Why Al Gore Is Not President
Al Gore is truth. Think about it. He says what needs to be said without fear, without posturing. He leads.
He succeeds in the worlds of politics, business, and diplomacy. He reads and writes history. He has access to the smartest people on the planet. He has a loving, close-knit family who are his best friends. He rose from the politically dead in 2000, left behind by his "friends" who thought he could no longer help them, having lost an election to thieves.
Today, Al Gore quietly endorsed equal rights for homosexuals. He did not make a big announcement. He didn't hold a press conference. He didn't stand in front of a rainbow coalition. He just put up a video on his Current TV. It's vintage Al Gore: just the facts, a statement of the obvious that our politicians are too scared to address head on.
Two years ago, Al was honored by the Human Rights Campaign here in Los Angeles. He thought long and hard about whether to say that he supports the right to marriage for gay people. He shared with us his process by giving us a scintillating, unscripted history of civil rights in our country, with the inexorable conclusion put up today on Current. At the time, I wrote here that he was America's soul.
So why didn't he run? Well, why should he? Last year, he won an Oscar, an Emmy and a Nobel Peace Prize. Oh yeah, he also had a New York Times bestselling book. Again. Since 2000, he has built Current TV against the odds and against the "conventional wisdom." Current preceded YouTube by three years. The network provides edited, high quality, largely user-generated content. As with its founder, it's global in its reach and information. And it makes money.
He founded Generation Investment Management, a global asset management firm that focuses on sustainable investing. Sustainable, not just green. Sustainable means that companies invest for the very long term, that they have business models that account for people, not just for profits today. He recognizes that capitalism is the global economic system and if we are truly to change human behavior, we have to work within the markets.
While Al Gore did not invent the Internet, as Vice President he made sure that the Internet would be available to everyone, not just to a few big telephone companies or the Department of Defense. He worked closely with the founders of Google to help guide them to the prominence Google now has. He's on the board of Apple, one of the most innovative technology companies in the world. Does this mean Al has "sold out?" Quite the contrary; it means that he understands the intersections of business, the environment and technology, all keys to America's (and for that matter the world's) long-term future.
In September 2002, Al Gore spoke out against the march to war, while others were either voting to give President Bush the power to attack Iraq or cowering in fear of being labeled "soft on defense." He speaks and writes regularly on issues relating to media consolidation (read Assault on Reason if you have not), as they relate to our democracy and society and as they in turn relate to our long term future.
When I think of the qualities of a president and try to relate those qualities to anyone alive, I always return to Al. But we know why he didn't run. The day he'd have heeded the call to serve as president, he'd have been brought down. Rather than lauding a leader, the pundits and his "friends" would have asked about his shoe color or his speech patterns. Who needs it? While I think Al Gore would be one of the best presidents in modern history -- a combination of JFK and FDR at a time when we need both -- the political system in this country, ruled as it is by a punditocracy and consultantocracy, would have been threatened by someone who owes them nothing. They'd have spent night and day sharpening their knives to keep him out.
Unfortunately, this campaign shows just how silly things have gotten. Former President Clinton has made himself into a midget by serving not as statesman, but as attack dog. And while I like Senator Obama's message of hope, I want to know what's really inside, what he really believes at core and how he'll transform that upbeat message into action in one of the most complex and daunting times in our history. John Edwards has a consistent message that resonates, but unfortunately, not in the media.
Al Gore chose wisely. He has sacrificed enough. And even so, he continues to lead on all of the issues that matter to our country and our world. All of them. In a week or a few months, we'll have a nominee. We'll all be told to rally around the winner for the sake of unity and because the alternative is so horrible. I guess it's a modern fantasy to imagine we'd have a candidate for president who is not just the lesser of a few evils, but who really combines hope, experience, creativity and wisdom. I know some believe that those candidates are out there now; I hope they are right.
Whoever becomes president would best serve our nation by relying on one of the modern wise men, who lives his life according to the inscription above the Georgetown University Library (translated from the Latin): "Knowledge is Truth and the Truth Shall Set You Free."
Rick Jacobs chaired Howard Dean's 2003 presidential campaign in California. He is currently Chair and Founder of the Courage Campaign, a progressive political organization in California. He is also the Chair and Co-Founder of Brave New Films, the documentary film company. Jacobs was co-executive producer of Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers.
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