- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If I had a dime for every question or comment that someone makes about former Vice President Al Gore running in 2008, I could save up enough money to purchase a hybrid car and plant new trees in my local park. But who’s counting this time?

Mr. Gore is now a global citizen who is quite proud of being a giant megaphone to make us more aware of the threat of global warming to our existence. Mr. Gore, who continues to draw much media attention and speculation about his political future, does not appear to be running or gaming for some advantage in case one of the so-called Democratic front-runners stumbles. The wonky politician is more of a climate prophet than a wannabe presidential candidate, so why is everyone still trying to figure out what’s next?

Common sense should tell us he is not gearing up for another presidential run. A few weeks ago, he admitted as much on CNN’s “Larry King Live” when he said he has “fallen out of love with politics.” Without love, it would be mighty hard to maintain the stamina needed to campaign for the next 474 days. It takes love and passion to leave your family, spend the night in countless hotel rooms and wake up to strangers reminding you what city you’re in.

Don’t get me wrong: Being president of the United States is the ultimate bully pulpit for someone with intense passion for a cause bigger than life itself. And millions of Americans yearn for the kind of honest, intelligent, stable and experienced leadership Mr. Gore could offer the country at a critical crossroad. This might explain why my phone is still ringing off the hook with Americans from all over the country urging me to join the “Draft Gore” movement.

After 20 years of two political dynasties leading America— George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, George W. Bush — many Americans still hunger for the odd combination of an experienced old hand who makes them feel safe together with the boldness to tackle our complex challenges. Many believe, as I surely do, that Mr. Gore is that person. Clearly, Mr. Gore must see someone else. But who?

It’s hard explaining how Mr. Gore can still enter the race and become a major player. On the other hand, he is running a different kind of campaign that truly impacts us all. Try telling that to diehard Gore supporters and not feel like you’re betraying one of your best friends.

From the ashes of that long election season many “dangling chads ago,” a man (who once was “the next president of the United States”) has emerged more confident of his own inner calling and seems willing to share that reasoning with the rest of us — urgently and without fear of rejection this time.

He can still help to shape the debate on an issue that may become the sleeper in the next presidential race. We all know Mr. Gore has long been a champion for the environment. But what once earned him derogatory nicknames like “Ozone Al” now wins him Oscars and a lot of influence. Mr. Gore might even take the Nobel Prize this year because he has unleashed a sense of urgency around protecting the environment that just wasn’t around four years ago.

We can also thank him for the fact Americans now think global warming is as big a challenge to our country as providing health care (April poll by Center for American Progress). On protecting the environment, 63 percent of us believe “requirements and standards cannot be too high” and “continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost” (April CBS News/New York Times poll). Now, the Business Roundtable, a leading organization representing more than 160 corporate CEOs, has joined the bandwagon. It’s clear the time to stop global warming is now, and I am glad to see Al Gore lead my charge.

We know other important issues like the war in Iraq and the fight to end global terror, and improving health care and education will certainly be on voters’ minds when they decide on which candidate to back. There are plenty of choices, and perhaps the field will grow in the coming weeks. Mr. Gore remains, in my own biased judgment, a decent, smart, passionate and visionary soul who could offer the country a real break from the status quo. But the warning signs of starting or igniting a presidential campaign are just not there.

For those who are running, I offer this advice: Take the Live Earth Pledge and promise that, if elected, your administration will support an international treaty that cuts global warming pollution by 90 percent and support laws that expand the use of renewable energy sources. While campaigning for the presidency, make this issue one of your own. Mr. Gore wouldn’t mind if you talked about a moratorium on the construction of any new generation facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

I am an ordinary citizen and have taken the Live Earth Pledge because I recognize that my planet has a hot fever. Those unwilling to look at these environmental challenges could lose a big opportunity and a lot of votes. If Mr. Gore is not running, I hope this gracious global citizen would offer himself as environmental czar to whoever becomes our next commander in chief.

Now that is something to count on for the next election.

Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and National Public Radio and former campaign manager for Al Gore.

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