Al Gore today came as a visitor into the Oval Office he thought he’d won the right to work in seven years ago, but as he strolled out of the White House with his arm wrapped around his wife Tipper, he wore a wide grin.
Mr. Gore met one-on-one with President Bush at the president’s request, just prior to a reception for this year’s Nobel Prize winners, of which Mr. Gore is one.
It was the first private meeting ever between the two men who battled for the presidency in 2000 and since then have become fierce political rivals.
Mr. Gore said afterwards that they talked about global warming, his signature issue, for most of the meeting. But he declined to say much of anything else.
Yet while Mr. Gore declined to comment following his meeting with Mr. Bush, he clearly enjoyed having a scrum of reporters surround him and lob questions at him as he walked west down Pennsylvania Ave towards a waiting car on 17th St.
“It was a nice meeting,” Mr. Gore said.
The White House said that Mr. Bush went out of his way to make sure Mr. Gore could attend the reception for the 11 Nobel Prize winners, changing the date of the reception when Mr. Gore said he would be out of town for the original date, and that Mr. Bush called Mr. Gore personally to invite him in for a private meeting.
“It was a presidential, gentlemanly and a friendly thing to do, said White House press secretary Dana Perino.
Mrs. Perino said that despite Mr. Gore’s harsh criticisms of the president since the 2000 election, Mr. Bush does not harbor any resentments, never has.
But Mrs. Perino, when pressed on why Mr. Bush invited Mr. Gore in for the one-on-one meeting, said she didn’t psychoanalyze the president.
It’s not something that was calculated, she said.
Mr. Gore, Mr. Clinton’s vice president for both terms, won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the electoral vote, in one of the most bitterly disputed elections in U.S. history.
Mr. Gore kept a low profile after the election and has since admitted that he was discouraged for some time. As time wore on, he toyed with the idea of running for president again.
But he found that his quest to promote awareness about global warming, a problem he says is an imminent danger to mankind, was receiving lots of attention and praise.
This year, Mr. Gore’s global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was awarded an Oscar. And last month, Mr. Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush has been battered in his second term by problems in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and then the mid-term elections of a year ago.
The two men last saw each other at President Ford’s funeral last January.
Mr. Gore has criticized the Bush administration for their energy policy, saying the president has allowed oil companies to dissuade the government from taking more dramatic steps to curb carbon emissions.
And the former vice-president’s 2007 book, Assault on Reason,” is in large part an anti-Bush screed.
Mr. Gore accuses Mr. Bush of “betraying” the American people by going to war in Iraq, and says the more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq died “unnecessarily.”
Mr. Gore also says the Bush administration has broken the law repeatedly by spying unlawfully on U.S. citizens.
The White House has also done some sniping. When asked about Mr. Gore’s Nobel prize, a spokesman said, “We’re sure the vice president is thrilled.”
However, former Gore adviser Donna Brazile told The Washington Times that the two men have buried the hatchet since their contentious campaign.
Honestly, I believe both men have moved on since 2000. As somone who has spoken with them, I believe they will let history be the judge, Ms. Brazile said.
Ms. Brazile had originally told ABC News that the meeting would be a very uncomfortable moment for both of them, but said she spoke with people close to both Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore who told her differently.