I really did mean every word in my tribute earlier today to former Vice President Al Gore. Emails from campaigns, Senate and House press operations, the White House, NGOs, and even some in corporate America have been streaming into my email box congratulating him. I can’t imagine what Gore’s own email inbox looks like.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign site posted a big banner here:
But Jim Lobe called today and asked what the political implications of the Gore Nobel Peace Prize win (shared win, of course) are. I gave him an earful of thoughts — but the thing most folks have not thought about is what tension this creates for the next President of the United States.
Here is Lobe’s article “Candidate Gore a Long Shot, Despite Nobel” that does grab a quote of mine:
Moreover, the growing conviction among political pros that Clinton, whose steadily growing lead in both money-raising and the polls, has all but wrapped up the Democratic nomination, if not next November’s general election, also works against a Gore bid.
“If he challenged her at this point,” said Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation, “he knows he risks losing Hillary’s support for crucial climate change initiatives if she becomes president. The fact that he owns the global climate change franchise will already make it difficult for the Clinton political franchise to find compelling reasons to adopt the issue as its own. It’s a delicate relationship.”
I think that Al Gore has just become the Ray Kroc of Climate Change initiatives.
Gore’s win seals the deal that he owns the global climate change franchise. Everyone big in this game — from firms, to NGOs, to governments — will need the Al Gore seal of approval on whether some initiatives are good or bad. That’s going to be interesting. Al Gore is going to be an NGO of his very own, and he’s probably going to have to get a sticker machine so that stuff he likes can bear his seal of approval.
But there is a bigger, more complicated and admittedly cynical dimension to the Gore win.
It keeps climate change policy from being something that anyone else can take a lot of credit for, particularly the Clintons — unless they can work out a deal.
Recently, some of this drama bubbled just beneath the surface at the recent Clinton Global Initiative in New York. A major new climate change initiative was announced at CGI by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and some other NGOs that had packaged their efforts as the “One Sky” initiative. Bill Clinton announced the commitment of the funders to the effort.
But some of the financial backers were concerned that if Gore was not part of the CGI discussion on climate change — that there would eventually be a feud between the Gores and the Clintons about the credit for these types of efforts.
In the end, Al Gore was on stage with Bill Clinton, Bob Zoellick, Angelina Jolie, Desmond Tutu and others in the opening session of the CGI. That was good. It held together a fragile truce among the rival Clinton and Gore franchises.
But the future will be interesting to see. Gore actually has a huge global following now on climage change policy — and Hillary Clinton, if elected, is going to need his approval and support, though it’s going to be painful (on occasion) for her to ask for it. Gore’s not the easiest guy in the world to work with.
But at the same time, Gore knows he needs a strategic, capable thinker who can push forward hard-to-digest legislative imperatives in the White House — and if he’s not in favor with Hillary Clinton (if she’s got the keys to 1600), then his efforts are going to significantly suffer.
She may not get all of the credit that her administration will want, or perhaps even deserve, in a climate change effort — but she’ll have to stroke the Gore machine to get a mutually beneficial arrangement that is somewhat win-win for both sides politically.
It’s going to be an interesting and creative tension to watch play out.
— Steve Clemons