Friday, June 23, 2006

Late-Night Thoughts About '08

I haven't seen An Inconvenient Truth, the new documentary that focuses on Al Gore's campaign to educate people about global warming. (For now, I'm just glad it led to one of the funniest New Yorker cartoons I've ever seen, in which two eskimos in the middle of a vast arctic plain gaze at a figure walking toward them in the distance. The figure is dressed in casual business wear and holds an easel and instructive materials over his right shoulder. One eskimo to the other: "It's Al Gore.")

Though I haven't seen the movie, I feel I've experienced something much more profound, which is my friend Ray recommending it to me through Netflix, with this comment:
The scariest horror film ever made. We're f***ed. And we deserve it. I have a new respect for Al Gore.
I can't tell you how these few brief sentences have shaken me. It's not an exaggeration to say that I've spent the past several days unsuccessfully attempting to reconcile them with the world I had known previous to reading them -- a world in which Ray respecting Al Gore was as likely as Michael Moore respecting Kenneth Lay.

My take on global warming has always been twofold... 1. It's almost certainly happening, and we almost certainly play a part. 2. Given the extreme (much more extreme) swings in the planet's temperature that occurred well before we -- much less Hondas -- ever existed, I'm not convinced that eliminating even all human pollution would keep us from either melting or freezing instantaneously sometime in the near future. Doesn't mean we shouldn't eliminate it, of course. In short, my take on it has mirrored my take on most immense issues: We should act on what we know, but we shouldn't assume we know it all. (This tidy formulation ignores another reaction of mine when listening to scientists talk about analyzing a bubble of air that's been trapped in a standard-sized ice cube for eight billion years and using the results to draw a picture of what Earth was like back then, which is to chortle and wonder if priests and scientists and everyone in between have lost their ever-loving minds, but that's an ignorant reaction, and I know it. I still have it, though.)

All of this is prelude to this piece on The Stranger's blog, which, like so many blog postings these days, gets excited about the prospect of a Gore nomination in 2008. It quotes Martin Peretz in The New Republic:
The first pragmatic reason to be for Gore, then, is that he is electable. He won once. He can win again. This is not simply a slogan; it is a serious thought.
Peretz then takes issue with the Supreme Court's activism in giving the presidency to Bush, which, no matter what you think of its truth, is so tired and pointless that I can't bear to reproduce it here. Then he continues:
Imagine what would be the outcome of a rematch. My guess is that if there were a poll asking voters whom they had voted for in 2000, Gore would win by a landslide. I know people who are actually ashamed of having cast their ballots for George Bush. But Gore will not be running against Bush.
That last sentence is a rather large qualifier. In all their frothing desire to reverse the last two presidential elections, many pundits are losing sight of the fact that Bush can't be beaten because Bush won't be running. It's enough to deflate any old-fashioned revenge fantasy. I feel their pain.

Esquire recently ran the results of a more revealing poll that included this question:
Whom did you vote for in the 2004 presidential election? And if the election were held again today?

George W. Bush
2004 - 49%
Today - 34%

John Kerry
2004 - 35%
Today - 23%

2004 - 5%
Today - 35%
Granted, the poll obviously skewed conservative if the respondents voted 49-35 for Bush in '04. But still, Kerry dropped 12 percentage points from his initial total, and it seems that many people are hoping to vote for this "Other" fellow (or gal) in two years. I, for one, can't blame them. The somewhat inexact lesson being something along the lines of: retroactive anger doesn't make an original loser more electable. As I've said before, I don't think Gore should run. I don't think Hillary should run. Their problems would include, but not be limited to:

1. They would not be campaigning against Bush. They would be campaigning against, presumably, a fairly clean-slate conservative in a fairly conservative country.

2. Lots of people unreservedly and irrationally despise them.

To me, those are insurmountable problems. But hey, if Ray is respecting Al Gore these days, I suppose all bets are off.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) I think Ray needs to keep his pants on. He watched a campaign movie about Gore, that was produced by Gore, ostensibly about one of Gore's pet issues, and it gave him a positive impression of Gore? Well, you could knock me down with a feather.

2) As always, your position on global warming is eminently sensible. And it seems a sensible stance on global warming appears is the most rare type. But I guess that's the result of how wrenching a transformation we'd have to engage in to do something about the problem. For example, the proponents of the Kyoto Treaty say that it would probably avert only 0.1 to 0.2 degrees of warming over the next 50 years. And it would cost the US economy roughly $400 billion per year, which equates to a lot of lost jobs. And of course there's the fact that pollution is a by-product of economic progress; then is it worth the difference in pollution to keep impoverished countries and people from developing out of their poverty? So even small fixes require large sacrifices.

3) I've said it before and I'll stand by it: Kerry was a terrible choice by the Democrats. Bush could have been beaten by a centrist Dem, but the Dems were apparently so sick of Bush that they went too far the other way and selected one of the most liberal Senators in Washington.

4) The best Presidential candidates have no baggage. That's the only way a Presidential candidate can be all things to all people. As with Kerry, it's difficult to convince the foreign policy hawk voters that you're strong on defense when you've voted against great swaths of defense spending.

Gore now has tons of baggage. But the reason I will never vote for him is the following: The most liberal person I know also might be the smartest. She's a Fulbright Scholar, studied at Rice (student body President for 2 years), then Oxford, then Yale Law School (the equivalent of the student body President). She took time off from school to work for Gore's campaign. And she now says that she'd never vote for Gore. Ever. One story she tells is that during discussions on where and how to dispose of toxic waste, his answer was (I'm paraphrasing), "I don't care what you do with it as long as it doesn't lose me any votes."

That, my friends, is baggage.

-- Comish

5:59 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

The funny thing is, I started doubting myself about Gore because of the press associated with this movie. I thought, maybe he has changed. But then I saw him on Letterman last night. Yep, still the same Gore -- about 50 pounds heavier, but still a bit smarmy and hall-monitor-ish simultaneously. He's like an arrogant toady, which is an odd combination. Also, his face is increasingly taking on the aspect of a space alien. I don't like his chances.

4:26 PM  

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