Kathleen Parker

Gore turned his energies to the environment and his movie, ``An Inconvenient Truth,'' making him the most visible and effective spokesman in the debate over global warming. Likewise, Kerry returned to his political roots and, voice cracking with emotion, promised ``to change a policy in Iraq that threatens all that I have cared about and fought for since I came home from Vietnam.''

Whether one agrees with Kerry's position on Iraq (if you don't like this one, maybe wait a few weeks) -- or whether one believes that he ever cared about anything more than his own political future -- his focus has clearly shifted to something larger than himself.

In similar ways, Gore and Kerry are tragic figures. Both seemed destined to become president and both believed in that destiny. Which is to say, they bought their own myths; they may have wanted it too much.

Want has a scent. It reeks of rapaciousness and oozes from the pores of the overly ambitious. Others likely to make a run in 2008 are similarly malodorous, and you know who they are.

Far more appealing are those who don't lust so much for the presidency. One has to want the office to win, obviously. Duty alone isn't enough to sustain a candidate in today's pitiless political environment.

Obviously, too, some level of grandiosity is required for survival -- and probably for effectiveness. A candidate has to keep believing he's worthy because plenty of people will press the other view.

But wanting for the sake of winning -- of fulfilling some need to be great -- will usually be revealed for what it is and do a politician in.

One way or another.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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