Al Gore made the right call in not seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.
He made the right call for his party. After winning the popular vote, but not the electoral vote, in the 2000 race, the former vice president didn’t wear well on people. His negatives stayed stubbornly high, while the number of true-blue fans dwindled. In the post 9/11 world, his fascination with the cataclysmic risks of the internal combustion engine seemed a bit out of whack. Then he popped up during the 2002 congressional elections, made a few speeches, flailed around embarrassingly, stumbled leftward, and flopped.
In short, Gore was the frontrunner for the 2004 nomination but appeared unlikely to win the general election. Now, Democrats can choose from a wide array of credible candidates.
He also made the right call for the country. As Gore explained just before a previously scheduled appearance here in Raleigh today (see http://www.herald-sun.com/state/6-299739.html), a 2004 race would have served primarily to focus the voters’ attention backward to the Florida imbroglio rather than forward to the challenging issues awaiting them. Plus, did we really want to see three or four more incarnations of Al Gore, he of changing earth tones and debate personas? By all means, bring on Howard Dean and Al Sharpton, please.
Finally, Gore made the right call for himself. It’s obvious that he has never really been comfortable in the political role he was groomed to play by so many for so long. I think this was confirmed last weekend during Gore’s quite-funny appearance as host of “Saturday Night Live.” Politicians who can laugh at themselves are certainly welcome, but there was something else about Gore’s performance. Most of the funniest bits were self-parodies, but not necessarily flattering ones. It was as though he understood rather well why people seem tired of him.
He seemed tired of himself, too – at least the version of himself who is a disgruntled former presidential candidate. Al Gore has a large and wonderful family, a new set of career interests, and time to build a new and more attractive persona. What may have just happened is that Gore stepped aside to let someone else crash against the shoals of the Bush reef in 2004. Then, in 2008, a little grayer and perhaps a little more sympathetic, he can hold a down-home press conference in Tennessee to announce a Nixon-style political comeback.
You should want this prediction to come true. It may be our only hope of stopping the Clintons from moving back into the White House.