- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

Al Gore’s 2008 presidential campaign may turn out to have begun at the Cannes Film Festival. “An Inconvenient Truth,” a movie-treatise on global warming, which opens in area theaters today, has been so warmly received by Beltway insiders and liberal bloggers that the former vice president has emerged seemingly overnight from the political wilderness.

The movie is, essentially, a 90-minute lecture from Mr. Gore on the dangers of global climate disruption, with all the pomposity that entails. (Condescension is coded in the man’s DNA.) But it’s also a showcase for Mr. Gore’s quixotic passion for an issue that doesn’t rank high in polls of voters’ top concerns.

Viewed as a framing device for a possible presidential campaign, the meaty, anything-but-narcissistic movie is, perhaps, a refreshing alternative to folk-hero hagiographies such as Douglas Brinkley’s “Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War” or Harry Thomasson’s reverential video biography of Bill Clinton, “The Man from Hope.”

Then again, it may be just a logical extension of the increasing covergence of documentary filmmaking and political advocacy. One of the movie’s chief financiers is Jeffrey Skoll, the EBay billionaire whose company Participant Productions has backed such socially conscious feature films as “North Country” and “Syriana.”

“This is a different kind of movie,” insists New Republic Editor in Chief Martin Peretz, a longtime champion of Mr. Gore’s. “It’s not a pastiche like Michael Moore; it seemed to me to be extremely persuasive, reasonable, not at all scaremongering. This is really a national conversation — the kind of speech that Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt used to give.”

For the time being, at least, Mr. Gore is in the enviable position of Formidable Potential Candidate, and he is clearly relishing it.

I caught up with Mr. Gore, along with “Inconvenient Truth” director Davis Guggenheim, during a recent interview in downtown Washington.

The politician-turned-cable-television-entrepreneur (and, rumor has it, Google millionaire) is dressed in a stripey Brooks Brothers ensemble. Below the chin he is jowly. And the black shoes are not fabulous.

He is at ease, ready with a quip.

Mr. Guggenheim cites the mysterious zeal Mr. Gore has for hauling his global warming slide-show presentation around the world. “Why did he make that choice after the 2000 election?” he asks. “There are more glamorous ways to live your life. There are more lucrative ways to live your life.”

“There are?” Mr. Gore interjects, feigning surprise.

When your humble correspondent is introduced, I say of the fine newspaper in your hands, “Your paper of record, right Mr. Vice President?”

Zings Mr. Gore, “Some people have other names for it.”

Moving right along: “People don’t see this as political,” he says when asked if “An Inconvenient Truth” risks re-polarizing, if you will, a debate that seemed to be moving, however haltingly, in the direction of consensus.

In February, for instance, a group of 86 evangelical Christian leaders signed onto an initiative calling for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. And last fall, the conservative-leaning Fox News Channel surprised media observers with an admittedly one-sided special called “The Heat Is On: The Case of Global Warming.”

“This is a moral issue,” Mr. Gore goes on. “It’s an ethical issue. It’s really a spiritual issue. It goes to the core of who we are and what is our responsibility to the Earth itself and to future generations who will live their lives on it.”

Of course, it’s rather, ahem, convenient to declare your pet issue off-limits from standard political mudwrestling — especially coming from Mr. Gore, who, back in his Buddhist temple fundraising days, was fairly dripping in mud.

And there’s something downright creepy about Mr. Gore’s recurring use of the word “deniers” — with its sinister connotations of Holocaust denial — to characterize global-warming skeptics.

Take, for example, his comments on the controversy surrounding the late Roger Revelle, a climate-science pioneer whom Mr. Gore cites in the movie as a mentor, and who in the early ‘90s urged against “drastic action” on global warming. “I wasn’t present when this happened, but his family was outraged by what they say happened,” says Mr. Gore. “They say that one of the deniers went to him when he was dying and in extremis, and got him to put his signature on an article that this denier” — atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer — “had drafted.”

By Mr. Gore’s lights, global warming skepticism is akin to the controversy over Darwinism, meaning that it is controversial only inasmuch as certain parties refuse, for whatever reason, to accept settled scientific truth.

“The scientific consensus is so strong,” he says, citing, as the movie does, a sample of peer-reviewed studies that evinced no doubts about the reality — and potentially catastrophic consequences — of anthropogenic global warming, versus a roughly 50 percent rate of skepticism voiced in the country’s major newspapers.

Still, in Mr. Gore’s secular theology there is no non-believer beyond hope of redemption. He believes he can convert — er, convince every last misguided soul.

The implications of global warming are “so incredible that I do believe it’s only a matter of time before those who are now denying it, resisting it, will find the time to listen,” he says. “If they ever take the time to really dig beneath the surface and look at the crisis right in the eye, they’ll change.”

If they don’t, Mr. Gore may find it necessary to trade Hollywood sun for Washington mud.

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