Cannot help but wonder....Had Al Gore Been President these last 8 years...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

May be of Interest, this Interview with Al Gore
November 23, 2008
Fareed Zakaria GPS

ZAKARIA: We've all talked endlessly about the historic nature of Barack Obama's election. But there was another historic election not so long ago -- the year 2000, the election in which Vice President Al Gore was declared the president-elect, at least for a while.

There are many who wish that Al Gore's temporary victory had lasted longer. But as we all know, the story ended differently, and for the former vice president, perhaps happily. He got busy saving the planet, making an Academy Award-winning movie, and then winning a Nobel Peace Prize in the process.

And he's not done yet.

Al Gore, welcome.


Winston Churchill once said, early in his career after he lost an election, someone said that was a blessing in disguise. He said, "Damned good disguise."


ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about this election. Do you think -- you're a student of American politics, obviously -- is this a great realignment? Do you think that historians will look back on this election as the moment that the era of Republican supremacy ended?

GORE: Well, I think it is a realignment. But I'm not sure that it falls neatly into the categories that we call Democratic and Republican.

I think it's partly a generational realignment. This was never a close election among voters who were under 30. It was a landslide among the younger voters.

And I can barely contain my excitement about his election. I just think that it's a fabulous new development.

And you know, for those in your international audience, which is quite large, I want them to know that right after the election, Republicans who had campaigned strongly against Barack Obama were interviewed everywhere in the United States right after the election, saying, "I'm so proud of my country."

You know, regardless of the differences over issues and politics, this was a watershed election that really just gave every American a feeling of great pride in our nation's ability to transcend our past and redeem the revolutionary promise of our Declaration of Independence that every human being is created equal. And it's electrifying to redeem that declaration.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that Biden should maintain the vice presidential structure that Dick Cheney has put in place? You know, a lot of people feel Cheney has effectively changed the nature of the vice presidency forever, that these institutional aggrandizations of power never shrink.

How should Joe Biden think about the vice presidency? GORE: Well, the -- I mean, I don't think that's going to happen, because that's really a function of what the president wants.

And I hesitate to comment on Bush and Cheney, because I've recently begun to fear that I'm losing my objectivity on them.


But actually, if you look at the history of the vice presidency -- it's a very arcane field of history -- it was Walter Mondale who really elevated the office to what it is now. And I learned a lot from him in designing a partnership with President Clinton.

And I think Dick -- I think it's good to have an active, powerful vice president who can help the president carry a lot of the burden.

ZAKARIA: You just don't think that person should be Dick Cheney.

GORE: Well, not only that. I think that the nature of the delegations in this present administration were unhealthy for the country.

But there's a way to do it right that will give Joe Biden a huge amount of power and influence, which I think he should have. And one of the many things that I admire about President-elect Obama is that he is comfortable and confident in sharing the limelight, sharing responsibility.

And I'm certain that you'll see Joe Biden playing a very active and productive role. He's a terrific guy. He has an enormous capacity, as you know, and I think -- not only in foreign policy, which is one of his specialty areas along with law enforcement and justice and so forth -- I think he's going to have a lot of influence across the board.

ZAKARIA: You worked with Hillary Clinton for eight years.

GORE: Yes.

ZAKARIA: Do you think she'd be a good secretary of state?

GORE: I think she'd be very good at it. I don't know what the current status of that is, but I think she would be very effective. Sure.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about what's going on in Washington right now. You're watching the auto industry ask for a massive bailout.

This must tug at different sides of you. I mean, as a Democrat, you must have some sympathy for the unions, and for the plight of people who are going to be laid off. On the other hand, as the world's foremost environmentalist, you must look at the U.S. auto industry as having been too late and insufficient in its climate -- in its efforts on energy.

Would you bail out the auto industry?

GORE: Well, I think the whole industry should be transformed. It's really tragic that General Motors, for example, allowed Toyota to get a seven-year head start on the hybrid drive train in the Prius that is now positioned to really be a dominant feature of the industry in this century.

I personally believe that the U.S. auto fleet should make a transition as quickly as possible toward plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. I think that the twin problems of the climate crisis and the economic crisis can both be addressed by investing in a transformation of our energy and transportation infrastructure to focus on renewable sources of energy.

And at the same time, our security vulnerability to a potential cutoff of the world's access to Persian Gulf, Middle East oil should be addressed, at long last, without delay. And shifting to electric vehicles instead of petroleum vehicles is the best way to do that.

ZAKARIA: If you look at the situation right now with oil prices down to $50 a barrel -- the lowest in two or three years -- are we back to a familiar cycle where once the price of oil gets back down, the impetus for these alternate energies will dissipate?

GORE: Well, I don't think we're going to fall for it this time.

And I was very impressed with the language used by President- elect Barack Obama in his "60 Minutes" interview. He used a phrase that I hadn't heard before, that I think summed it up really well.


PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: We go from shock to trance. You know, we -- oil prices go up, gas prices at the pump go up, everybody goes into a flurry of activity.

And then the prices go back down, and suddenly we act like it's not important, and we start filling up our SUVs again. And as a consequence, we never make any progress.


GORE: We cannot allow ourselves to be vulnerable to that anymore. We should learn from history.

ZAKARIA: When you look at the challenges facing the United States, particularly in foreign policy -- you've studied some of these issues for three decades. Iraq -- you warned early on that the war would be, would probably be very difficult, very expensive and were against it.

Do you think that the United States should get out as fast as President Obama had -- President-elect Obama -- has campaigned suggesting?

GORE: Well, I warned that the invasion would go smoothly, and then the aftermath would be difficult. And I like the phrasing that Barack Obama has used. We should get out as carefully and thoughtfully as we got -- as the ...

ZAKARIA: The opposite ...

GORE: ... as the opposite was true in going in.

And I think that, in his discussions with General Petraeus, when he was there -- Joe Klein had a great article in TIME Magazine that captured part of the dialogue. I'm sure you saw that. I thought it was very impressive.

And I think that people should have confidence that he is going to fulfill his pledge to get American troops out of Iraq as soon as it's feasible to do so safely -- and that he will do it in a very thoughtful and careful manner.

ZAKARIA: What about Afghanistan? A war that seems to be going badly, the Taliban seem to be regrouping. What should we do there?

GORE: Well, I think we have to play the whole keyboard. I think that, first, we need more military personnel there. And one of the concerns that I raised back when I opposed the invasion of Iraq was what it was going to do to our efforts in Afghanistan.

We should have learned from the aftermath of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. We should have been all over that situation and make sure that transition went well.

And great nations don't go from one half-finished task, lurching to something else. We should have stayed there, and we should have done it right at the time. It's going to be more difficult now.

But one of the elements we need are more troops on the ground. But we need more than military activities. I think we have to have activities across the board. We have to open dialogues in places that might feel uncomfortable.

But we have to be clear-eyed about the nature of the government that we're dealing with there. We have to pay very careful attention to what's going on in the border areas and the tribal areas, and our relationship with Pakistan. It's an immensely complex problem.

But I do think that it's not an insoluble problem. I think that if we try to solve it only with military force, it might be insoluble. But I do think that, if we use all the tools available, this can be resolved.

ZAKARIA: And we will be right back with Al Gore.


ZAKARIA: And we're back with Al Gore.

One of the solutions to the problem of climate change and the problem of CO2 emissions has often been presented as clean coal, that what we should be doing is essentially making coal emit many fewer -- you know, much less CO2 -- through various ways of capture and sequestration.

But in a "Wall Street Journal" article, you seem doubtful. You don't think this is a good idea?

GORE: Well, I think if they can do it, it is a good idea. But what I am greatly concerned about is that they talk as if it's already here.

And as a practical matter, what many in the industry are proposing is to go forward with the construction of thousands of new coal-fired generating plants, on the assumption that they will at some point be retrofitted with this technology that does not yet exist.

There is not a single, large-scale demonstration plant anywhere in the United States. There is one in the North Sea that the Norwegians are running. There's one in the Algerian desert that BP is running. And they show some promise. But it is not anywhere near a stage that justifies building new coal-fired generating plants on the promise that it'll soon be available.

If the industry can make good on its promise, then I'm all for it. But it's beginning to resemble something that the auto companies did for years.

Every few years they would show the cars of the future that run on hydrogen, or whatever, and it's going to be magical and pollution- free. And they put them in the showroom, but then they never build them. And you just keep cranking along. And it's led to a disaster for that industry.

We cannot allow an illusion to be the basis of a strategy for human survival. We are really facing a very serious existential threat to the future of human civilization.

And I know that language sounds shrill and dire, and people instinctively say that that can't be so. But it is so.

And the scientific community, the IPCC -- the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ...

ZAKARIA: Which are thousands of scientists.

GORE: Three thousand of the very best scientists in the world from 130 countries, who have studied this for 20 years, and have issued four unanimous reports, the last of which said the evidence is unequivocal -- unequivocal. We have to act.

ZAKARIA: One of the key objections that President Bush has always had to the Kyoto Protocol, and to all that kind of climate change activism, was you're leaving out China and India. And if you leave out China and India, you're not going to solve the problem.

GORE: Yes.

ZAKARIA: You started to work on this issue, to try to convince the Chinas and Indias of the world that this is their problem, too.

GORE: Yes. I just came back from China two days ago. And as you know, I'm on my way to India after the holiday, and looking forward to it.

China and India, and other developing countries, all have exactly the same excuse for not moving on the climate crisis. Their common excuse is, "Wait a minute. The United States hasn't done anything. It's the wealthiest country in the world, the natural leader of the world. Why doesn't the U.S. act?"

And I think that when the U.S. acts, it will be by far the most effective way to improve the odds that China and India, and other smaller developing economies, will also act. They know that it's in their own interest to tackle this problem.

ZAKARIA: What about India? Talk about India, where you're going, and what you're going to do.

GORE: Well, I'm very excited to be hosting Live Earth India on December 7th. And all of the greatest stars of Bollywood are going to gather in your hometown, Mumbai. And a lot of the greatest Western artists are coming over to join, as well.

You know, the Indian government now subsidizes kerosene -- probably the dirtiest fuel you can use. But they need alternatives. And these solar lanterns and solar cookers are very cost-effective. And we're doing everything to raise money for it -- and to build awareness.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about this election, finally. If you had one piece of advice to Obama, to consolidate these forces of realignment, what would it be? How should he govern? From the center, from -- you know, you hear all this advice given to him.

GORE: Well, again, you know, just as with the categories that we label Democratic and Republican, I think center, left, right -- you hear this a lot. It's almost a cliche to say we need to move forward, not left or right. But in fact, that is the case. And I think he has an awfully good, innate sense of that.

I feel, you know, me offering him advice doesn't feel right, because he's doing so well. But if I did offer him advice I would say, make more of the thoughtful, long, expository speeches, because in this new media age, people are listening.

Maybe they don't get through all of the television and radio outlets. Maybe you'll still have only a little sound bite. But people are downloading these speeches now, if they're good ones.

You know, it's remarkable that the paid advertisement, the 30- minute paid advertisement that he had four or five days before the election, was one of the highest-rated programs of the year.

And I think people are now hungry for a thoughtful treatment of how we can solve the problems that we face. And I would go back to that strength. And I'm sure that he will without me advising him to do so.

ZAKARIA: And if you want a thoughtful discussion with Al Gore, you can download this one. Al Gore, thank you very much.

GORE: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: A pleasure.


Civilization's Last Call