A New Al Gore 

The quirky Tennessean's political loss might have been his -- and the world's -- gain.

What's with Al Gore? Can it be that the former presidential candidate has become a new all-purpose Paul Revere?

Mere days before he sounded a highly public alarm in Atlanta about what he sees as the drastic erosion of Americans' civil liberties, Gore appeared before a standing-room-only audience in Nashville to deliver an apocalyptic -- if highly specific -- forecast about the planet's imminent ruin from global warming.

Actually, this synopsis understates both cases. The exhaustive (detractors might say "exhausting") address in Atlanta, on Monday's Martin Luther King holiday, was a detailed excursion through the history of abuse of power at the presidential level, culminating in and focusing on Gore's excoriation of George W. Bush's newly revealed domestic wiretaps.

Even so, Gore, now a media entrepreneur and corporate rainmaker, was scrupulously bipartisan down in Georgia. His Atlanta speech was jointly sponsored by the Liberty Coalition and the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, two right-of-center groups, and the venue for the former Democratic standard-bearer was the Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall, where he was introduced by none other than former Republican congressman Bob Barr, a conservative's conservative and a relentless scourge of former President Bill Clinton throughout the Monica Lewinsky affair.

What Gore did in Nashville last week was even more devoid of politics in the usual sense. Appearing as part of a regular lecture series at Vanderbilt University, he gave what was not so much a lecture as a fully fledged course in the dire environmental consequences of polluting the earth at the current pell-mell rate.

Introducing himself at Vanderbilt thusly, "I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States," the self-described "recovering politician" then stood modestly in a darkened auditorium at the bottom of a huge, wall-sized screen and narrated a slide show to end all slide shows.

A partial list of the contents: hybrid energy sources, the greenhouse-gas effect, Third World environmental practices, the proliferation of carbon dioxide, the convection energy of hurricanes, the evaporation of drinking-water sources on the Tibetan plateau (river by river), the paradoxical flood-drought syndrome, the melting methane in Siberia, pine-beetle infestation in the American West, the history of the Ice Age, and the physics of solar-ray absorption.

Gore made it clear he knows whereof he speaks concerning this all-inclusive "nature hike through the Book of Revelation," pointing out, for example, that he had made two fact-finding trips under the North Pole by submarine.

Disingenuously or not, he went so far as to make the claim that his initial run for the presidency in 1988 was driven by a need to communicate the facts concerning the growing environmental peril.

To be sure, Gore the partisan politician surfaced here and there in Nashville. Mocking an old prep-school science teacher of his who had been woefully ignorant on the subject of continental drift, Gore cracked, "He went on to become science adviser to the current White House."

Much more typical, though, was Gore's lament, after a discourse on water evaporation in the soil of Darfur: "How in the world do you put that in the political dialogue with issues like, I don't know, the ones that are talked about?"

Tongue-tied as that might have sounded (and reminiscent of his political stump style), the erstwhile veep was eloquence itself when he got into his peroration: "If we allow this [environmental destruction] to happen, it is deeply and unforgivably immoral and unethical. This really is not a political issue. It is a moral issue. It is a spiritual issue. It is an ethical issue."

This new Al Gore -- awkward, earnest, and somewhat bumptious but sincerely and endearingly so, in the manner of one's favorite college professor -- just might be an improvement over the old one. In losing his presidential race and (evidently) his prospects in the political constellation, Gore might finally have found his place in a larger one.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Memphis Gaydar

OUTMemphis Set to Host Open House for Area LGBTQ Seniors

Music Blog

Get Buck with Tommy Wright III: A Playlist

Hungry Memphis

Chef Tam's Underground Cafe Going in Imagine Space

Intermission Impossible

Unamerican Psycho: Germantown Community Theatre Does Something Crazy

News Blog

VIDEO & SLIDESHOW: Ikea Shows Its Stuff in Preview

Fly On The Wall Blog

Guyliner Jesus and St. Manbun Go to Cash Saver

News Blog

The Edge District is Getting a Little Greener

Hungry Memphis

Cosmic Coconut "Evolving" into City Silo

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Jackson Baker

Readers also liked…

  • Memphis’ Central Park

    The Memphis Zoo/Overton Park controversy is really about the right of Memphians to craft their environment.
    • Feb 4, 2016
  • A Letter to the Memphis City Council

    The council gets an “F” for its performance on the Greensward decision.
    • Mar 10, 2016
  • Pay the Band

    Why we should be supporting proposed national music initiatives in Congress.
    • Aug 10, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2016

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation