Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Birthday Al Gore!

Hey Vice-Precedence Readers!

Well, today is the birthday of one of the most beloved VP's of all time. Many Americans think that this VP should have rightly been President. Not even winning an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and even the Nobel Peace Prize would make up for his loss in the Presidential Election of 2000.

Yes its the birthday of Al Gore, and yes he has won all of those awards. For ever since his controversial defeat in the infamous election of 2000 where he won the popular vote by around half a million votes over George W. Bush, but lost the electoral vote by losing the recount in Florida that was supported by the Supreme Court by a 5–4 margin in favor of Bush—the only time in history the Court may have determined the outcome of a presidential election, Gore has been one of the worlds best know environmentalists.

All his work on exposing his beliefs on global warming culminated in the film "An Inconvenient Truth" which won the Oscar for Best Feature Length Documentary. The audio-book would win the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album.

Gores father was a member of the House for 13 years, and the Senate for 18 years representing Tennessee. Al Jr. was raised in both Tennessee and Washington D.C., at his senior prom he met his future wife Tipper. Gore attended Harvard, where he was roommates with fellow future Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones. He started out as an English major, but the Martin Luther King assassination, the war in Vietnam and other issues of the late 60's and early 70's led him to become politically active (without becoming a raging hippie) and switch to government as his major and graduated cum laude. He also first became aware of climate change from Roger Revelles lectures there.

When it came to Vietnam, Al Jr. was against the war, but knew that if he tried going to Canada (his mother had already agreed to join him there if he made that choice) or avoiding service in Vietnam by joining the National Guard (like some other Presidents and VP candidates I can think of...) he would damage his fathers already very tough campaign for re-election in the Senate,especially considering the fact that his father had voted for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution initially, but as the war had progressed and escalated, had changed his mind on the issue. The Nixon Administration and Republicans had targeted Senator Gore as a Senate seat they could take, and if his son somehow avoided service they all knew it would be used against him. Added to that fact, Gore Jr. did not feel it was right for someone with fewer advantages than himself to go in his place. So he became a true "Tennessee Volunteer" and enlisted in the regular Army. Before shipping out for Vietnam he married Tipper.

His orders to be sent to Vietnam were "held up" for some time and he suspected that this was due to a fear by the Nixon administration that if something happened to him, his father would gain sympathy votes. Considering the way Nixon and his administration worked, thats probably a good theory. He was finally shipped to Vietnam on January 2, 1971, after his father had lost his seat in the Senate during the 1970 Senate election, one "of only about a dozen of the 1,115 Harvard graduates in the Class of '69 who went to Vietnam." Gore was stationed with the 20th Engineer Brigade in Bien Hoa and was a journalist with The Castle Courier. He received an honorable discharge from the Army in May 1971.

After Vietnam Gore studied at Vanderbilt, worked as an investigative reporter, and studied law. In 1976 at the age of 28 he was elected to Congress and was re-elected in 1978, 1980, and 1982--each time winning by a landslide. On March 19, 1979 he became the first member of Congress to appear on C-SPAN. In 1985 he was elected to the Senate. In 1990, Senator Gore presided over a three-day conference with legislators from over 42 countries which sought to create a Global Marshall Plan, "under which industrial nations would help less developed countries grow economically while still protecting the environment."

In 1988 Gore initially denied an interest in running for President. Instead he was the subject of speculation prior to his announcement a reporter stated:

"National analysts make Sen. Gore a long-shot for the Presidential nomination, but many believe he could provide a natural complement for any of the other candidates: a young, attractive, moderate Vice Presidential nominee from the South. He currently denies any interest, but he carefully does not reject the idea out of hand."

At the time, he was 39 years old, making him the youngest serious Presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy. Finally he came out and decided to run. He ran his campaign as:

"a Southern centrist, [who] opposed federal funding for abortion. He favored a moment of silence for prayer in the schools and voted against banning the interstate sale of handguns."

Gore carried seven states in the primary, finishing 3rd, but eventually dropped out. In April 3, 1989, the Gores and their six-year-old son Albert were crossing a street after a baseball game when Albert ran across the street to see his friend and was hit by a car. He was thrown 30 feet and then traveled along the pavement for another 20 feet Gore later recalled:

"I ran to his side and held him and called his name, but he was motionless, limp and still, without breath or pulse. His eyes were open with the nothingness stare of death, and we prayed, the two of us, there in the gutter, with only my voice."

Albert was tended to by two nurses who happened to be present during the accident. The Gores spent the next month in the hospital with Albert. Gore also commented:
"Our lives were consumed with the struggle to restore his body and spirit." This event was "a trauma so shattering that [Gore] views it as a moment of personal rebirth" and a "key moment in his life" which "changed everything."

In August 1991, Gore announced that his son's accident had "left a deep impression on our family" and that it was a factor in his decision not to run for president during the 1992 presidential election. Gore stated:

"I would like to be President [...] But I am also a father, and I feel deeply about my responsibility to my children [...] I didn't feel right about tearing myself away from my family to the extent that is necessary in a Presidential campaign."

During this time, Gore wrote Earth in the Balance, which became the first book written by a sitting U.S. Senator to make the New York Times bestseller list since John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. He also actually wrote his book, something that a lot of people say JFK didn't.

However, Gore did accept Bill Clintons offer to be his VP candidate, due to his clashes with the 1st Bush Administrations lack of action on global warming. Clinton stated that he chose Gore due to his foreign policy experience, work with the environment, and commitment to his family. It was a sort of unconventional VP pick, since Gore was also a young Southerner who didn't add any age or geographical balance to the ticket. They were the youngest Presidential ticket in history.

Washington Bureau Chief for The Baltimore Sun, Paul West, later suggested that:

"Al Gore revolutionized the way vice presidents are made. When he joined Bill Clinton's ticket, it violated the old rules. Regional diversity? Not with two Southerners from neighboring states. Ideological balance? A couple of left-of-center moderates. [...] And yet, Gore has come to be regarded by strategists in both parties as the best vice presidential pick in at least 20 years."

Gore crushed Quayle and Admiral James Stockdale in the VP Debate and he and Clinton went on to win the election. Gore became a very powerful and influential VP, working on issues such as the environment (of course), government corruption, and technology.

At the beginning of the first term in 1992, Clinton and Gore developed a "two-page agreement outlining their relationship." Clinton committed himself to regular lunch meetings, recognized Gore as a principal adviser on nominations, and appointed some of Gore's chief advisers to key White House staff positions. Clinton involved Gore in decision-making to an unprecedented degree for a vice president. Through their weekly lunches and daily conversations, Gore became the president's "indisputable chief adviser."

There were bumps in the road though. Gore was criticized for attending an event at a Buddhist temple that turned out to be a fund-raiser. In March 1997, Gore had to explain phone calls which he made to solicit funds for the Democratic Party for the 1996 election.[91] In a news conference, Gore stated that:

"all calls that I made were charged to the Democratic National Committee. I was advised there was nothing wrong with that. My counsel tells me there is no controlling legal authority that says that is any violation of any law."

But the biggest divide between Clinton and Gore was the Monica Lewinsky scandal. We all know the sordid details about that. Gore defended Clinton at the beginning, whom he believed to be innocent, stating:

"He is the President of the country! He is my friend. I want to ask you now, every single one of you, to join me in supporting him."

The truth was though, that Clinton had cheated on his wife in the Oval Office with Lewinsky. Its still something that just really blows (no pun intended) my mind.

After Clinton was impeached Gore continued to defend him stating:
"I've defined my job in exactly the same way for six years now [...] to do everything I can to help him be the best president possible."

But privately he was extremely disappointed in Clinton and worried about how it would effect his own run for the Presidency in 2000. Around this time Gore gave an interview with Wolf Blitzer where he said:

"During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system."

Gores opponents used this quote against him, claiming he said he "invented the Internet". This urban legend exploded and was fodder for comedians and Republicans across the country. It didn't matter that computer professionals and congressional colleagues argued in his defense. Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn stated that:

"We don't think, as some people have argued, that Gore intended to claim he 'invented' the Internet. Moreover, there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore's initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving Internet."

Even his old Congressional colleague and leader of the "Republican Revolution" Newt Gingrich defended him saying:

"In all fairness, it's something Gore had worked on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is -- and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a "futures group" -- the fact is, in the Clinton administration, the world we had talked about in the '80s began to actually happen."

So if we can all please stop with the "He invented the internet" jokes, I for one would really appreciate it. Enoughs enough with that old joke. Its not funny and its not accurate. Even Newt Gingrich says so Republicans. Get some new material everyone.

Gore announced his candidacy for President, and won the Democratic primaries against Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey. Gore made some VP history by choosing Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut as his vice presidential running mate-the first Jewish American on a Presidential ticket. The election was extremely tight, polls showed different numbers every day.

Finally it all came down to Florida on election day and night, and we all know what happened then. Weeks later the results of the decision led to Gore winning the popular vote by approximately 500,000 votes nationwide, but receiving 266 electoral votes to Bush's 271 (one District of Columbia elector abstained). On December 13, 2000, Gore conceded the election. Gore strongly disagreed with the Court's decision, but in his concession speech stated that:

"for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession."

In 2006 with the release of "An Inconvenient Truth", and his appearances across the country and in the media like Saturday Night Live and the creation of his network CURRENT TV, plus the fury over the Bush Administrations policies, Gore was probably the most popular ex-VP in history.

The director of the film, Davis Guggenheim, stated that after the release of the film:

"Everywhere I go with him, they treat him like a rock star."

At the Oscar ceremony, he pulled a fantastic prank, making it seem like he was about to announce his candidacy for President, but just as he was about to do so, was "played off" by the orchestra. Even though Gore was polling as high as second and third even without campaigning in Democratic and popular polls, he firmly refused to run again. Gore has continued to work on behalf of the environment and other issues he is passionate about. All while still helping to run his TV network.

Gore is definitely a historic VP in many ways. He followed the lead of Walter Mondale and was a VP with power and influence, but also like Mondale, he lost his bid for the White House and it seems that he will never be President. One can only wonder what a Gore Presidency during the years of the "War on Terror" would have been like. How would he have responded to 9/11? Would we have invaded Iraq? Would Saddam Hussein still be alive? Will revisionist historical novels come out about this, in the same vein of the "What if the Confederacy had won the Civil War?" fantasy history novels? We'll never really know.

However, we can say this: if any of you readers have an "In", we'd love to interview Vice-President Gore for our film! Just his presence in it for a few minutes would probably guarantee us funding and a release. We really want to interview him. I personally think it'd be a fascinating interview, and Gore seems to have a good sense of humor about himself: witness his appearance on SNL-especially the filmed segment on the set of "The West Wing" which is one of the funniest bits I have seen in a long time. So why not write to him at Current and tell him to grant us an interview? Here's his website:


Thanks for reading.

Matt Saxe.

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