Al Gore, "Evangelist for the World"
Political profiler Leibovich tends to glorify Democrats (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) while excoriating Republicans (Rep. James Sensenbrenner), typically with a hint of cheek that stands out in the Times' staid news pages.
Today's Gore piece is no different. "The last time Al Gore appeared publicly inside the United States Capitol, he was certifying the Electoral College victory of George W. Bush. He returns on Wednesday, a heartbreak loser turned Oscar boasting Nobel hopeful globe trotting multimillionaire pop culture eminence....Almost everywhere he goes these days, Mr. Gore is met with the fuss of a statesman. His hair is slicked back in a way that accentuates the new fullness of his face. At the hotel, Mr. Gore's perma-smile folded his narrow eyes into slits as he milled his way into a ballroom. Afterward, he accepted his customary standing ovation, slipped out a back door and into the back of a Lincoln Town Car, looking almost presidential.
"In a brief phone interview Tuesday night, Mr. Gore said he was eager to appear before the House and Senate on Wednesday, even though he has turned down invitations in the past. There is, he said, 'an unwritten tradition' that former presidents and vice presidents testify only rarely before Congress. He accepted this time in light of the Democratic takeover and what he calls 'a new determination to deal with this issue,' referring to climate change.
"'Mother Nature is a powerful witness and has been sending some pretty powerful messages that people are hearing,' Mr. Gore said.
"And he repeated that he 'has no plans' to run for president.
"Not that that will stop anyone from speculating, or hoping. 'I don't think he's shut the door on it either,' said Laurie David, the producer of "An Inconvenient Truth," the Oscar-winning documentary on global warming starring Mr. Gore, 'although that might just be wishful thinking on my part.'
"The prospect of another Gore campaign provides grist for critics to impugn his motives. 'He feels that global warming is his ticket to the White House,' said Mr. Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works.
"Friends say Mr. Gore is content to be an evangelist for the world rather than a candidate for office. Hassan Nemazee, a Gore fund-raiser in 2000 and a friend of Mr. Gore and his wife, Tipper, was host of a dinner for them last fall, and recalled that Mr. Gore expressed his disdain for the 'tomfoolery of politics' - the endless fund-raising, the repetitive glad-handing, the sniping among operatives.'"
The Times concluded with fond wishes for a future Gore presidency:
"Friends say it will be a momentous return to Capitol Hill for Mr. Gore, who spent 16 years here as a lawmaker.
"'Al Gore always wanted to be accepted as a substantive person rather than a political person,' said Tony Coelho, a former Democratic congressman who served as chairman of Mr. Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. Like many other people who have spent time with Mr. Gore, Mr. Coelho said he would make a good president. 'His difficulty has always been being a candidate for president,' he said.
"There are still Democrats who hold Mr. Gore responsible for losing the 2000 election, and the 2008 field is already crowded. But if he were to decide to run again, Mr. Gore's fame, network of donors and wealth would allow him to enter the presidential race late, political strategists say.
"'Al Gore has become a prophet on a major issue and has become a very large global figure,' said Robert M. Shrum, a Democratic political consultant who was a senior adviser to Mr. Gore in 2000. 'But he would have to decide if he wants to be a prophet or wants to try to be president.'"