Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Contenders

Al Gore is getting a lot of attention these days, much of it positive, concerning his post-2000 after-life and his 2008 presidential prospects. I suspect there are three main reasons for this. First is the release of his new global warming movie, An Incovenient Truth, which has played to warm (no pun intended) reviews. Second is the state of the 2008 Democratic field, with HRC enjoying a wide financial and name-recognition lead over most of her rivals, leading some members of the party unmotivated by her calculating centrism and polarization potential to hope someone else of similar or greater stature gets in the race. Third is the low poll numbers of George W. Bush, the situation in Iraq, and a general wistfullness for the peace and prosperity years of the 1990's and the administration of Clinton/Gore.

Where there is
reservation about Gore, it seems to be related more to his potential as a candidate than as a president. Although he has been more passionate and likeable of late, disgruntlement over his poorly run 2000 campaign, lingering apprehensions as to his political smarts and charisma, and questions as to how he would help bridge the specific regional or demographical gaps the party believes it faces have all contributed to a certain degree of angst about a potential Gore run in '08. But even among these concerns is an implicit or explicit assumption that Gore would make a fine president, should he actually win.

My own view runs in the opposite direction. I think Gore would be a strong candidate, at least relative to the Democratic field. I'm not particularly bothered by the memories of '00 as I assume he's learned a few things over the past several years and would be a much different, more aggressive and principled candidate. I'm also not worried about what state, region, or specific demographic the punditry thinks Gore--and by extension the Democratic Party--needs to capture the next time around (more about this in an upcoming post). Moreover, Gore's recent speaches, while delivered before small, friendly audiences, have shown a progressive purpose, ideological clarity and political timeliness and relevancy none of his rivals have demonstrated so far.

But Gore as president is something different. How would a combative Candidate Gore shift to being
President Gore? How would President Gore deal with a vocal, organized and unified conservative opposition and daily diatribes from the Republican Noise Machine over a prolonged stretch of time? Does he have what it takes to "go public", reaching over the heads of an antagonistic Congress and hostile media to persuade the public to support his programs? Or could he skillfully coopt his opposition's policy goals and rallying cries through a Clintoneque "strategery" of triangulation? In short, does he have the presidential character and political smarts needed to be up to the job over the long haul, in an unpredicatable, combative political environment?

For some reason, I am dubious about Gore's potential in these areas. And while the rest of the field has its own problems, I think there are several potential candidates who have a lot more upside as actual presidents. Who?

You'll have to come back later for that.

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