It's a shame that Americans vote on non-issues. In all the years of Gore's public life, there has never been any hint of sexual immorality. He is a man completely in love with his wife, Tipper. He didn't have too many girlfriends before her (maybe two or three, from biographies I've read). Gore exudes fidelity and loyalty. If people find fault with him, its because of his introverted nature. The presidency seems to favour extroverts, as we haven't truly had an introverted president since Jimmy Carter (though I can't tell for certain if the elder George Bush is an introvert or not).
My question to Bush voters in 2000 is: are you proud of your vote? Seeing how disasterous his reign had been, do you think he was good for America? If we judge a president by only one criteria (is America better or worse since the start of a presidential administration?), there's no question that Bush was bad for America.
But maybe that is a good thing. The recent Time magazine features a cover story on how the bad economy will be good for our country in the long run (so long as we don't go back to our mass consuming ways). As painful as it is to go back to the 2000 election and think about it, I remember before the election, I had read an article which predicted that Gore might win the electoral college vote but lose the popular vote, and what that would mean for our country. I remember thinking at the time that I did not want Gore to win that way, because Republicans would never accept his presidency and would continue their obstruction and investigations from the Clinton years to try to bring down Gore. The article I read even mentioned that the Bush campaign people had plans in place to legally contest the election if Gore won the electoral college vote but lost the popular vote.
When the election happened the other way (Bush "winning" the electoral vote--though I still believe that he didn't legitimately win Florida; Gore winning the popular vote by more than half a million votes), Bush played dirty and ran to the Supreme Court to put an end to the vote recount in Florida. No matter which way the election went, Bush was desperate to be president (my theory is because he wanted to avenge his father's defeat in 1992; he wanted to finish the job in Iraq; and he wanted to seal up his father's presidential records from the open records law). The nasty way he behaved in the aftermath of the election and his lack of graciousness to the majority who voted against him in 2000, plus his decision to have a far-right administration instead of a government of national unity, guaranteed that I would never support his presidency at all. Not even on 9/11 and the days following. It's not that I wanted him to fail. Had he been more of the centrist he had promised during the campaign, he might've been more successful than his father. But, he sowed the seeds of his presidency's destruction with bad karma. He has no one to fault but himself. Seeing the sad, broken man he became when he left office was small pleasure after the nightmare of the past eight years.
However, the past is past. Though the Bush years are one of the most painful periods of American history (certainly in our lifetime), I believe the fates of Bush and Gore illustrate an example of karmic justice. Bush wanted to be president at all costs and by not showing humility and grace, and representing the interest of all Americans (including the majority who voted against him), he angered a lot of people and never saw his approval ratings above 40% in the last three years of his presidency. He came into office arrogant and smug, and left looking tired, old and unhappy. By contrast, in the aftermath of the humiliating "loss", Gore grew a beard, went off to Europe, and disappeared for awhile. Behind the scenes, he had invested heavily in Google, started an investment group, updated his old climate change slide show, and focused on his true passion: the environment. By 2006, karmic justice repaid him kindly...with a hit documentary film that won an Oscar, his investments in Google made him a wealthy man, he won an Emmy Award for his creation of Current TV (an innovative Internet/TV channel which airs pods created by viewers), and the ultimate award of all: The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, shared with U.N. scientists for climate change.
Gore gained renewed respect while Bush became the most hated leader on the planet. The tale of these two men recalls that famous Biblical warning: "For what doth it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his very soul?" The fortunes of the two men also illustrate two forms of power. Gore has inspirational power, which is far more powerful than the kind Bush branded about: the power of the gun. This idea has been with me since childhood, when I was baffled by what Obi-Wan Kenobi told Darth Vader in Star Wars: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." For many years, I couldn't understand that statement, because he lost his life to the guy with the power of the light saber. I forget the moment when it hit me, but it was sometime in the mid-1990s. Now, it's kind of obvious. The power of inspiration is more powerful than the power of the gun. Why? Because while you can point a gun at someone's head to make them do whatever the hell you want, doing so only guarantees that they will hate you and it doesn't protect you from someone doing the same to you. Plus, you're not really changing their minds, only how they would act in that moment.
On the flip side, if you inspire someone with your ideas, it affects their inner consciousness. The transformation within can transform our world. Jesus had this kind of power. The might of the Roman Empire may have crucified him on the cross (power of the sword), but here we are 2,000 years later with more than 2 billion of the world's inhabitants who are followers of Jesus. Where is the Roman Empire? It's relegated to museums, ruins that serve as tourist attractions, and the history books.
So...I'm glad that Gore was able to transform the disappointments of the 2000 election into a successful career as global statesman, bringing attention to how we live our lives with respect to our natural environment. Give me inspiration anyday.
In Gore's post-2000 incarnation, he often greets people and groups with the very Asian "wai." This symbolic gesture is a Buddhist sign for humility and gratitude. Though many evangelicals didn't see Gore as a religious person, I always had the impression that he was deeply spiritual (he did attend Vanderbilt Divinity School after serving in Vietnam as a way to atone for the sins he saw in that war). Though he is a Southern Baptist, I wouldn't be surprised if his spiritual views are similar to mine, because he seems to have some Buddhist ideas or beliefs...which you can sense in his Earth in the Balance book.
The cartoon above and the photo from his guest host role on Saturday Night Live in December 2002 play on the stereotyped image of Gore as a stiff and wooden personality. Gore has been known to poke fun at himself, with his favourite joke: "How can you spot Gore in a roomful of Secret Service agents? He's the stiff one."
Happy Birthday, Mr. Gore! Celebrate in style!
We may never have gotten to see how America would look during a Gore Administration, but had he been president, we probably would have never heard of Barack Obama. I'm happy with the historic campaign of 2007-2008, that it was the most exciting presidential election season of our lifetime. I'm also happy that Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. No one deserves more good fortune these past few years than Gore...one of the most qualified people to ever run for president. Our country lost a potentially great president, but perhaps he'll play an even greater role for the sake of our planet.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Gore! Celebrate in style!