By Sherrie Li
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“Yes, we do,” says Gore. “And here’s why: The political system has one thing in common with the climate system. It is nonlinear. The change can seem to be moving ahead at a glacial pace. But the potential for change can build up underneath the surface and then be unleashed suddenly, and with incredible speed.
“Eighty-five conservative evangelical ministers publicly announced they were breaking with the White House on this issue, and they called on their congregations to take on this crisis,” Gore says. “Rick Warren, a close friend of Bush’s, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, is coming to the movie tonight, and promoting the movie to hundreds of thousands of other ministers. Two hundred and thirty cities have independently ratified Kyoto, Republican mayors as well as Democratic mayors. General Electric, DuPont, Duke Energy — companies that a few years ago would not have been caught dead in a meeting with climate change on the agenda — are now leading the charge. And every week now, my office hears from Republican as well as Democratic officeholders who want information on how they themselves can provide leadership in the political system on this issue.”
And after all that, if you still have the nerve to ask Gore whether there’s hope, he will tell you a story, because he can’t resist the joke.
“I used to have town-hall meetings when I was in Congress,” he begins. “And I’ll never forget there was this woman in Lincoln County, Tennessee, down on the Alabama border, and she described some situation to me. And then she ended up saying, ‘What I want to know Congressman, is, is there hope?’
“Honest-to-goodness I deadpanned,” he continues, “and said very seriously, ‘No ma’am. There’s no hope.’?” The man who introduces himself now as the former next president of the United States shakes his head solemnly.
“So here’s what came next: No one laughed. And I thought to myself, uh-oh. I’m dying here. I’ve never tried that again.”
This may not be the Gore we saw weakly debating Bush or delivering stiff speeches in 2000, but this is the Gore we have now: A kind man, still a statesman, but also a clown. It’s unlikely he’ll backslide; we have this version of him preserved now, on film. And the question now is: Is there a place for this man in politics? A man given to pranks, who does silly voices and talks passionately about pictures of the earth snapped from spaceships?
Gore, who also has a book, published by Rodale Press, coming out to coincide with the film’s opening, won’t admit to anyone that he plans to run for president again in 2008, but many people who think about such things assume he will. He says he had “a fresh start” after the disaster of the 2000 election, another epiphany to galvanize his beliefs. “It allowed me to take this to another level still.”
You can only — dare I say it? — hope that this time people will listen.
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