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Can Al Gore Be Trusted?

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"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

The wise old Chinese proverb on who is to blame for repeat gullibility was famously mangled by our Embarrasser in Chief: "Fool me once, shame on -- shame on you," Bush stammered, with that deer-in-the-headlights look. "Fool me -- you can't get fooled again!" The video of that golden Bushism can bring down the house on The Daily Show. http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/multimedia/foolbush.mov

But these words of wisdom are no laughing matter when applied to the man who defeated Bush in the 2000 election: Al Gore.

Many solid progressives want Gore to be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008. A recent AlterNet readers' poll (in which Noam Chomsky won the MVP for "Most Valuable Progressive") showed Gore way in front of the pack -- with Russ Feingold second and corporate media "front-runner" Hillary Clinton way back. http://www.alternet.org/story/38849/

If Gore does run in 2008, big questions will nag: Didn't he fool a lot of us once before? Can we trust him?

Don't misunderstand (or mis-underestimate) me: I'd love to see Gore run.

Like many progressives, I've grown to appreciate the new Gore. Beginning in 2002 when leading Democrats had lost their voices, a reborn Gore spoke out loudly against Bush policies (and irritated mainstream pundits) through a series of speeches on Iraq, foreign policy, economics and the assault on our precious Constitutional freedoms.

Gore broke with former allies in the party establishment, worked closely with grassroots groups like MoveOn and endorsed the upstart Howard Dean in the primaries. He even spoke haltingly in favor of single-payer national health insurance.

His global warming movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" is not just a box office sensation. Gore is turning it into a broad organizing drive to build a national consensus on climate change -- a campaign that has earned supportive words from Ralph Nader. The documentary shows Gore to be a serious and passionate advocate, whose commitment to change begins from an understanding of facts and consequences. In other words, the opposite of the current White House resident.

If this new Gore were to run for president, I would do everything I could to help him vanquish the Republicans.

But doubts still persist. Because I remember the old Gore.

I remember a politician whose words on the environment were not matched by later actions; a politician whose foreign policy views were often militarist and whose economic views were often corporatist.

I remember Vice President Gore -- despite having written the environmental manifesto "Earth in the Balance," which highlighted the impact of auto emissions -- as the Clinton administration's leader in a "partnership" with Detroit auto makers that failed to increase fuel efficiency standards one inch in eight years.

I remember a vice president who was the administration's go-to-guy in promoting corporate-oriented trade deals like NAFTA, with their obvious negative impacts on the global environment and on workers' rights. (Asked recently about NAFTA by Larry King, Gore's position seems to have changed very little.)

I remember a vice president who played a lead role in pushing through the Telecommunications "Reform" Act of 1996 that predictably led to the worst media conglomeration in our nation's history, and helped fortify the media empires of folks like Murdoch, Clear Channel and Sinclair.

And I remember a presidential candidate in 2000 emptied of progressive principles by Beltway consultants so afraid of the American people and democracy that they believe a Democrat must win largely through stealth. A candidate who chose as his campaign chair William Daley, the NAFTA campaign czar despised by labor unions. And as his running-mate Joe Lieberman, who aided Bush's side in the Florida fight.

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Jeff Cohen was director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he was an associate professor of journalism. He founded the progressive media watch group FAIR.org in 1986.

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