Gunning for Gore

It must feel good to be Al Gore. With a Nobel prize and an Oscar already under his belt, the ex-veep is well on the way to secular sainthood - and recently his environmental halo gained an added sparkle as he launched a $300 million climate-change PR campaign. Al’s ad blitz won adulatory press reviews, set the Democratic presidential hopefuls scrambling to win his backing - Barack Obama even promised Gore a job in his government - and helped fuel speculation that Gore might still be mulling his own bid for the White House.

Still, while a return to Washington would certainly be tempting, Gore had barely announced his new ad campaign before the backlash began. First came the cranks: Consider Weather Channel founder John Coleman, who called for climate skeptics to sue Gore and “finally put some light on the fraud of global warming." Then, less predictably, came the greens: It’s all well and good blowing $300 million on advertising, said some, but wouldn’t the money have been better spent bolstering the grassroots movement?

Next came the GOP, with John McCain’s supporters whispering that their candidate had actually done more for the environment than Gore. “Climate change is the road less traveled, but he’s traveled it even more than Al Gore,” said GOP Senator Lindsey Graham. “Al Gore has talked about it ... but he was around here a long time and never introduced a bill.” That kind of rhubarb is easy enough to shrug off, not least because McCain’s climate legislation was an utter flop; Gore should be able to cope, too, with news that an industry-backed lobby group will be running attack ads criticizing his personal energy usage.

All this, though, is just a fraction of what would await Gore if he chose to dive back into the political mainstream. Earnest evangelism is fine if you’re sitting on the sidelines, but once in power Gore would quickly find himself faced with Republicans determined to smear his reputation and undermine his arguments - and with Democrats eager to appropriate his climate credentials, but less keen to back politically risky environmental reforms.

The fact is that Gore can have moral authority, or he can have political power; he can’t have both. If he wants to make a real difference - or maintain his current influence - his best hope is to avoid being drawn into Washington’s compromises and half-measures, and to use his current position as the voice of America’s conscience to keep the pressure on those with real power.

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Gore's advertising campaign, or maybe a more positive term would be education campaign I think is extremely important. The more people that understand global environmental issues, not just people actively searching out information, the more pressure businesses and our government will have to change the system. Also the more people who are educated the more pressure and more likelihood that more money will be funneled into environmental causes. So instead of spending $300 million one and done, Gore is using that money to encourage the cumulative gain of more money from many more pockets.

Thanks, Bviggy -- good point, and I hope you're right.

Interesting to note in this context, BTW, that there's a new study out suggesting that people may actually become more apathetic about climate change as they become better informed -- see here for details.

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