In Part I and II of this series, which can be found here, I suggested that this is an extraordinary time in American history, bringing with it an extraordinary challenge to the next leadership of the United States. The challenge, I suggested, is two-fold: 1) to teach the American people about the meaning of the dark period we have been (and are) going through under the Bushite regime; and 2) to undertake the task of repairing the considerable damage this regime has done to both this country and to the international order.
As the title of this series –”It’s Got to Be Gore”– indicates, I am on my way to arguing that the extraordinary nature of this moment points toward Al Gore as the person on whom we should pin our hopes for leadership to help America respond appropriately to the challenge with which this Bushite era has confronted us.
I expect that, while many of my readers here will tend to agree with me, an equal number will be inclined to reject my conclusion out of hand. Gore has been prominent in American political life for a long while, and is not an altogether unknown quantity. People can look at his record and read it differently, and according to some of those readings the idea that American might turn to Gore at a time when the nation needs GREATNESS in its leadership will seem improbable at best.
In the next installment, I will go more deeply into how I think that record should be read. And in the meanwhile, I simply will ask the skeptical reader to hold that skepticism in abeyance. The Al Gore for whom I will be making the case is one that I believe will be recognizable to all who have followed his career, including his awkwardness and his occasional political flatfootedness in 2000.
I will begin here making the case for Al Gore by considering the three main alternatives to Gore.
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First, there’s Hillary Clinton. I can think of various reasons why, if we want a president to achieve the various goals I outlined in the first installment, it would not be reasonable to expect Hillary Clinton to be able to lead us there. But I will confine myself to one of those reasons.
One of the goals I proposed, in terms of repairing the damage done by the Bushites, I expressed thus:
** To bring Americans of good will together, rather than work deliberately to drive them apart, as these Bushites continuously have.This is a task that won’t be easy for any president. But for Hillary Clinton it would be downright impossible. She’s had plenty of time to change the minds of the people who didn’t like her when she was First Lady. But her negatives in the opinion polls are still high, and relatively intense. She simply cannot do what needs to be done.
To put it simply, to overcome the polarization that the Bushites have deliberately created, one ought not turn to a polarizing figure.
It is true that Al Gore also has negatives in the polls, but I believe those negatives to be of an altogether different nature.
First, EVERYONE who goes up against the Bushites gets the character assassination treatment that leads to negative opinions among a sizeable portion of the American public. What are the negatives of John Murtha like, since he had the audacity to stand up and tell it like it is regarding Iraq? (See my brief piece, “Gore and the ‘Right Wing Scream Machine’”.
Second, a lot of people felt let down by the campaign Gore ran in 2000. But a lot has happened in the past six years, including a lot of apparent growth in Gore. But not everyone has paid enough attention to these developments to revise their opinions.
With Hillary, on the other hand, the negative opinions seem to be more visceral and intense, less amenable to revision.
Consider next Barack Obama. Obama may be ready to be as splendid a leader as some of his enthusiasts believe. But how can we know with any degree of certainty just what his capacities are for such a position as the presidency? His history is fine, as far as it goes. But it really provides very little evidence that he has the capabilities that are needed in an effective president.
Many people have rightly expressed concerns about Obama’s “lack of experience.” But with Obama the issue of “experience” is not just whether he has been adequately prepared for the office but also whether we, the American people, have enough experience of him to form any reasonably sound judgement of his suitability for our highest office.
If Obama does have the right stuff now for the presidency, is right stuff should become even righter with time, as he becomes better seasoned and better prepared for that job in the years to come. He is young, and will presumably be around for many future presidential cycles. And America will always have need of excellence in the White House.
So maybe Obama WOULD be a good choice now for our next leader. But “maybe” is not good enough at this post-Bushite juncture of our history. Even “probably” won’t do.
With so much at stake, even if we can never have absolute certainty, we really should take as little chance as possible that our next leader will not be up to the job.
And the same argument also works against the idea that John Edwards is our best available choice. Yes, he has demonstrated that he’s got the assets required to be an excellent trial lawyer. But that hardly equates to the qualities we need in a leader to provide effective leadership for all the systems the Bushites have damaged.
Probably is not good enough, when we’re at one of those nodes of our history where the direction we take as a society will likely reverberate much deeper into the future than usual.
Is it possible that either Obama or Edwards would be a still better president than Gore? Yes, it is possible. I would bet against it, but not with any certainty.
But what I think we can be pretty sure about is this: with Gore, unlike with any of the others, we can be close to certain that the leadership he would provide as president would be GOOD ENOUGH to meet satisfactorily the demands of the occasion.
Gore has already demonstrated a great many extremely relevant capabilities.
In his eight years as Vice President, he gave every indication of understanding how the executive branch works, and of being capable of managing effectively those considerable executive responsibilities entrusted to him. He has more experience in the national legislature than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards combined. Most recently, he’s shown an impressive ability both to create a powerful message and to effectively take that message out into the world. (It was announced recently that, as a result of Gore effective diplomacy to advance his message on climate change, British school children will be watching “An Inconvenient Truth” in their classrooms.)
The value of having our next leader being close to certain to be GOOD ENOUGH can hardly be over-estimated. America simply cannot afford to leave the wounds and lingering infections from this Bushite crisis unaddressed by an at least reasonably effective leader.
But there are also some strong and substantial reasons for believing that Al Gore might provide leadership for America that goes beyond “good enough” and enters into the realm of greatness. In the next installment, I will give my reasons for that expectation.
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