Al Gore gave a great speech.
It was the speech of his life. He made the case against
the administration and for America. He spoke simply and boldly. He
took positions that were clear and without equivocation.
It was a speech that everyone should have heard but few did. It was a
speech that should have been widely covered, well reported, and
repeated via the media everywhere it could go. It was not widely
broadcast, it was not well covered, it was not widely reported.
What now? Does Al enjoy his applause, take a bow and
walk off stage?
That's up to Al. Artistically, his speech was a roaring
success. But if he wants to make a difference, if he wants the things
he said in his speech to matter, his speech failed.
Gore's speech failed - in the sense that it did not
bring about change - for two reasons.
The Bush administration has proved that the way things
work is that you have to take a simple idea, or set of simple ideas,
and repeat them over and over again. Sorry, but one speech doesn't
matter. If he wants what he has to say to matter, he has to make a
speech every time Bush does. And he has to continue to be as clear
and bold and forthright and righteous as he was in this speech. Over
and over again.
But how does he get the media to pay attention to such
In that narrow context, the quality of the speech
doesn't matter. The quality of the reasoning, the insights, the
clarity, the fervor in the speaker's voice, the vividness of the
images and metaphors, the truths or falsehoods contained therein -
none of that matters much at all.
What matters is the standing of the person making the
speech. "Standing," for these purposes, means one thing: the ability
to act upon what you have to say. Thus, almost anybody in the
administration - not just the president - the vice-president,
secretary of state, speaker of the house, majority leader of the
senate - has more standing than Al Gore does. If they say something
it means that there will be at least an attempt to carry it out or
that it is an elucidation of what is already being carried out, and
it is therefore newsworthy.
How does Gore achieve standing? The answer is
obvious. He must start running for president.
A person credibly and seriously running for president is
someone who will, if he wins, get to implement the things he has
spoken of. Therefore, he is someone who needs to be listened to,
whose words need to be reported.
Al Gore may not want to run for president. He is among
the few people on earth who knows how hard it is to run and how
heartbreaking it is to lose - and worse - to win the election and have it stolen
The last time he ran there was no apparent reason to do
so, except that he had ambition and it was something he was more or
less born to do, like a Kennedy, a Roosevelt and a Bush. Now there is
a reason to run. Because he has enunciated a set of principles and
ideas to run on. Because America needs to hear what he has to say.
Because no one else of standing and stature has come forward to say it. If he doesn't have the stomach for it, well then, it was a nice
speech, glad he made it, but I'm sorry he doesn't really care enough
to make a difference. But frankly, I hope he does care enough. We
don't need fence straddlers, we don't need a Democan or Republicrat,
we don't need a more sensible Bush and a Cheney with compassion.
Which is to say, we don't need Hillary Clinton or John Kerry. We need
a person of clear conviction. Who has reasons to run, besides, "I
wanna be president." Al Gore has just established himself as that man.
Larry Beinhart is the author of Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin, Wag the Dog, and The Librarian. Email to: email@example.com.