As I survey the list of possible Democratic contenders for the 2008 presidential nomination -- Obama, Edwards, Clinton, Kerry, Vilsack, Biden -- I grow ever more wishful that Al Gore would run. As he's been saying for over a year now, he doesn't plan on running, but he hasn't ruled it out. He won't make a Sherman statement. ("If nominated, I will not run," William Tecumseh Sherman once said; "if elected, I will not serve.")
In a new GQ interview, coinciding with the release of An Inconvenient Truth on DVD, Gore is in his witty, chatty mode, as he has been since returning to the spotlight. Here are his comments on 9/11 (I've omitted the cutesy parenthetical notes inserted by GQ, including one which informs us that Gore is "practically screaming now"):
|"Okay, on to 9-11. What were you really feeling? Was there a part of you that felt a sense of relief that you weren’t in charge that day?|
You mean a sense of relief that I didn’t have to deal with it? Oh no. Not at all. Not for one second. Not for one second. Why would I? I mean, well first of all, it just didn’t occur to me to feel anything like that. What did occur to me was to feel what every American felt, the outrage and anger and righteous anger, and support for the President at a time of danger… And, honestly, I was focused on the reality of the situation. And I wasn’t president, so, you know, it wasn’t about me. Now, I do wish, now that we have some distance from the events, and we have all this knowledge about what this administration did do, I certainly feel that I wish that it had been handled differently, and I do wish that I had somehow been able to prevent some of the catastrophic mistakes that were made.
"Do you feel that we would be safer today if you had been president on that day?
Well, no one can say that the 9-11 attack wouldn’t have occurred whoever was president.
"Really? How about all the warnings?
That’s a separate question. And it’s almost too easy to say, 'I would have heeded the warnings.' In fact, I think I would have, I know I would have. We had several instances when the CIA’s alarm bells went off, and what we did when that happened was, we had emergency meetings and called everybody together and made sure that all systems were go and every agency was hitting on all cylinders, and we made them bring more information, and go into the second and third and fourth level of detail. And made suggestions on how we could respond in a more coordinated, more effective way. It is inconceivable to me that Bush would read a warning as stark and as clear as the one he received on August 6th of 2001, and, according to some of the new histories, he turned to the briefer and said, 'Well, you’ve covered your ass.' And never called a follow up meeting. Never made an inquiry. Never asked a single question. To this day, I don’t understand it. And, I think it’s fair to say that he personally does in fact bear a measure of blame for not doing his job at a time when we really needed him to do his job. And now the Woodward book has this episode that has been confirmed by the record that George Tenet, who was much abused by this administration, went over to the White House for the purpose of calling an emergency meeting and warning as clearly as possible about the extremely dangerous situation with Osama bin Laden, and was brushed off! And I don’t know why—honestly—I mean, I understand how horrible this Congressman Foley situation with the instant messaging is, okay? I understand that. But, why didn’t these kinds of things produce a similar outrage? And you know, I’m even reluctant to talk about it in these terms because it’s so easy for people to hear this or read this as sort of cheap political game-playing. I understand how it could sound that way. But dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!
"But how do you really feel?
"What’s the nicest thing you can say about George Bush?
He made a terrific appointment of Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve.
"OK, is there a second best thing?
I can’t think of another one, actually."
At this point, Gore has made the I'm-not-planning-on-running-but-I-won't-rule-it-out statement so many times that if he does decide to run, he's going to need a convincing reason for the change of heart. Luckily for him, the convincing reasons seem to flow every time he sits down for an interview. The idea of President Gore is so soothing, so healing...it would feel like the correction of a great mistake, a second chance at what might have been. What's clear is that of all the Democrats eyeing 2008, none seems to have quite the authority, intelligence, and gravitas of the guy the American people already elected in 2000.