[ Over the weekend, a story posted on Huffington Post, and attributed to Agence France Press, quoted Al Gore as saying that he cannot imagine a circumstance in which he would run again for public office. It's unclear how much that closes the door, though it does fall short of a Shermanesque "if nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve" declaration. Perhaps this recent statement renders my "It Must Be Gore" series irrelevant. Or perhaps it just means that those of us who are persuaded that Gore is America's best chance must work to create a circumstance Gore has not imagined.
I am choosing to proceed with the series on the supposition that the possibilities are not closed.
In the course of this series, I have mentioned various attributes of Gore that contribute to his qualifications for the role of America's next leader. Gore's experience and demonstrated competence, I said for example, make him less of a gamble than other candidates who might or might not have the capabilities the job of president requires.
But there is a deeper quality that is really at the heart of the issue, and that warrants being emphasized. Gore possesses moral credibility.
WHY MORAL CREDIBILITY IS THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Before I go into the basis for that assertion, let me explain why I believe that quality is so essential in our next leader.
In the first installment of this series --at www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=461 -- I argued that the job of the next president is to teach the American people the meaning of the dark period we have just been through, and to repair the damage that this Bushite regime has done to America and to the world.
But let us be clear: the nature of the damage done is essentially moral. This is not like taking a car to the body-shop after a collision. All the various dimensions of the task I delineated in that first installment --the making of peace, the fortifying of the Constitution and the rule of law, the re-establishment of truth-telling-- have to do with the battle of good against evil. And, accordingly, the true and deep meaning of this Bushite era is that evil forces managed to take over the United States of America. (For a discussion of the nature of goodness as the forces that create Wholeness, and of evil as the forces that tear down the structures of Wholeness, see "The Concept of Evil," at www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=91.)
Moral credibility is the absolutely essential quality that America needs in a leader to address the challenge of this still very dangerous era of our history.
WHAT GIVES GORE MORAL CREDIBILITY
When it comes to Gore, one could start with his "good Boy Scout" quality. Something of a limitation in some circumstances --Americans like their heroes to have more of the rascal and the rogue in them-- in the post-Bush era, Gore's palpable sense of responsibility and duty should be a powerful strength. The more that Americans come to understand how utterly unwilling these Bushites have been to acknowledge or obey any order that would contain their lust for power, the more will their confidence be inspired by a leader who would help a little old lady across the street even if it gained him nothing.
In the eyes of most Americans, Gore's conduct at the very end of the post-election struggle of 2000 did him great credit, and rightly so. Once the Supreme Court had handed down its disgraceful, entirely politicized decision, Gore he showed his nobility by accepting the out graciously, while also acknowledging his considerable disappointment. He did this even though he doubtless felt he'd been robbed, which in important ways he had been, because he knew there was no way left within the system to fight that outcome, and thus to continue fighting would be to injure the system.
(In retrospect, it appears that what was at stake was large enough to warrant straining the system. But that was not clear then-certainly not to me, and more importantly not to very many of the American people. And it is doubtful that anything good would have been accomplished in exchange for going beyond the law to wage that struggle.)
In the context of this Bushite era, where the rule of law has been under such assault by the fascists in power, this recollection Gore's respect for the system --demonstrated under the most difficult of circumstances-- would bolster his moral credibility if he steps back onto to the political stage.
In addition, on two or three occasions in the past couple of years, Gore has spoken out with moral clarity and powerful moral passion against the depredations of this Bushite regime. It is these statements that have caused many in America to sense that there's been growth in the man. And even if most of America has not yet paid that much attention to that new-found power in Gore's moral voice, these important public talks give evidence of a capacity that was not much in evidence in 2000.
And what matters most, it should be noted, is not the image most Americans have of him from a dimly remembered past, but the image they would quickly have of him if he steps out onto the public stage and quickly demonstrates that the old image does not fit.
But far more decisive in the picture of Gore's moral credibility is the deeper, soul-level commitment he has shown to addressing one important aspect of the world's present great distress.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SUCH DEEP DEVOTION
In writing Earth in the Balance in the early 1990s, and more recently in his role in creating and bringing to the world the film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore has demonstrated something very rare in the world. He has shown integrity and passion and devotion in the service of his highest values, of values he holds sacred.
It is not very often that a political leader has a depth of caring and of moral concern at this level. For other examples, I think of men like Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel.
The importance of that kind of moral seriousness does not just lie in the impression Gore might be able to make on the American electorate. My point has to do with its profound implications for who Gore is, whether he's able to convey it or now.
The man who made "An Inconvenient Truth" shows himself to be the kind of human being that could credibly undertake the work of healing a wounded nation and world.
America needs a leader who has vision, and with this film --look at how big a problem Gore took on here-- he shows that he has it. America needs a leader who can undertake large projects and see them through, and he's shown he can do this. America also needs a leader who can help others to see what he sees and to give their support to his undertakings. The enthusiastic reception and great impact that "An Inconvenient Truth" has had suggest that Gore has the ability as well.
In normal times, America might make do with a leader with the usual mixture of personal ambition and perhaps a basically humane disposition. But in these extraordinary times of evil's rise and the necessity of great healing, America needs a leader capable of profound devotion to values much larger than himself, values he holds sacred.
It is this capability, more than anything else, that makes me say: It's Got to Be Gore.
(In the next, and presumably final installment, I will give my ideas as to how Gore should go about running his campaign. For how he campaigns will show us both whether he has grown into that larger soul that I believe he has and whether he is offering America the morally powerful leadership it now so desperately needs.)
Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)