Friday, October 12, 2007

Of spoils and spoilsports

By J. Kingston Pierce

“It’s like the best revenge fantasy ever, come true: Everyone who was ever mean to you, who wrote you off or sabotaged you? That nasty high school guidance counselor? The catty New York Times columnist? The partisan Supreme Court justice? Well, they can kiss your Oscar, your Emmy or your Nobel Peace Prize, because you won all three! In the same year!”

Those words belong to Salon editor Joan Walsh, but the sentiment regarding Al Gore’s win this morning of the Nobel Peace Prize is shared well beyond Salon’s San Francisco offices. “Once lampooned and beleaguered, Vice President Al Gore is avenged,” Mike Allen pronounces at The Politico. “Denied the presidency in the chaos of the Florida recount of 2000, he now has received what is arguably the most prestigious award in the world. His obsession with the environment and global warming, which led former President George H.W. Bush to mock him as ‘ozone man,’ has now been certified on a global stage as a worthy and consequential crusade.” Pseudonymous blogger Tristero piles on with his own back-pats: “Thinking about Al Gore’s career and his character--abundantly on display, for example, in the fall of 2000 and then again in 2002, and then once more in his prominent role in environmental causes -- I remember that there really are times when a prominent public figure truly can serve as a great example for kids on how to live a meaningful life. And for grown-ups, too.” Meanwhile, The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber wonders idly how the Texas frat boy who took Gore’s place in the Oval Office is reacting to the former veep’s latest triumph:

Watching Al Gore take a well-deserved victory lap this afternoon, I couldn’t help wondering what George W. Bush must be thinking. I mean, I know the guy still believes history will vindicate him and all, but, really, this has got to be pretty painful. Bush, according to various accounts of the 2000 campaign, absolutely despised Gore. He regarded him as a preening, self-righteous phony.

So Bush somehow manages to avenge his father’s defeat and vanquish the vice president of the United States. And yet, seven years later, it’s Gore who’s being hailed around the world as a prophet and a savior and Bush who, if he’s still being discussed at all, is mentioned only as the punchline to some joke, or when his poll numbers reach some new historic low. It must eat him up.

For his part, Gore has been amazingly restrained in the face of so much good news. Remarking on today’s commendation
at his Web site, he writes, “I am deeply honored to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This award is even more meaningful because I have the honor of sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- the world’s pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis -- a group whose members have worked tirelessly and selflessly for many years. We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level.” The ex-VP adds that he’ll donate 100 percent of his share of the Nobel Prize money (somewhere in the vicinity of $1.5 million) to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit organization he founded, and which he explains is “devoted to changing public opinion in the U.S. and around the world about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.”

Inevitably, Gore has also been forced to shoot down renewed speculation that his hat trick of successes this year will provoke him to run for the White House. Again. “My sense is that this won’t affect that calculation,” Gore adviser Michael Feldman tells The Politico. “He has said all along he has no plans to run for president. He’s been spending all his discretionary time on the climate crisis. This great honor will further enhance that.” It will enhance, too, his presence on the campaign trail, when--although he won’t be stumping for himself--he will likely speak out in support of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or whoever the 2008 Democratic nominee turns out to be. There’s a moral gravity inherited by Nobel Peace Prize winners that simply isn’t available to rest of us mortals, and next year’s nominee will hope to exploit that.

Hoping to neutralize the ex-veep’s effect on that coming race, right-wing commentators and bloggers were quick to attack Gore and his Nobel victory--lest Americans start to reassess the man whom Republican’ts and their media toadies have disparaged these last eight years as “wooden” and “weird,” and begin to see him as he really is: superior to Bush Jr. In the National Review’s blog, The Corner, Iain Murray sought to equate Gore with Osama bin Laden, who Murray claimed idiotically, “implicitly endorsed Gore’s stance” on global warming. Painkiller addict and radio comedian Rush Limbaugh scoffed: “So now ‘Algore’ will join Yasir Arafat among the list of noble Nobel peace laureates.” He went on to charge that members of the Norwegian Nobel committee have “rendered themselves a pure, 100 percent joke.” Bush, ever the spoilsport, couldn’t so much as bring himself to congratulate his onetime opponent, even though, as Salon’s Tim Grieve pointed out earlier today, he has previously been conscientious enough to applaud everyone from spelling-bee winners to sports champs. When asked this morning whether the prez would dial up Gore to congratulate him, deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto responded, “I don’t know of any plans to make calls to any of the winners at this point.”

Strangely, Czech President Vaclav Klaus parroted the American right-wing line. Described as “a rare vocal global- warming skeptic among heads of state,” Klaus is said to have been “somewhat surprised” by Gore’s Nobel win. “The relationship between his activities and world peace is unclear and indistinct,” spokesman Petr Hajek said in a statement. “It rather seems that Gore’s doubting of basic cornerstones of the current civilization does not contribute to peace.”

Of course, Gore need not pay attention to such naysaying. He’s too busy trying to find a little bit of room between his Emmy and Oscar for his Nobel medal.

Had history gone in a different direction, the United States would have benefited from Al Gore’s hard-won wisdom and leadership in the White House. As it is, over the last seven years we’ve suffered through natural calamities, economic downturns, the war-caused spread of terrorism in the Middle East, repeated Republican scandals, and a dramatic erosion of America’s worldwide standing. The bottom line is spelled out by Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report: “Everything Bush touched led to disaster. Everything Gore focused on turned out to be right.” History will recognize the difference, even if some Americans still don’t.

READ MORE:Gore and U.N. Panel Share Peace Prize,” by Dan Balz and Juliet Eilperin (The Washington Post); “Prize Caps Year of Highs for Gore,” by Jim Rutenberg (The New York Times); “From One Prize to Another,” by John Dickerson (Slate); “What Should Gore Do Now?” by David Roberts (The Huffington Post); “Will Gore Fall Prey to the Nobel Curse?” by Eric Weiner (National Public Radio).

(Cross-posted from Limbo.)

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  • I'm sure Limbaugh would have won the prize and perhaps a Pulitzer as well, but of course had to exempt himself because of an infected anal cyst.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:04 AM  

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