He wants so badly to help Pres. Barack Obama find his inner presidential activist on behalf of important international policy. But while he scolds him, Mr. Gore also neuters his effectiveness by giving Pres. Obama power over him and the message he’s desperate to drill home.
The Joplin tornado proved how badly a leader is needed. Last week my brother Larry traveled to Joplin, Mo. where he was born. There’d never been such a catastrophe like the tornado that recently decimated this quaint mining town. We’d talked and I’d hoped he’d make the trip once they were letting people in again. He wanted to see the houses he grew up and lived in, to see if they were still standing, along with the hospital where he was born, which took direct hits. All 3 houses of Larry’s childhood, grandma and grandpa’s too, made it through the tornado, his junior high school did not. But seeing Joplin was a stunning trip for him, even as current residents work their way back.
This is part of what our weather has become. The Rush Limbaugh flat earth crowd is oblivious, because they’re still moored in the 19th century, ignoring science, even evolution, not taking the stewardship of our planet seriously.
The problem remains that Obama’s too scared he’ll alienate some far flung Blue Dog or Independent or discover an extinct liberal Republican that might vote for him in North Carolina that he won’t say what’s needed to be said. He’s been in this state for a long time.
It’s time for Mr. Gore to face that Pres. Obama hasn’t been able to find the courage or vision to inspire Americans to join together for any cause and today people wouldn’t listen if he did.
Even with Obama’s incredible power he once had coming into office, he couldn’t get a Democratic Congress to join together to pass important Democratic legislation, with even the health care bill a mish-mash of private insurance benefits and giveaways to Big Phrma. Why anyone thinks at this point he’s going to rally people behind a cause is beyond me.
But because we’re in a desperate climate situation, including losing our oceans, Mr. Gore is driven to try. From Gore’s Rolling Stone article:
[...] But in spite of these and other achievements, President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates – including one Republican – felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that “drill, baby, drill” is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.
[...] … Ultimately, however, the only way to address the climate crisis will be with a global agreement that in one way or another puts a price on carbon. And whatever approach is eventually chosen, the U.S. simply must provide leadership by changing our own policy.
Yet without presidential leadership that focuses intensely on making the public aware of the reality we face, nothing will change. The real power of any president, as Richard Neustadt wrote, is “the power to persuade.” Yet President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis. He has simply not made the case for action. He has not defended the science against the ongoing, withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community – including our own National Academy – to bring the reality of the science before the public.
Here is the core of it: we are destroying the climate balance that is essential to the survival of our civilization. This is not a distant or abstract threat; it is happening now. The United States is the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future. And the president is the only person who can rally the United States.
Many political advisers assume that a president has to deal with the world of politics as he finds it, and that it is unwise to risk political capital on an effort to actually lead the country toward a new understanding of the real threats and real opportunities we face. Concentrate on the politics of re-election, they say. Don’t take chances.
All that might be completely understandable and make perfect sense in a world where the climate crisis wasn’t “real.” Those of us who support and admire President Obama understand how difficult the politics of this issue are in the context of the massive opposition to doing anything at all – or even to recognizing that there is a crisis. And assuming that the Republicans come to their senses and avoid nominating a clown, his re-election is likely to involve a hard-fought battle with high stakes for the country. All of his supporters understand that it would be self-defeating to weaken Obama and heighten the risk of another step backward. Even writing an article like this one carries risks; opponents of the president will excerpt the criticism and strip it of context.
But in this case, the President has reality on his side. The scientific consensus is far stronger today than at any time in the past. Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. [...]
What Mr. Gore ignores is that whatever capital Pres. Obama once had he has squandered. There isn’t enough hope to believe he can change to lead on climate change. Even if Obama wins reelection, his second term won’t be about Democratic change, but he will likely go for historic accomplishments like “dealing with entitlements.”
It might be hard for people to understand what I’m now about to write. But given Pres. Obama’s failure to use the presidential bully pulpit for anything but to help himself, whether through issues that serve his long-term interests or political future, on climate change, leadership may now have to come from an unlikely source.
Could climate change be the Republicans’ Nixon to China moment if they get into office in 2012? I’m not betting on it, that’s for sure, because Republicans today are a rag tag lot of miserable austerity hacks.
But reading Mr. Gore write this incredible statement reveals the problem with the Democratic establishment, including the best and brightest:
All of his supporters understand that it would be self-defeating to weaken Obama and heighten the risk of another step backward.
The Democratic Party will continue to be ineffectual, weak and a party of corporate interests, including on policy, if they believe pleading to a president who knows he won’t face consequences for his betrayals will change the equation.
At some point, Democrats and progressives are going to have to decide what’s more important, one man and winning or the principles on which their party once stood.
The men backing Jon Huntsman have decided for the sake of the future they think his candidacy is worth standing behind, because it might pave the way for something amazing to happen, like the huge fundraising on his first day out. Maybe they’ll get lucky in the face of such an uninspiring GOP field, but they simply know they can’t tolerate what’s being stood up in the name of Reagan’s party.
Too bad Democrats and progressives don’t feel the same way about F.D.R.’s party.
Al Gore’s piece is a tortured plea, as filled with angst as the entire progressive movement is when it comes to Barack Obama. Lecturing this man won’t change him.
Ask any woman who goes to work trying to change a man, falling in love with the person she thinks he is or could be instead of the man he actually is. It always ends badly, either in breakup or divorce, unless she’s stupid and lazy enough to choose to live with much less than she deserves.
The planet doesn’t stand a chance against these odds.