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Run, Al, Run: Gore For President In 2016?

Al Gore definitely has the established bona fides to take another crack at the presidency. But is such a quest politically wise or even realistic? In this picture, the former vice president waves to the media after his meeting with French president Francois Hollande, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Monday, May 18, 2015. (Francois Mori/AP)
Al Gore definitely has the established bona fides to take another crack at the presidency. But is such a quest politically wise or even realistic? In this picture, the former vice president waves to the media after his meeting with French president Francois Hollande, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Monday, May 18, 2015. (Francois Mori/AP)
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Washington, D.C., rumor mills have been abuzz recently over reports Vice President Joe Biden is giving serious thought to challenging former First Lady and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

Up until recently, the prevailing political wisdom among national pundits and prognosticators has been that Clinton is a shoe-in to win. But a series of embarrassing personal gaffes, lackluster campaign appearances, sagging poll numbers, recycled concerns over her character and the insurgent candidacy of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have led many to revise their opinion. With a political heavyweight like Biden in the mix, the South Florida Sun Sentinel editorialized on Aug. 3, Clinton would be driven from “the protective bubble that has shielded her from tough questions” and force her “to become less scripted, more open and connect better with voters.” Otherwise, she’ll risk seeing her White House aspirations fade like Red Sox pennant hopes in the heat of August.

Gore definitely has the established bona fides to take another crack at the presidency. But is such a quest politically wise or even realistic?

While a Biden candidacy holds the potential for giving Clinton a much needed wake up call and livening up the depressingly moribund Democratic presidential field, I have an even better idea.

How about Al Gore throwing his hat in the ring?

I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t the former vice president and alleged creator of the Internet a washed-up political has-been? When last we checked, hanging chads and his annoyingly loud sighs during his first presidential debate with George W. Bush doomed his bid to become the 43rd president of the United States in 2000. But since then, Gore has acquitted himself remarkably well. Unlike the post-presidency of the man he served at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with between 1993 and 2001, Gore has steered clear of major controversy. Indeed, he has comported himself as a person of unimpeachable rectitude and high personal achievement.

Not only did the Harvard grad and Vietnam War veteran win an Academy Award for his 2006 documentary on global climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth,” he also earned Nobel Peace Prize honors in 2007. And speaking of the environment, for all the mocking criticism he received on the issue during the 2000 campaign, hasn’t the passage of time, extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels and record high temperatures proved he was right all along? For there now seems to be little doubt in serious scientific circles that manmade carbon emissions have been a major contributing factor to kind of changes he warned about. As Gore told the 44th Annual Meeting of the World Forum last year, “I think that these extreme weather events which are a hundred times more common than 30 years ago are really waking people’s awareness all over the world, and I think that is a gamechanger. It comes about, of course, because we continue to put 90 million tons of global warming pollution in the atmosphere every day, as if it’s an open sewer.”

Being ahead of the curve on global climate change is impressive enough, but Gore was also ahead on cutting edge domestic issues like gay marriage. “Gay men and women ought to have the same rights as heterosexual men and women — to make contracts, to have hospital visiting rights, to join together in marriage, and I don’t understand why it is considered by some people to be a threat to heterosexual marriage. Shouldn’t we be promoting the kind of faithfulness and loyalty to one’s partner regardless of sexual orientation,” Gore proclaimed in 2008. To put this statement in proper historic perspective, this was seven years before the U.S. Supreme Court finally got around to legally validating the principle of same sex marriage. President Obama, now recognized as a champion of gay marriage, wasn’t nearly as politically courageous. He dragged his feet for several years on the subject.

Being ahead of the curve on global climate change is impressive enough, but Gore was also ahead on cutting edge domestic issues like gay marriage.

Add in Gore’s numerous other activities as a philanthropist, former cable television network operator, book author and venture capitalist to the mix and you have a record of accomplishment that few other candidates, including Hillary Clinton, can match.

So, Gore definitely has the established bona fides to take another crack at the presidency. But is such a quest politically wise or even realistic? After all, Gore has been off the national stage for well over a decade, which in political terms means he should be writing his memoirs rather than seeking higher office. Yet a similar set of circumstances didn’t prevent Richard Nixon from running again in 1968 after losing a painfully close presidential election to John F. Kennedy eight years earlier. Nixon won that second time around. Gore can too given the weakness of the respective Democratic and Republican fields in 2016.

Run, Al, run.

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Thomas J. Whalen Cognoscenti contributor
Thomas J. Whalen is an associate professor of social science at Boston University, and author of "Kennedy versus Lodge: The 1952 Massachusetts Senate Race."

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