Boston, Mass–If Al Gore had matched his pitch to the moment as perfectly in 2000 as he did tonight, he would be running for reelection today. Everyone had wondered which Al Gore would show up: the New Democrat of his Senate career, the populist of convention 2000, the gracious statesman of the December 2000 concession speech, or the bitter left-winger of 2003. We got a little bit of all of the above, in a pretty effective combination.
Gore had to deal with the aftermath of the 2000 election. Somehow, he managed to present the legitimate and not-so-legitimate grievances of the Democrats without sounding bitter. He also dealt with his much-discussed split with Clinton in a way that should bury it for Democratic voters. If it is true that Kerry’s aides forced Gore to rewrite his speech and are thus responsible for its tone, they did him a favor.
The long list of rhetorical questions he presented to Republicans was effective because the format allowed him to avoid spelling out his argument in detail. “Regardless of your opinion at the beginning of this war, isn’t it now obvious that the way the war has been managed by the administration has gotten us into very serious trouble?” If he made that into a statement–”the way this administration has managed the war has gotten us into very serious trouble”–the listener would expect at least a sentence or two explaining how the war has been mismanaged or going into the specifics of that trouble.
Gore also asked, “Are you worried that our environmental laws are being weakened and dismantled to allow vast increases in pollution that are contributing to a global climate crisis?” That’s the sort of hyperbolic, indeed essentially inaccurate, charge that a Republican would never be allowed to get away with. Nobody, of course, will call Gore on it.