Albert Arnold “Al” Gore, Jr. (born March 31, 1948) is an American politician and environmentalist who served as the 45th Vice President of the United States from 1993 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton. Chosen as Clinton’s running mate in their successful 1992 campaign, he was reelected in 1996. At the end of Clinton’s second term, Gore was the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 2000. After leaving office, Gore remained prominent as an author and environmental activist, whose work in climate change activism earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
Gore was an elected official for 24 years. He was a Congressman from Tennessee (1977-85) and from 1985 to 1993 served as one of the state’s Senators. He served as Vice President during the Clinton administration from 1993 to 2001. In the 2000 presidential election, in what was one of the closest presidential races in history, Gore won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College to Republican George W. Bush. A controversial election dispute over a vote recount in Florida was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in favor of Bush.
Gore is the founder and current chair of the Alliance for Climate Protection, the co-founder and chair of Generation Investment Management and the now-defunct Current TV network, a member of the Board of Directors of Apple Inc., and a senior adviser to Google. Gore is also a partner in the venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, heading its climate change solutions group. He has served as a visiting professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Fisk University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. He served on the Board of Directors of World Resources Institute.
Gore has received a number of awards including the Nobel Peace Prize (joint award with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007), a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album (2009) for his book An Inconvenient Truth, a Primetime Emmy Award for Current TV (2007), and a Webby Award (2005). Gore was also the subject of the Academy Award-winning (2007) documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. In 2007 he was named a runner-up for Time’s 2007 Person of the Year.
Early life and education
Gore was born in Washington, D.C., the second of two children of Albert Gore, Sr., a U.S. Representative who later served as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee, and Pauline (LaFon) Gore, one of the first women to graduate from Vanderbilt University Law School. Gore is partly descended from Scots-Irish immigrants who first settled in Virginia in the mid-17th-century, and moved to Tennessee after the Revolutionary War. His older sister Nancy LaFon Gore, who was born in 1938, died of lung cancer in 1984.
During the school year he lived with his family in The Fairfax Hotel in the Embassy Row section in Washington D.C. During the summer months, he worked on the family farm in Carthage, Tennessee, where the Gores grew tobacco and hay and raised cattle.
Gore attended the all-boys St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. from 1956 to 1965, a prestigious feeder school for the Ivy League. He was the captain of the football team, threw discus for the track and field team, and participated in basketball, art, and government. He graduated 25th in his class of 51, applied to only one college, Harvard, and was accepted.
Gore met Mary Elizabeth “Tipper” Aitcheson from the nearby St. Agnes School at his St. Albans senior prom in 1965. Tipper followed Gore to Boston to attend college; and on May 19, 1970, shortly after Tipper graduated from Boston University, they married at the Washington National Cathedral.
They have four children–Karenna Gore Schiff (b. 1973), Kristin Carlson Gore (b. 1977), Sarah LaFon Gore (b. 1979), and Albert Arnold Gore III (b. 1982).
In early June 2010, shortly after purchasing a new home, the Gores announced in an e-mail to friends that after “long and careful consideration”, they had made a mutual decision to separate.
Gore enrolled in Harvard College in 1965, initially planning to major in English and write novels but later deciding to major in government. On his second day on campus, he began campaigning for the freshman student government council and was elected its president.
Although he was an avid reader who fell in love with scientific and mathematical theories, he did not do well in science classes in college and avoided taking math. His grades during his first two years put him in the lower one-fifth of the class. During his sophomore year, he reportedly spent much of his time watching television, shooting pool, and occasionally smoking marijuana. In his junior and senior years, he became more involved with his studies, earning As and Bs. In his senior year, he took a class with oceanographer and global warming theorist Roger Revelle, who sparked Gore’s interest in global warming and other environmental issues. Gore earned an A on his thesis, “The Impact of Television on the Conduct of the Presidency, 1947-1969”, and graduated with an A.B. cum laude in June 1969.
Gore attended college during the era of anti-Vietnam War protests. Though he was against that war, he disagreed with the tactics of the student protest movement, thinking it silly and juvenile to take anger at the war out on a private university. He and his friends did not participate in Harvard demonstrations. John Tyson, a former roommate, recalled that “We distrusted these movements a lot …. We were a pretty traditional bunch of guys, positive for civil rights and women’s rights but formal, transformed by the social revolution to some extent but not buying into something we considered detrimental to our country.” Gore helped his father write an anti-war address to the Democratic National Convention of 1968 but stayed with his parents in their hotel room during the violent protests.
Vanderbilt and journalism
Gore was “dispirited” after his return from Vietnam. NashvillePost.com noted that, “his father’s defeat made service in a conflict he deeply opposed even more abhorrent to Gore. His experiences in the war zone don’t seem to have been deeply traumatic in themselves; although the engineers were sometimes fired upon, Gore has said he didn’t see full-scale combat. Still, he felt that his participation in the war was wrong.”
Although his parents wanted him to go to law school, Gore first attended Vanderbilt University Divinity School (1971-72) on a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship for people planning secular careers. He later said he went there in order to explore “spiritual issues”, and that “he had hoped to make sense of the social injustices that seemed to challenge his religious beliefs.”
In 1971, Gore also began to work the night shift for The Tennessean as an investigative reporter. His investigations of corruption among members of Nashville’s Metro Council resulted in the arrest and prosecution of two councilmen for separate offenses.
In 1974, he took a leave of absence from The Tennessean to attend Vanderbilt University Law School. His decision to become an attorney was a partial result of his time as a journalist, as he realized that, while he could expose corruption, he could not change it. Gore did not complete law school, deciding abruptly, in 1976, to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives when he found out that his father’s former seat in the House was about to be vacated.
When Gore graduated in 1969, his student deferment ended and he immediately became eligible for the military draft. His father, a vocal anti-Vietnam War critic, was facing a reelection in 1970. Gore eventually decided that the best way he could contribute to the anti-war effort was to enlist in the Army, which would improve his father’s reelection prospects. Although nearly all of his Harvard classmates avoided the draft and service in Vietnam, Gore believed if he found a way around military service, he would be handing an issue to his father’s Republican opponent. According to Gore’s Senate biography, “He appeared in uniform in his father’s campaign commercials, one of which ended with his father advising: ‘Son, always love your country.’ Despite this, Gore Sr. lost the election.
Gore has said that his other reason for enlisting was that he did not want someone with fewer options than he to go in his place. Actor Tommy Lee Jones, a former college housemate, recalled Gore saying that “if he found a fancy way of not going, someone else would have to go in his place.” His Harvard advisor, Richard Neustadt, also stated that Gore decided, “that he would have to go as an enlisted man because, he said, ‘In Tennessee, that’s what most people have to do.'” In addition, Michael Roche, Gore’s editor for The Castle Courier, stated that “anybody who knew Al Gore in Vietnam knows he could have sat on his butt and he didn’t.”
After enlisting in August 1969, Gore returned to the anti-war Harvard campus in his military uniform to say goodbye to his adviser and was “jeered” at by students. He later said he was astonished by the “emotional field of negativity and disapproval and piercing glances that … certainly felt like real hatred”.
Gore had basic training at Fort Dix from August to October, and then was assigned to be a journalist at Fort Rucker, Alabama. In April 1970, he was “Soldier of the Month”.
His orders to be sent to Vietnam were “held up” for some time and he suspected that this was due to a fear by the Nixon administration that if something happened to him, his father would gain sympathy votes. He was finally shipped to Vietnam on January 2, 1971, after his father had lost his seat in the Senate during the 1970 Senate election, becoming one “of only about a dozen of the 1,115 Harvard graduates in the Class of ’69 who went to Vietnam.” Gore was stationed with the 20th Engineer Brigade in Bien Hoa and was a journalist with The Castle Courier. He received an honorable discharge from the Army in May 1971.
Of his time in the Army, Gore later stated, “I didn’t do the most, or run the gravest danger. But I was proud to wear my country’s uniform.” He also later stated that his experience in Vietnam “didn’t change my conclusions about the war being a terrible mistake, but it struck me that opponents to the war, including myself, really did not take into account the fact that there were an awful lot of South Vietnamese who desperately wanted to hang on to what they called freedom. Coming face to face with those sentiments expressed by people who did the laundry and ran the restaurants and worked in the fields was something I was naively unprepared for.”
House and Senate
At the end of February 1976, U.S. Representative Joe L. Evins unexpectedly announced his retirement from Congress, making the Tennessee’s 4th congressional district seat, to which he had succeeded Albert Gore Sr. in 1953 open. Within hours after The Tennessean publisher John Seigenthaler, Sr., called him to tell him the announcement was forthcoming, Gore decided to quit law school and run for the House of Representatives:
- Gore’s abrupt decision to run for the open seat surprised even himself; he later said that ‘I didn’t realize myself I had been pulled back so much to it.’ The news came as a ‘bombshell’ to his wife. Tipper Gore held a job in The Tennessean’s photo lab and was working on a master’s degree in psychology, but she joined in her husband’s campaign (with assurance that she could get her job at the Tennessean back if he lost). By contrast, Gore asked his father to stay out of his campaign: “I must become my own man,’ he explained. ‘I must not be your candidate.”
Gore won the 1976 Democratic primary for the district with “32 percent of the vote, three percentage points more than his nearest rival”, and was opposed only by an independent candidate in the election, recording 94 percent of the overall vote. He went on to win the next three elections, in 1978, 1980, and 1982, where “he was unopposed twice and won 79 percent of the vote the other time.” In 1984, Gore successfully ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate, which had been vacated by Republican Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker. He was “unopposed in the Democratic Senatorial primary and won the general election going away”, despite the fact that Republican President Ronald Reagan swept Tennessee in his reelection campaign the same year.
During his time in Congress, Gore was considered a “moderate” (he referred to himself as a “raging moderate”) opposing federal funding of abortion, voting in favor of a bill which supported a moment in silence in schools, and voting against a ban on interstate sales of guns. In 1981, Gore was quoted as saying with regard to homosexuality, “I think it is wrong”, and “I don’t pretend to understand it, but it is not just another normal optional life style.” In his 1984 Senate race, Gore said when discussing homosexuality, “I do not believe it is simply an acceptable alternative that society should affirm.” He also said that he would not take campaign funds from gay rights groups. Although he maintained a position against homosexuality and gay marriage in the 1980s, Gore said in 2008 that he thinks “gay men and women ought to have the same rights as heterosexual men and women…to join together in marriage.” His position as a moderate (and on policies related to that label) shifted later in life after he became Vice President and ran for president in 2000.
During his time in the House, Gore sat on the Energy and Commerce and the Science and Technology committees, chairing the Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for four years. He also sat on the House Intelligence Committee and, in 1982, introduced the Gore Plan for arms control, to “reduce chances of a nuclear first strike by cutting multiple warheads and deploying single-warhead mobile launchers.” While in the Senate, he sat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Rules and Administration, and the Armed Services Committees. In 1991, Gore was one of ten Democrats who supported the Gulf War.
Gore was one of the Atari Democrats, who were given this name due to their “passion for technological issues, from biomedical research and genetic engineering to the environmental impact of the “greenhouse effect.” On March 19, 1979, he became the first member of Congress to appear on C-SPAN. During this time, Gore co-chaired the Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future with Newt Gingrich. In addition, he has been described as having been a “genuine nerd, with a geek reputation running back to his days as a futurist Atari Democrat in the House. Before computers were comprehensible, let alone sexy, the poker-faced Gore struggled to explain artificial intelligence and fiber-optic networks to sleepy colleagues.” Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn noted that,
as far back as the 1970s, Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high-speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship […] the Internet, as we know it today, was not deployed until 1983. When the Internet was still in the early stages of its deployment, Congressman Gore provided intellectual leadership by helping create the vision of the potential benefits of high speed computing and communication.
Second presidential run (2000)
There was talk of a potential run in the 2000 presidential race by Gore as early as January 1998. Gore discussed the possibility of running during a March 9, 1999 interview with CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. In response to Wolf Blitzer’s question: “Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination process, support you instead of Bill Bradley”, Gore responded:
- I’ll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be. But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I’ve traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.
Former UCLA professor of information studies Philip E. Agre and journalist Eric Boehlert argued that three articles in Wired News led to the creation of the widely spread urban legend that Gore claimed to have “invented the Internet”, which followed this interview. In addition, computer professionals and congressional colleagues argued in his defense. Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn stated that “we don’t think, as some people have argued, that Gore intended to claim he ‘invented’ the Internet. Moreover, there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore’s initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving Internet.” Cerf would later state: “Al Gore had seen what happened with the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956, which his father introduced as a military bill. It was very powerful. Housing went up, suburban boom happened, everybody became mobile. Al was attuned to the power of networking much more than any of his elective colleagues. His initiatives led directly to the commercialization of the Internet. So he really does deserve credit.” In a speech to the American Political Science Association, former Republican Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich also stated: “In all fairness, it’s something Gore had worked on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is — and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a “futures group”–the fact is, in the Clinton administration, the world we had talked about in the ’80s began to actually happen.” Finally, Wolf Blitzer (who conducted the original 1999 interview) stated in 2008 that: “I didn’t ask him about the Internet. I asked him about the differences he had with Bill Bradley […] Honestly, at the time, when he said it, it didn’t dawn on me that this was going to have the impact that it wound up having, because it was distorted to a certain degree and people said they took what he said, which was a carefully phrased comment about taking the initiative and creating the Internet to–I invented the Internet. And that was the sort of shorthand, the way his enemies projected it and it wound up being a devastating setback to him and it hurt him, as I’m sure he acknowledges to this very day.”
Gore himself would later poke fun at the controversy. In 2000, while on the Late Show with David Letterman he read Letterman’s Top 10 List (which for this show was called, “Top Ten Rejected Gore – Lieberman Campaign Slogans”) to the audience. Number nine on the list was: “Remember, America, I gave you the Internet, and I can take it away!” In 2005 when Gore was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award “for three decades of contributions to the Internet” at the Webby Awards he joked in his acceptance speech (limited to five words according to Webby Awards rules): “Please don’t recount this vote.” He was introduced by Vint Cerf who used the same format to joke: “We all invented the Internet.” Gore, who was then asked to add a few more words to his speech, stated: “It is time to reinvent the Internet for all of us to make it more robust and much more accessible and use it to reinvigorate our democracy.”
Gore formally announced his candidacy for president in a speech on June 16, 1999, in Carthage, Tennessee, with his major theme being the need to strengthen the American family. He was introduced by his eldest daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff. In making the speech, Gore also distanced himself from Bill Clinton, whom he stated had lied to him. Gore was “briefly interrupted” by AIDS protesters claiming Gore was working with the pharmaceutical industry to prevent access to generic medicines for poor nations and chanting “Gore’s greed kills.” Additional speeches were also interrupted by the protesters. Gore responded, “I love this country. I love the First Amendment […] Let me say in response to those who may have chosen an inappropriate way to make their point, that actually the crisis of AIDS in Africa is one that should command the attention of people in the United States and around the world.” Gore also issued a statement saying that he supported efforts to lower the cost of the AIDS drugs, provided that they “are done in a way consistent with international agreements.”
Gore faced an early challenge by former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley. Bradley was the only candidate to oppose Gore and was considered a “fresh face” for the White House. Gore challenged Bradley to a series of debates which took the form of “town hall” meetings. Gore went on the offensive during these debates leading to a drop in the polls for Bradley. Gore eventually went on to win every primary and caucus and, in March 2000 even won the first primary election ever held over the Internet, the Arizona Presidential Primary. By then, he secured the Democratic nomination.
On August 13, 2000, Gore announced that he had selected Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut as his vice presidential running mate. Lieberman became “the first person of the Jewish faith to run for the nation’s second-highest office.” Many pundits saw Gore’s choice of Lieberman as further distancing him from the scandals of the Clinton White House. Gore’s daughter, Karenna, together with her father’s former Harvard roommate Tommy Lee Jones, officially nominated Gore as the Democratic presidential candidate during the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, California. Gore accepted his party’s nomination and spoke about the major themes of his campaign, stating in particular his plan to extend Medicare to pay for prescription drugs and to work for a sensible universal health-care system. Soon after the convention, Gore hit the campaign trail with running mate Joe Lieberman. Gore and Bush were deadlocked in the polls. Gore and Bush participated in three televised debates. While both sides claimed victory after each, Gore was critiqued as either too stiff, too reticent, or too aggressive in contrast to Bush.
On election night, news networks first called Florida for Gore, later retracted the projection, and then called Florida for Bush, before finally retracting that projection as well. Florida’s Republican Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, eventually certified Florida’s vote count. This led to the Florida election recount, a move to further examine the Florida results.
The Florida recount was stopped a few weeks later by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the ruling, Bush v. Gore, the Justices held that the Florida recount was unconstitutional and that no constitutionally valid recount could be completed by the December 12 deadline, effectively ending the recounts. This 7-2 vote ruled that the standards the Florida Supreme Court provided for a recount were unconstitutional due to violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and further ruled 5-4 that no constitutionally valid recount could be completed by the December 12 deadline. This case ordered an end to recounting underway in selected Florida counties, effectively giving George W. Bush a 537 vote victory in Florida and consequently Florida’s 25 electoral votes and the presidency. The results of the decision led to Gore winning the popular vote by approximately 500,000 votes nationwide, but receiving 266 electoral votes to Bush’s 271 (one District of Columbia elector abstained). On December 13, 2000, Gore conceded the election. Gore strongly disagreed with the Court’s decision, but in his concession speech stated that, “for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”
Al Gore served as Vice President during the Clinton Administration. Gore was initially hesitant to accept a position as Bill Clinton’s running mate for the 1992 United States presidential election, but after clashing with the George H. W. Bush administration over global warming issues, he decided to accept the offer. Clinton stated that he chose Gore due to his foreign policy experience, work with the environment, and commitment to his family.
Clinton’s choice was criticized as unconventional because rather than picking a running mate who would diversify the ticket, Clinton chose a fellow Southerner who shared his political ideologies and who was nearly the same age as Clinton. The Washington Bureau Chief for The Baltimore Sun, Paul West, later suggested that, “Al Gore revolutionized the way Vice Presidents are made. When he joined Bill Clinton’s ticket, it violated the old rules. Regional diversity? Not with two Southerners from neighboring states. Ideological balance? A couple of left-of-center moderates. […] And yet, Gore has come to be regarded by strategists in both parties as the best vice presidential pick in at least 20 years.”
Clinton and Gore accepted the nomination at the Democratic National Convention on July 17, 1992. Known as the Baby Boomer Ticket and the Fortysomething Team, The New York Times noted that if elected, Clinton and Gore, at ages 45 and 44 respectively, would be the “youngest team to make it to the White House in the country’s history.” Theirs was the first ticket since 1972 to try to capture the youth vote. Gore called the ticket “a new generation of leadership”.
The ticket increased in popularity after the candidates traveled with their wives, Hillary and Tipper, on a “six-day, 1,000-mile bus ride, from New York to St. Louis.” Gore also successfully debated the other vice presidential candidates, Dan Quayle, and James Stockdale. The Clinton-Gore ticket beat the Bush-Quayle ticket, 43%-38%. Clinton and Gore were inaugurated on January 20, 1993 and were re-elected to a second term in the 1996 election.
At the beginning of the first term, Clinton and Gore developed a “two-page agreement outlining their relationship.” Clinton committed himself to regular lunch meetings, recognized Gore as a principal adviser on nominations, and appointed some of Gore’s chief advisers to key White House staff positions […] Clinton involved Gore in decision-making to an unprecedented degree for a Vice President. Through their weekly lunches and daily conversations, Gore became the president’s “indisputable chief adviser.”
Gore had a particular interest in reducing “waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government and advocated trimming the size of the bureaucracy and the number of regulations.” During the Clinton Administration, the U.S. economy expanded, according to David Greenberg (professor of history and media studies at Rutgers University) who said that “by the end of the Clinton presidency, the numbers were uniformly impressive. Besides the record-high surpluses and the record-low poverty rates, the economy could boast the longest economic expansion in history; the lowest unemployment since the early 1970s; and the lowest poverty rates for single mothers, black Americans, and the aged.”
According to Leslie Budd, author of E-economy: Rhetoric or Business Reality, this economic success was due, in part, to Gore’s continued role as an Atari Democrat, promoting the development of information technology, which led to the dot-com boom (c. 1995-2001). Clinton and Gore entered office planning to finance research that would “flood the economy with innovative goods and services, lifting the general level of prosperity and strengthening American industry.” Their overall aim was to fund the development of, “robotics, smart roads, biotechnology, machine tools, magnetic-levitation trains, fiber-optic communications and national computer networks. Also earmarked [were] a raft of basic technologies like digital imaging and data storage.” Critics claimed that the initiatives would “backfire, bloating Congressional pork and creating whole new categories of Federal waste.”
During the election and his term as Vice President, Gore popularized the term Information Superhighway, which became synonymous with the Internet, and he was involved in the creation of the National Information Infrastructure. Gore first discussed his plans to emphasize information technology at UCLA on January 11, 1994 in a speech at The Superhighway Summit. He was involved in a number of projects including NetDay’96 and 24 Hours in Cyberspace. The Clinton-Gore administration also launched the first official White House website in 1994 and subsequent versions through 2000. The Clipper Chip, which “Clinton inherited from a multi-year National Security Agency effort”, was a method of hardware encryption with a government backdoor. It met with strong opposition from civil liberty groups and was abandoned by 1996.
Gore was also involved in environmental initiatives. He launched the GLOBE program on Earth Day ’94, an education and science activity that, according to Forbes magazine, “made extensive use of the Internet to increase student awareness of their environment”. In 1998, Gore began promoting a NASA satellite (Deep Space Climate Observatory) that would provide a constant view of the Earth, marking the first time such an image would have been made since The Blue Marble photo from the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. During this time, he also became associated with Digital Earth.
Gore negotiated and strongly supported the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gasses, but said upon his return that the administration would not submit the treaty to the senate for ratification until it was amended to include “meaningful participation by key developing nations”, The Senate had previously passed unanimously (95-0) the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which declared opposition to any greenhouse gas treaty which would limit US emissions without similar limits on third-world countries such as China. The Clinton administration left office three years later without having submitted the treaty for ratification.
In 1996 Gore became involved in a finance controversy over his attendance at an event at the Buddhist Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, California. In an interview on NBC’s Today the following year, Gore said, “I did not know that it was a fund-raiser. I knew it was a political event, and I knew there were finance people that were going to be present, and so that alone should have told me, ‘This is inappropriate and this is a mistake; don’t do this.’ And I take responsibility for that. It was a mistake.” In March 1997, Gore had to explain phone calls which he made to solicit funds for the Democratic Party for the 1996 election. In a news conference, Gore stated that, “all calls that I made were charged to the Democratic National Committee. I was advised there was nothing wrong with that. My counsel tells me there is no controlling legal authority that says that is any violation of any law.” The phrase “no controlling legal authority” was criticized by columnist Charles Krauthammer, who stated: “Whatever other legacies Al Gore leaves behind between now and retirement, he forever bequeaths this newest weasel word to the lexicon of American political corruption.” Robert Conrad, Jr. was the head of a Justice Department task force appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate Gore’s fund-raising controversies. In Spring 2000, Conrad asked Reno to appoint an independent counsel to continue the investigation. After looking into the matter, Reno judged that the appointment of an independent counsel was unwarranted.
During the 1990s, Gore spoke out on a number of issues. In a 1992 speech on the Gulf War, Gore stated that he twice attempted to get the U.S. government to pull the plug on support to Saddam Hussein, citing Hussein’s use of poison gas, support of terrorism, and his burgeoning nuclear program, but was opposed both times by the Reagan and Bush administrations. In the wake of the Al-Anfal Campaign, during which Hussein staged deadly mustard and nerve gas attacks on Kurdish Iraqis, Gore cosponsored the Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988, which would have cut all assistance to Iraq. The bill was defeated in part due to intense lobbying of Congress by the Reagan-Bush White House and a veto threat from President Reagan. In 1998, at a conference of APEC hosted by Malaysia, Gore objected to the indictment, arrest and jailing of President Mahathir Mohammad’s longtime second-in-command Anwar Ibrahim, a move which received a negative response from leaders there. Ten years later, Gore again protested when Ibrahim was arrested a second time, a decision condemned by Malaysian foreign minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim.
Soon afterwards, Gore also had to contend with the Lewinsky scandal, involving an affair between President Clinton and an intern, Monica Lewinsky. Gore initially defended Clinton, whom he believed to be innocent, stating, “He is the president of the country! He is my friend […] I want to ask you now, every single one of you, to join me in supporting him.” After Clinton was impeached Gore continued to defend him stating, “I’ve defined my job in exactly the same way for six years now […] to do everything I can to help him be the best president possible.”
Criticism of Bush
Beginning in late 2002, Gore began to publicly criticize the Bush administration. In a September 23, 2002 speech given before the Commonwealth Club of California, Gore criticized President George W. Bush and Congress for the rush to war prior to the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq. He compared this decision to the Persian Gulf War (which Gore had voted for) stating, “Back in 1991, I was one of a handful of Democrats in the United States Senate to vote in favor of the resolution endorsing the Persian Gulf War […] But look at the differences between the resolution that was voted on in 1991 and the one this administration is proposing that the Congress vote on in 2002. The circumstances are really completely different. To review a few of them briefly: in 1991, Iraq had crossed an international border, invaded a neighboring sovereign nation and annexed its territory. Now by contrast in 2002, there has been no such invasion.” In a speech given in 2004, during the presidential election, Gore accused George W. Bush of betraying the country by using the 9/11 attacks as a justification for the invasion of Iraq. The next year, Gore gave a speech which covered many topics, including what he called “religious zealots” who claim special knowledge of God’s will in American politics. Gore stated: “They even claim that those of us who disagree with their point of view are waging war against people of faith.” After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Gore chartered two planes to evacuate 270 people from New Orleans and criticized the Bush administration’s response to the hurricane. In 2006, Gore criticized Bush’s use of domestic wiretaps without a warrant. One month later, in a speech given at the Jeddah Economic Forum, Gore criticized the treatment of Arabs in the U.S. after 9/11 stating, “Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it’s wrong […] I do want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country.” Gore’s 2007 book, The Assault on Reason, is an analysis of what Gore refers to as the “emptying out of the marketplace of ideas” in civic discourse during the Bush administration. He attributes this phenomenon to the influence of television and argues that it endangers American democracy. By contrast, Gore argues, the Internet can revitalize and ultimately “redeem the integrity of representative democracy.” In 2008, Gore argued against the ban of same-sex marriage on his Current TV website, stating, “I think that gay men and women ought to have the same rights as heterosexual men and women to make contracts, have hospital visiting rights, and join together in marriage.” In a 2009 interview with CNN, Gore commented on former Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticism of the Obama administration. Referring to his own previous criticism of the Bush administration, Gore stated: “I waited two years after I left office to make statements that were critical, and then of the policy […] You know, you talk about somebody that shouldn’t be talking about making the country less safe, invading a country that did not attack us and posed no serious threat to us at all.”
While Gore has criticized Bush for his Katrina response he has not spoken publicly about his part in the evacuation of 270 patients on September 3 & 4, 2005 from Charity Hospital in New Orleans to Tennessee. On September 1 Gore was contacted by Charity Hospital’s Neurosurgeon Dr. David Kline who had operated on his son Albert through Greg Simon of FasterCures. Kline informed Gore and Simon of the desperate conditions at the hospital and asked Gore and Simon to arrange relief. On Gore’s personal financial commitment two airlines each provided a plane with one flight latter underwritten by Larry Flax. The flights were flown by volunteer airline crews and medically staffed by Gore’s cousin, retired Col. Dar LaFon, and family physician Dr. Anderson Spickard and were accompanied by Gore and Albert III. Gore used his political influence to expedite landing rights in New Orleans.
Presidential run speculation
Gore was a speculated candidate for the 2004 Presidential Election (a bumper sticker, “Re-elect Gore in 2004!” was popular). On December 16, 2002, however, Gore announced that he would not run in 2004. Despite Gore taking himself out of the race, a handful of his supporters formed a national campaign to draft him into running. One observer concluded it was “Al Gore who has the best chance to defeat the incumbent president”, noting that “of the 43 Presidents, only three have been direct descendents of former Presidents:” John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush, that “all three won the office only after… anomalies in the Electoral College”, that the first two were defeated for re-election in a populist backlash, and finally that “the men who first lost to the presidential progeny and then beat them” (i.e. Andrew Jackson and Grover Cleveland) “each won a sort of immortality–having his image placed on a unit of US currency”, and that Gore should answer this call of history. The draft movement, however, failed to convince Gore to run.
The prospect of a Gore candidacy arose again between 2006 to early 2008 in light of the upcoming 2008 presidential election. Although Gore frequently stated that he had “no plans to run”, he did not reject the possibility of future involvement in politics which led to speculation that he might run. This was due in part to his increased popularity after the release of the 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The director of the film, Davis Guggenheim, stated that after the release of the film, “Everywhere I go with him, they treat him like a rock star.” After An Inconvenient Truth was nominated for an Academy Award, Donna Brazile (Gore’s campaign chairwoman from his 2000 campaign) speculated that Gore might announce a possible presidential candidacy during the Oscars. During the 79th Academy Awards ceremony, Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio shared the stage to speak about the “greening” of the ceremony itself. Gore began to give a speech that appeared to be leading up to an announcement that he would run for president. However, background music drowned him out and he was escorted offstage, implying that it was a rehearsed gag, which he later acknowledged. After An Inconvenient Truth won the Academy Award for Best Documentary, speculation increased about a possible presidential run. Gore’s popularity was indicated in polls which showed that even without running, he was coming in second or third among possible Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Grassroots draft campaigns also developed with the hope that they could encourage Gore to run. Gore, however, remained firm in his decision and declined to run for the presidency.
Interest in having Gore run for the 2016 Presidential election arose in 2014 and again in 2015, though Gore has not declared an intention to run.
Gore has been involved with environmental issues since 1976, when as a freshman congressman, he held the “first congressional hearings on the climate change, and co-sponsor[ed] hearings on toxic waste and global warming.” He continued to speak on the topic throughout the 1980s, and is still prevalent in the environmental community. He was known as one of the Atari Democrats, later called the “Democrats’ Greens, politicians who see issues like clean air, clean water and global warming as the key to future victories for their party.”
In 1990, Senator Gore presided over a three-day conference with legislators from over 42 countries which sought to create a Global Marshall Plan, “under which industrial nations would help less developed countries grow economically while still protecting the environment.” In the late 1990s, Gore strongly pushed for the passage of the Kyoto Protocol, which called for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. He was opposed by the Senate, which passed unanimously (95-0) the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States”.
In 2004 he co-launched Generation Investment Management, a company for which he serves as Chair. A few years later, Gore also founded The Alliance for Climate Protection, an organization which eventually founded the We Campaign. Gore also became a partner in the venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, heading that firm’s climate change solutions group. He also helped to organize the Live Earth benefit concerts.
In 2013, Gore went vegan. He had earlier admitted that “it’s absolutely correct that the growing meat intensity of diets across the world is one of the issues connected to this global crisis — not only because of the [carbon dioxide] involved, but also because of the water consumed in the process” and some speculate that his adoption of the new diet is related to his environmentalist stance. In a 2014 interview, Gore said “Over a year ago I changed my diet to a vegan diet, really just to experiment to see what it was like. … I felt better, so I’ve continued with it and I’m likely to continue it for the rest of my life.”
Gore’s involvement in environmental issues has been criticized. For example, he has been labeled a “carbon billionaire” and accused of profiting from his advocacy; a charge which he has denied, by saying, among other things, that he has not been “working on this issue for 30 years… because of greed”. A conservative Washington D.C. think tank, and a Republican member of Congress, among others, have claimed that Gore has a conflict-of-interest for advocating for taxpayer subsidies of green-energy technologies in which he has a personal investment. Additionally, he has been criticized for his above-average energy consumption in using private jets, and in owning multiple, very large homes, one of which was reported in 2007 as using high amounts of electricity. Gore’s spokesperson responded by stating that the Gores use renewable energy which is more expensive than regular energy and that the Tennessee house in question has been retrofitted to make it more energy-efficient.
Data in An Inconvenient Truth have been questioned. In a 2007 court case, a British judge said that while he had “no doubt …the film was broadly accurate” and its “four main scientific hypotheses …are supported by a vast quantity of research”, he upheld nine of a “long schedule” of alleged errors presented to the court. He ruled that the film could be shown to schoolchildren in the UK if guidance notes given to teachers were amended to balance out the film’s one-sided political views. Gore’s spokeswoman responded in 2007 that the court had upheld the film’s fundamental thesis and its use as an educational tool. In 2009, an interviewer asked Gore about the British court challenge and the nine “errors”, and Gore responded, “the ruling was in my favor.”
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Gore was criticized for his involvement in asking the EPA for less strict pollution controls for the Pigeon River.
Organizations including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) criticized Gore for not advocating vegetarianism as a way for individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. Gore agreed that meat production contributes to increased carbon emissions, but did not want to “go quite as far as … saying everybody should become a vegetarian”. He said that although he was not a vegetarian, he had “cut back sharply” on his consumption of meat.
When asked by Bjørn Lomborg to debate whether spending on health and education should take priority over limiting carbon emissions, Gore responded that he would not debate because the “scientific community has gone through this chapter and verse. We have long since passed the time when we should pretend this is a ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’ issue . . . . It’s not a matter of theory or conjecture.”
Involvement in presidential campaigns
After announcing he would not run in the 2004 U.S. presidential election, Gore endorsed Vermont governor Howard Dean in December 2003, weeks before the first primary of the election cycle. He was criticized for this endorsement by eight Democratic contenders particularly since he did not endorse his former running mate Joe Lieberman (Gore preferred Dean over Lieberman because Lieberman supported the Iraq War and Gore did not). Dean’s campaign soon became a target of attacks and eventually failed, with Gore’s early endorsement being credited as a factor. In The New York Times, Dean stated: “I actually do think the endorsement of Al Gore began the decline.” The Times further noted that “Dean instantly amplified his statement to indicate that the endorsement from Mr. Gore, a powerhouse of the establishment, so threatened the other Democratic candidates that they began the attacks on his candidacy that helped derail it.” Dean’s former campaign manager, Joe Trippi, also stated that after Gore’s endorsement of Dean, “alarm bells went off in every newsroom in the country, in every other campaign in the country”, indicating that if something did not change, Dean would be the nominee. Later, in March 2004, Gore endorsed John Kerry and gave Kerry $6 million in funds left over from his own unsuccessful 2000 bid. Gore also opened the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
During the 2008 primaries, Gore remained neutral toward all of the candidates which led to speculation that he would come out of a brokered 2008 Democratic National Convention as a “compromise candidate” if the party decided it could not nominate one. Gore responded by stating that these events would not take place because a candidate would be nominated through the primary process. When Senator Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee for president on June 3, 2008, speculation began that Gore might be tapped for the vice presidency. On June 16, 2008 (a week after Hillary Clinton had suspended her campaign), Gore endorsed Obama in a speech given in Detroit, Michigan which renewed speculation of an Obama-Gore ticket. Gore stated, however, that he was not interested in being Vice President again. On the timing and nature of Gore’s endorsement, some argued that Gore waited because he did not want to repeat his calamitous early endorsement of Howard Dean during the 2004 Presidential Election. On the final night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, shortly before Obama delivered his acceptance address, Gore gave a speech offering his full support. Such support led to new speculation after Obama was elected President during the 2008 Presidential election that Gore would be named a member of the Obama administration. This speculation was enhanced by a meeting held between Obama, Gore, and Joe Biden in Chicago on December 9, 2008. However, Democratic officials and Gore’s spokeswoman stated that during the meeting the only subject under discussion was the climate crisis, and Gore would not be joining the Obama administration. On December 19, 2008, Gore described Obama’s environmental administrative choices of Carol Browner, Steven Chu, and Lisa Jackson as “an exceptional team to lead the fight against the climate crisis.”
Awards and honors
Gore is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize (together with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in 2007, a Primetime Emmy Award for Current TV in 2007, a Webby Award in 2005 and the Prince of Asturias Award in 2007 for International Cooperation. He also starred in the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2007 and wrote the book An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, which won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album in 2009.
President Obama praised Gore for advancing the cause of peace.