven years and two Oscars make.
When the ex-veep testified on the Hill yesterday, he was trailed by hordes of reporters. His arrival was heralded by a front-page New York Times story on how he is "a heartbreak loser turned Oscar boasting Nobel hopeful globe trotting pop culture eminence." He even has a new nickname: the Goracle.
Boy, coverage like that could have gotten him those last three electoral votes last time.
The reason the star of "An Inconvenient Truth" is now treated as a visionary is because he's been trumpeting the dangers of global warming for two decades. Bush 41 called him "Ozone Man" back in '92. But now far more people are concerned about the ozone layer and melting icecaps, and Gore's moment seems to have arrived. Reporters even surrounded him--and Tipper--in the hallway for an impromptu presser.
Not everyone is going to agree with the 10-point plan that Gore presented yesterday to the House and Senate (he served in each chamber). Indeed, some of the Republicans were all over him. But the fact that his testimony drew some live TV coverage is a (forgive me) sea change in the way he, and the issue, are covered.
Of course--let's get real--it's the mere possibility that he might run for president again that is tantalizing the same media establishment that was long dismissive of Gore. In fact, many reporters seem to be rooting for Gore to jump in and ignoring his repeated denials that he has any such intention. But if he did take the leap, the honeymoon would end within nanoseconds.
"The crowd stirred in the House hearing room as the door opened, followed by a hush," says the Chicago Tribune. "In walked Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, both smiling and schmoozing. For a moment, they were the object of one fixed, collective gaze. It marked a triumphal return for the couple, but especially for the former vice president."
"It was part science class, part policy wonk heaven, part politics and all theater as former Vice President Al Gore came to Congress today to insist that global warming constitutes a 'planetary emergency' requiring an aggressive federal response," says the NYT.
But some lawmakers were rather chilly: "In the Senate, it was a different matter. Senator James Inhofe or Oklahoma, the ranking Republican member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, adopted a pugilistic stance, challenging the vice president's analysis of climate change's dangers from hurricanes and melting ice in Antarctica.
" 'It is my perspective that your global warming alarmist pronouncements are now and have always been filled with inaccuracies and misleading statements,' Mr. Inhofe said. He then estimated the cost of proposals to reduce emission of heat-trapping gases at $300 billion and said: 'The poor pay for it and the science isn't there. We just can't do that to America, Mr. Vice President. And we're not going to.' "
Politico's John Harris seems to want the ex-veep to get in:
"The logic of politics suggests Gore has already given his answer. He is not raising money. He is not urging friends and associates to stay on the sidelines until he makes a decision. He has said repeatedly that he has no plans to run. Shouldn't we take him at his word?
"Not yet, we shouldn't. The logic of psychology and even history suggests that Gore should run. And if he should run, it is hard to believe that a man who has organized most of his adult life around public service and the pursuit of the presidency won't in the end actually do it.
"For the moment, Gore's legacy in American politics rests on two opposing facts:
"-- From the perspective of Democrats, no politician has been more right, more often, on more important questions. On global warming, words that had a radical edge in 1992 -- and still do, to many conservative ears -- Gore wrote 'Earth in the Balance,' anticipating mainstream liberal rhetoric by a decade. Many Washington Democrats cringed at what they regarded as his shrill people-vs.-powerful 2000 convention speech, when he warned that a Bush presidency would favor special interests and the wealthy. They cringed even more in 2002 at what they regarded as Gore's naive warnings that the coming Iraq war was a disaster in waiting and a distraction from other fronts in the campaign against terrorism. But within a year or so of both speeches, most Democrats inside Washington and beyond essentially embraced Gore's argument and tone.
"-- From the perspective of people who believe, as nearly all Democrats do, that the Bush presidency has been a historic debacle, no Democratic politician is more culpable for these consequences than Gore himself. A more poised, focused and self-confident campaign surely would have won the election and not just the popular vote in 2000. As the chosen leader of his party, Gore had a responsibility to wage that campaign.
"Both Gore's success in perceiving issues and his failure as a political leader powerfully suggest an unfinished career. Will this highly competitive man not wish to confront and transcend what surely counts as the most agonizing defeat in U.S. presidential history?"
And deprive us of a good story line?
The mystery of that 1984-style anti-Hillary ad--you can read our report here--has been solved, courtesy of the Huffington Post.
"Hi. I'm Phil. I did it. And I'm proud of it.
"I made the 'Vote Different' ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process. There are thousands of other people who could have made this ad, and I guarantee that more ads like it--by people of all political persuasions--will follow.
"This shows that the future of American politics rests in the hands of ordinary citizens.
"The campaigns had no idea who made it--not the Obama campaign, not the Clinton campaign, nor any other campaign. I made the ad on a Sunday afternoon in my apartment using my personal equipment (a Mac and some software), uploaded it to YouTube, and sent links around to blogs.
"The specific point of the ad was that Obama represents a new kind of politics, and that Senator Clinton's 'conversation' is disingenuous. And the underlying point was that the old political machine no longer holds all the power.
"Let me be clear: I am a proud Democrat, and I always have been. I support Senator Obama. I hope he wins the primary. (I recognize that this ad is not his style of politics.) I also believe that Senator Clinton is a great public servant, and if she should win the nomination, I would support her and wish her all the best."
Right. That's why I depicted her as the droning voice of the establishment and had her blown up.
"I've resigned from my employer, Blue State Digital, an internet company that provides technology to several presidential campaigns, including Richardson's, Vilsack's, and -- full disclosure -- Obama's. The company had no idea that I'd created the ad, and neither did any of our clients. But I've decided to resign anyway so as not to harm them, even by implication."
How long before he hits the talk shows?
On to the big constitutional confrontation.
"The brinksmanship between the White House and Congress over the firing of several U.S. attorneys heightened yesterday," says the Boston Globe, "with a House committee authorizing the use of subpoenas to compel the testimony of President Bush's advisers, including top aide Karl Rove, and the White House vowing to fight such demands as long as necessary.
"The House Judiciary Committee, hoping to prod the White House into allowing the advisers to testify under oath, stopped short of issuing the subpoenas. But Democrats warned they would be issued if the White House refuses to budge -- a move that could lead to a constitutional deadlock that the federal courts would settle. The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to authorize use of subpoenas today.
"But the White House showed no sign of retreat, threatening to withdraw Bush's offer to allow interviews of Rove and others behind closed doors, off the record and with no sworn testimony."
Josh Marshall scoffs at the White House rationale:
"Let's be honest. Presidential advisors testify all the time. They don't have the same responsibilities vis a vis Congress as members of the executive departments. But they can and do testify. There's only one reason why you agree to 'talk' to Congress unsworn, in private and without a transcript: because you want to be able to lie or dodge questions in a way that's too embarrassing to do in public."
Power Line's John Hinderaker is firmly in Bush's corner:
"Kudos to President Bush for standing up to the Democrat bullies on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The last thing he should do is accord any credibility to their hyperpartisan 'investigation' of the firings of a handful of U.S. attorneys."
Americablog's Joe Sudbay, ah, is not:
"Liars. The Bush Administration is filled with pervasive liars. They've been lying for six years -- and they've gotten away with it. Think about what Bush said: His staff can talk to Congress, but not under oath. No one in America could get that deal. Most of us wouldn't think that telling the truth is a bad thing. But, most of us don't work for George Bush."
Dick Polman isn't buying:
"Well, it may not shock you to learn that, once again, the president was speaking at odds with factual reality. He says he is 'worried' that he would set a precedent if he allowed his top aides to testify in public on Capitol Hill about the purge scandal, but he need not worry -- because the truth is that dozens of White House aides, extending back to the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, have testified in public on Capitol Hill. Bush's defiance only makes perfect sense if one ignores American history, or prefers to remain clueless about it.
"Here are some names to consider: Samuel Berger, Lanny Breuer, Lloyd Cutler, Lisa Caputo, Charles Easley, W. Neil Eggleston, Mark Gearan, Deborah Gorham, Nancy Heinreich, Carolyn Huber, Harold Ickes, Joel Klein, Evelyn Lieberman, Mark Lindsay, Bruce Lindsay, Capricia Marshall, Thomas McLarty, Cheryl Mills, Bobby Nash, Stephen Neuwirth, Dimitri Nionakis, Beth Nolan, John Podesta, John Quinn, Charles Ruff, Jane Sherburne, Clifford Sloan, Patty Solis, George Stephanopoulos, Patsy Thomasson, Margaret Williams. Those people were all Clinton White House aides; at least 10 of them were entrusted to give Clinton legal advice. Yet all of them, at one time or another, testified before Congress."
Slate now has a Gonzo-Meter on the AG's chances of getting dumped. The latest reading: 55 percent.
The body's still warm, but the Nation's John Nichols is already criticizing some possible successors:
"The serious talk about who will take over for Gonzales focuses on former Solicitor General and veteran Washington fixer Ted Olson; Larry Thompson, a former US attorney for the northern District of Georgia and led the Southeastern Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force before serving as Deputy Attorney General under John Ashcroft during President Bush's first term; and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who as a U.S. Attorney in New Jersey and a judge on the United States Court of Appeals before being named an assistant U.S. Attorney General under Ashcroft.
"That's a dubious trio.
"Olson played a critical role in 'electing' Bush in the fall of 2000, when he argued the then-Republican nominee's brief in the Florida recount case of Bush v. Gore before a Republican-heavy US Supreme Court. As an assistant Attorney General in the 1980s, Olson defended then-President Ronald Reagan's role in the Iran-Contra affair.
"Larry Thompson signed the October, 2002, order that rejected concerns about torture and ordered the removal of Canadian Maher Arar from the U.S. custody in a move that would ultimately land Arar in Syria. After the O.K. from Thompson, Arar was secretly flown to Jordan and then driven into Syria, where he was indeed tortured. After an international outcry, Arar's name was finally cleared in 2006 by a Canadian Commission of Inquiry.
"Chertoff is, of course, the co-author of the USA PATRIOT Act. And, as the chief of the Justice Department's criminal division under Ashcroft, he advised the Central Intelligence Agency on how to avoid liability for torture, er, 'coercive interrogation.'
"Come to think of it, Fred Thompson may be the only prospective replacement for Gonzales who -- aside from an off night on TV -- has not been involved in shredding the Constitution."
Politico notes that Congressional inquiries into conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are taking a political turn as Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), a member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, investigates whether high-profile Republicans used their influence to help a firm win a private maintenance contract.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Treasury Secretary John Snow and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld all have some connection to the firm, IAP Worldwide Services. The company's board is also populated with former top military officials.
Here is a fascinating Gannett scoop on the backstage politics of climate change:
House Republican Leader John Boehner would have appointed Rep. Wayne Gilchrest to the bipartisan Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming -- but only if the Maryland Republican would say humans are not causing climate change, Gilchrest said.
"I said, 'John, I can't do that,' Gilchrest, R-1st-Md., said in an interview. 'He said, Come on. Do me a favor. I want to help you here.' "
In the latest Kos musings on the Democratic field, his top four all get an up arrow:
Hillary: "She's raising gobs of money, though I'm still not sure what she'll do with it. Yes, she's hired the best, most expensive staff around, but the bulk of that money will be spent on media. And really, is there a single soul in this country who hasn't made up his or her mind about Hillary? She can always go negative, but in a primary, that could backfire. Kerry won Iowa in 2004 in large part because Dean and Gephardt nuked each other in the airwaves.
"She wussed out on the Fox News debate thing. Rupert Murdoch hosted a fundraiser for Clinton last year, so an opportunity to show how 1) she couldn't be bought, and 2) how she wasn't afraid to give the VRWC the finger was squandered. Her campaign's hissy fit over David Geffen betrayed how afraid they are of Obama. A campaign that believed their spin about 'inevitability' wouldn't be so twitchy."
Obama: "When you are drawing crowds in the five-figures 10 months before the election, you know you've got a special something. However, a disproportionate percentage of his support is from young people. Youth turnout was up in 2004 and 2006, and I have no doubt it'll be up again in 2008. But even with those increases, youth participation lags that of older age groups."
Johnny E: "Edwards was the big winner of the Fox News debate mess, showing clear and early leadership pulling out of the propaganda network's attempt at legitimacy. He is also apparently the big winner as Clark looks less and likely to enter the fray...It is amazing, however, to witness a presidential race where being the white male candidate appears to be a disadvantage."
Bill Richardson: "While the gap between that first and second tier is pretty wide, it's epic between Richardson and the rest of this crowd. In fact, there's a palpable sense that this is really a 3-person race, with Richardson the sole guy with an outside chance of bridging the gap."
Everyone else gets a down arrow.