Magazine article The Spectator

Live Earth Is Al Gore's Campaign Launch

Magazine article The Spectator

Live Earth Is Al Gore's Campaign Launch

Article excerpt

Al Gore makes an unlikely rock star. He's a natural-born wonk, and the only rock star he physically resembles is Elvis -- in his later, bloated, cheeseburger phase. But on Saturday, Al Gore will be the main attraction at a climate-change jamboree that features 100 musicians and reaches across seven continents to a potential worldwide audience of more than two billion people. It is a turn of events that few would have predicted when Gore limped off the stage in 2000, an unloved and defeated presidential candidate.

What makes Gore's emergence as a global prophet all the more remarkable is that he was never a charismatic politician; his speeches generated less electricity than David Cameron's late, lamented wind turbine and were about as interesting to listen to. Gore was a competent technocrat who as vice-president ran programmes with worthy but dull titles such as 'Reinventing Government'. As a candidate, he was almost a parody of the consultant-driven politician.

Famously, Naomi Wolf, the feminist thinker, was paid $15,000 a month by the Gore campaign to make, among other things, sartorial suggestions -- such as that earth tones reassure audiences. People trust mud. Now, Gore is someone people are prepared to pay to see deliver a science lecture even if he is not wearing earth tones: his film An Inconvenient Truth has pulled in $24,146,161 in box office receipts in the US alone.

It is hard to recall quite how unpopular Gore was after his defeat by George W.

Bush. The reaction of most Democrats was not sympathy but irritation: how dumb do you have to be to lose to that dumbo? In December 2003, Gore endorsed Howard Dean's presidential candidacy when the bandwagon was rolling at full speed. But the next month, the Dean campaign careered off the road and Washington insiders chuckled about the Gore curse. A series of passionate, sweaty speeches he made during Bush's first term, in which he denounced the President and all his works, were greeted with embarrassed shrugs by establishment Democrats and with glee by Republican political operatives. When John Kerry lost in 2004, the rap was that he was too like Gore: too stiff, too elitist, too much of a pompous intellectual.

So what accounts for the transformation in Gore's standing? It is principally, but not exclusively, the rise of an anti-politics that defines itself against conventional politics.

Imagine for a second that the chads had fallen the other way in Florida and that President Gore had been as bold on global warming as the defeated candidate Gore. It is inconceivable that Gore would now be lauded, as he will be this weekend. His appeal comes from not being a politician any more.

This senator's son, who was born to take the dynasty to the next level, has, ironically, found his calling as the anti-politician.

Not being a politician any more means that Gore is held to a different standard. A politician who campaigned on global warming only for it to be revealed that his household energy consumption was more than 20 times the national average, as happened in Gore's case, would be laughed off the stage -- just consider how much damage the revelation that Cameron's driver followed him while he biked to Parliament did to the Tory leader. Yet this thunderbolt just bounced off Gore. Gore the politician would find An Inconvenient Truth subject to criticism for exaggerations, alarmism and the like. Gore the filmmaker brushes off these charges. We love celebrities and activists -- and particularly celebrity activists -- and cut them slack accordingly. But we despise politicians and give them no quarter. …

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