Politics not his game, Gore says

Times Staff Writer

Like an actor polished by constant interviews on a marathon movie junket, vice president turned Hollywood darling Al Gore has mastered the art of (not) answering the most obvious question: Is he running for president in 2008?

“I’m not trying to be coy or glib in any way,” he says coyly during an interview this week in Beverly Hills. “I have no plans or intentions or expectations of running.”

Really? Are you sure? You mean you’ll never run again? Laurie David will become your adopted child if you do.


He laughs and goes with the thought.

“Well, when you put it that way, I haven’t completely ruled out the possibility of thinking about it sometime in the future, but I don’t expect to,” he says, obviously spoofing all the answers he’s given on the subject in recent weeks.

Oh, so you’re saying maybe you’ll think about maybe doing it? You haven’t ruled it out?

“I have no desire to slam the door shut, nor any particular reason to make a Sherman-esque statement [“If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve”] 500 days before an election. It’s pointless.”

So, why decide now?

He laughs: “Why indeed?”

Clearly, the remaining Arctic and Antarctic ice could shrink to fill a cocktail shaker before even the most skilled forensic psychologist (or screenwriter) figures out exactly how Gore is leaning on this matter.

This much is evident: The man who spends most of his life these days warning about dire events looming in humanity’s future is, in fact, living in the moment politically.

“Al has made a very smart choice in not entering the fray and waiting to see what happens,” says longtime Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman. “We haven’t seen how things are going to play out with the current candidates.

“I honestly believe he hasn’t made up his mind.”

If Gore does enter the race, Bragman says, he’ll have endless fundraising opportunities in Hollywood, no matter how far along in the electoral script he might make an entrance.


“They gave the guy an Oscar, after all,” Bragman says, referring to the best documentary award given to “An Inconvenient Truth.” “He’s not only adored in Hollywood as a politician but also as a member of the community, as a filmmaker. He can marshal support from all the power players.”

A man at ease

On a breezy afternoon, Gore sits in a courtyard at the Four Seasons sipping -- what else? -- Diet Coke. (He drank so much of it during the making of “An Inconvenient Truth,” a film based on his lectures about global warming, that film editors had to edit the ever-present soda cans out of scenes for fear of product endorsement.)

If he was relaxed last year during an interview in New York, before the release of his documentary, he’s even more so now -- a man completely at home in his role of eco-Cassandra.

He’s been hailed as a hero by the celebrity glitterati. Reporters were asking who made his tux as he strolled down the red carpet at the Oscars. (It was Ralph Lauren Purple Label.) He was a presenter on the Grammys; he’s been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize; he’s scheduled to headline the seven-continent Live Earth concerts in July to raise awareness about the threat of climate change.

And this week he began a national tour to promote his new book, “The Assault on Reason,” a volume harshly critical of President George W. Bush and the White House for deceiving the American people in the run-up to the war in Iraq. Gore calls it “the worst strategic mistake in the whole history of the United States,” and he worries that a deterioration of American democracy is to blame.

Gore, in a way rare even among media-savvy politicians, has managed to connect with people by using almost every means of communication available: speeches, cinema, television, cable networks, books, DVDs, iPods, computers.


“I’d skydive over the Rose Bowl with a streamer if someone told me it would work,” he says.

Of course, all this has spawned a cultlike following for the man who lost the 2000 presidential election to Bush in the electoral college, despite winning the popular vote.

A sold-out crowd, some of them wearing “Gore 2008” buttons and holding signs that read “Re-elect Gore 2008,” attended the discussion and book signing Tuesday night at the Wilshire Theatre. For an hour and a half, Gore joked and chatted with on-stage host Harry Shearer.

When asked about the timing of the book’s release, the crowd broke into applause and cheers. They chanted “run, run, run.”

Gore smiled, and then tried to change the subject.

Privately, it’s obvious that Gore isn’t over the sting of the 2000 election. The prospect of another national political campaign genuinely confounds him.

“I don’t think I’m particularity good at politics,” he confessed in the interview at the Four Seasons. “There are a lot of things about politics as it currently exists that I don’t think I’m necessarily very skilled at.


“I’m not being falsely self-critical. I just find that I have less patience and tolerance for the contrivances and artifices that seem to succeed in the current political environment. The balance has shifted in American politics to reward an emphasis on means rather than ends, toward manipulation rather than reasoned discussion.”

He wonders if the politics of reason faces a “headwind” in the current political culture.

“I’m under no illusion there is any position in the world with as much potential to change the course of events as the president of the United States,” he says. “I don’t misunderstand that. But that’s not the same as concluding that that’s the best way for me personally.”