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Gore Shut the Door on ’08. What If Someone Opens a Window?

Back in February 2000, I was in Harlem riding alongside the man who now says, “I used to be the next president of the United States.” He looked out the window and said: “This should be a great interview.” [IMGCAP(1)]

Al Gore and I were on our way to an editorial board meeting at the New York Amsterdam News, where I had hoped he would address plans to expand economic prosperity to black families. To my surprise, Gore walked in the room, greeted the editors and reporters, and proceeded to throw my talking points out the window. He wanted to discuss global warming instead.

For a while, I thought the vice president had lost his mind. How dare he discuss environmental issues with one of the nation’s leading black newspapers? Black people, I reasoned, had far too many problems, such as lack of affordable housing and limited access to health care, jobs and education, to spend our precious time discussing an issue no one understood. But Gore saw things differently and proceeded without warning to draw a large circle on the blackboard and explain the dangers of global warming and how greenhouse gases were trapped in the atmosphere.

Well, I thought, there goes our endorsement. Former Sen. Bill Bradley (N.J.), who was still very much alive in the battle for the Democratic nomination, likely would get the highly sought-after backing. But, to my amazement, the paper endorsed Gore and I learned a valuable lesson about allowing a candidate to lay out his own agenda.

Gore’s political stock is as high as I have seen it in the more than two decades that he’s been on the national stage. With an Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” that is the buzz of Hollywood and generating the kind of free media that is the envy of any current contender, Gore is sticking to his position that he has no intention to run for president. Perhaps I should just take his word and resume flirting with those who have made the decision to run. But something in my gut tells me that there’s still a chance Gore will jump in right before the filing deadlines or as the slating of delegates begins — and win both the nomination and the presidency.

I like the way former President Jimmy Carter said it on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”: “My favorite Democrat, for a number of years now, has been Al Gore. If Al should decide to run — which I’m afraid he won’t — I would support Al Gore.” I am sure Gore is a little irritated at me and others who continue to drop his name at every opportunity, but it just doesn’t feel right watching Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) run without someone of Gore’s stature and leadership also in the race.

At a time when America’s stock has dwindled throughout the world, Gore has earned the admiration and respect of many foreign leaders. After eight tumultuous and disheartening years of the current administration, our nation will need someone in the Oval Office who can pick up the phone and ask the international community to join with us in fighting the war on terror, global warming, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS on the African continent and so many other ills that plague our planet. And here at home, Gore also could lead us back to fiscal responsibility and prosperity so that all families can make ends meet, not just the wealthiest 1 percent.

As one of my friends recently wrote to me in an e-mail: “Al Gore has become a rock star: Oscar and Nobel Peace Prize nominations, selling out 10,000 tickets in 10 minutes for a global warming slide show in bright red Idaho, foreign capitols taking his lead reversing policy related to climate change, mega-corporations like Wal-Mart and General Electric changing the way they do business simply because Al Gore has been so successful shining a light on the impending catastrophic consequences of global warming. The list goes on and on. Al Gore is on fire!”

No, he’s actually liberated from the politics that once sunk his chances of becoming our commander in chief.

With so many other qualified people running, Gore’s decision or lack thereof may hinge on whether there is an appetite for someone who isn’t a “new face,” who is ready to take America in a completely different direction and to transform the way we fight the war on terror.

I understand if Gore is unwilling to get back in the fray and distract himself from an international campaign on the threat of global warming. I understand if all he wants is to come to Capitol Hill on March 21 to put more pressure on Congress to act. And I understand if he decides to just wake up each day with his wife, Tipper, at his side and spend his free time with the grandchildren.

After serving his country in Vietnam, on Capitol Hill and in the White House, Gore has earned the right to do just about anything, including passing up a chance to become the next president of the United States.

I am sure Gore will continue to close the door on running in 2008, but what if someone opens a window? If the current contenders continue to pander and play the old politics of yesterday, the opportunity for a late entry may yet present itself on the road to the White House.

Donna Brazile, the campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000, runs her own grass-roots political consulting firm.

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