At first glance, the heavens would seem to be beaming on Al Gore. The former vice president, who actually received more votes than George W. Bush in 2000 but lost the presidency because they were maldistributed in the Electoral College, has been on a spectacular roll. With more governmental experience than anyone else mentioned as a possible nominee of either party, he has spent the last few years reinventing himself as a man deeply concerned for the future of humanity, and particularly for the threat supposedly posed to it by global warming.
He has traveled the globe making speeches in which he warns against the peril. He has written a whole book about the subject, entitled "An Inconvenient Truth." He has generated attention-getting warnings in various media, winning an Emmy and an Oscar in the process. And now the Nobel Peace Prize -- surely one of the world's most distinguished honors -- has been conferred on him, apparently on the theory that calling attention to the risks of global warming contributes somehow to the cause of world peace. (There is an alternative theory that the Nobel Prize Committee has, in recent years, for all practical purposes sold out to the left, and now makes its awards with that in mind; but let us accept the more charitable interpretation.)
It is true that Gore's assertions on the dangers of global warming have not gone unchallenged, and probably don't deserve to. He is on record as predicting worst-case scenarios in which the melting of Greenland and Antarctica could raise mean sea level by as much as 20 feet, whereas the scientific consensus is not much more than 1 foot. But to quarrel with the details of Gore's forecast is simply irrelevant. The point is that the man clearly cares, and is working furiously to avert what he sincerely believes is a looming disaster. How can one criticize a man so manifestly bent on saving the human race?
There would seem only one honor left for him to receive. What else could so perfectly crown this lifetime of public service as ... the presidency of the United States?
You can bet your bottom dollar that he wants the job -- wants it so much his chest aches. After all, he has pursued it all his life. And now the stars seem aligned in a way that points inexorably toward that one glittering goal. There is, in fact, only one serious obstacle. And there she sits, like the Rock of Chickamauga: Hillary Clinton.
In recent weeks, Sen. Clinton has been steadily lengthening her lead over the other declared candidates for the Democratic nomination -- notably Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, not to mention lesser lights. One after another, leading Democratic politicians have publicly endorsed her, which is the surest possible sign that they believe she has the nomination wrapped up.
Up to now, Gore has played a waiting game, refusing to announce his candidacy. Pretty clearly, he felt that his chance would come only if Clinton "stumbled" in some way, and he was probably right. But what has ratcheted up the torment of his situation is the worldwide acclaim that has resulted from his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize. This has, in pure public-relations terms, seemed so obviously the penultimate achievement of his life -- one to be topped, but somehow almost inevitably topped, by the presidency.
Alas, it is not to be. I have already seen op-ed pieces arguing that Gore would be a far stronger Democratic candidate than Clinton -- vastly more experienced, just for one thing. And no doubt there will be all sorts of Draft Gore petitions and Draft Gore rallies. But the Clinton Express is coming down the track, and its aura of inevitability is more than powerful enough to sweep away all rational arguments against it. Besides (it will be argued), say what you will, Al Gore had his chance. Hillary deserves hers. It's as simple as that.