Unlike Trent Lott, Al Gore saw the handwriting on the wall.
The former vice president pulled out of the 2004 Presidential sweepstakes Sunday, using an interview on 60 Minutes to announce he is not running for the White House in two years and probably never will again.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing for me to do,” Gore said on the television program, adding a rematch with President Bush “would inevitably involve a focus on the past that would in some measure distract from the focus on the future that I think all campaigns have to be about.”
Good move. If there is anything Al Gore doesn’t want, it’s a focus on the past.
The past includes one loss already to George W. Bush (electorially, that is. He did win the popular vote). The past includes a laughable number of attempts to remake his image.
Although he is in the midst of yet another reinvention of himself with new jokes and an appearance on Saturday Night Live, Al Gore can never escape his past.
He can’t escape serving as Vice President to the most scandal-scarred President in modern times. He can’t escape continuing to make excuses for an unrepentant misogynist who placed his uncontrollable lust above national security, lied to the American people, lied under oath to a federal grand jury, used the full power of the White House to try and destroy his enemies and did just about everything else he could to subvert the very Constitution he vowed to uphold.
Try as he might, Gore could never escape the stench of eight years around Bill Clinton. No number of remakes could wash off the stain.
And Gore could not escape his unbridled liberalism, a record of extremist stands out of touch with the American mainstream.
Gore wants to rid the planet of cars, a view he often espouses in articles and books. He considers anything that burns fossil fuel to be an enemy of the environment. Environmental extremists don’t give a damn about reality and Gore could never shake his extremist past.
He thinks the government should take care of everybody from the cradle to the grave, no matter what it costs. Individualism? Outdated he says. Personal responsibility? Unnecessary, he scoffs. The government should be responsible for everyone.
But more than anything else, Gore – for all his public goofiness – is pragmatic. He can read polls. He can see political trends. Both say he could not beat George W. Bush in a rematch.
And a lot of Democrats didn’t want to see him try. They’re not sure yet what it will take to beat Bush, but they’re sure it ain’t Al Gore.
“There are a lot of people within the Democratic Party who felt exhausted (by the 2000 election),” Gore said. “There are those who felt like, OK, ‘I don’t want to go through that again.’ And I’m frankly sensitive to that feeling.”
This is called reading the handwriting on the wall.
It’s also called knowing when it’s over.
Or getting out while the getting is good.
Trent Lott should be taking notes.