Friday, December 14, 2007


David Seaton's News Links
The title of this post sounds a little like a screen credit from a W.C. Fields film, but what I'm trying to pin down is the idea of a political figure that doesn't hold any political office being more influential then political figures that do.

Gandhi never held office, yet he is universally considered the father of Indian independence and one of the most memorable and influential politicians of the 20th century.
Not only that, he has given the Indians a lasting image of moral excellence that they are trying as hard as they can to forget.

Much of Gandhi's power was paradoxically derived from his being "powerless".

Gandhi's not having day to day executive responsibilities freed him from having to address problems that didn't interest him and by avoiding being tarnished and diminished by the endless petty battles of political trench warfare and by keeping to an unpolluted high ground, he was able to give a moral and political structure to India where none would have ever existed without him.

It seems that Al Gore has chosen Global Warming as his own particular Sathyagraha.

At this point a small, cynical bird perches near my ear (this bird is my secret weapon, folks) and it whispers to me that perhaps this is just a very special way of running for president in the year of our Lord, 2008.

This election of all elections is the one made for the Democrats to win, but they are doing all the can to lose it. The leading Democratic candidates all have loser written all over them.

Hillary is absolutely loathed by half of her countrymen and a huge hunk of her countrywomen too. Barack Obama is, as Andrew Young said, too young and inexperienced for the job and although I think the voters would vote for Obama for vice-president, perhaps Colin Powell (before Bush ruined him) was the only African-American that could have been elected president... for the moment. As for Edwards, I don't know what it is... his hair? His being a trial lawyer? His being so pretty? The only Republican Edwards could lick is Thompson.

I think the weakness of the Democrat field will become very evident as the convention approaches... and panic will set in.

At that point my little bird tells me that Gore might just become "available"... to "save" the party, the nation and ultimately the world. He will be begged to run. If he does, the campaign will take on millenarian tones of a "children's crusade"... or Gandhi's Salt March. That could turn a lot of people off. If he wins, he be will hogtied by the system, he will be "just another politician" again, caught in America's gridlock. More cynicism, more disappointment.

So, I hope the bird is wrong.

I have sadly come to the conclusion that because of how the system has developed, America cannot be reformed from inside the institutions anymore: the reform has to be grassroots, to come from within society itself and the institutions will then have to follow society. It seems (seemed?) to me that Gore had stepped forward to lead that movement, both in Global Warming and political reform.

No president will solve America's problems, by now only American society can. It seems (seemed?) to me that Gore has (had?) realized that Global Warming is a political "can opener" to lead the fight for political and social reform and that he was prepared and, armed with his Nobel Prize, willing to wield that can opener ruthlessly.

I hope I'm right and my little bird is wrong. DS

Gore hits at US over climate change - Financial Times
Al Gore savaged the US government’s “obstructing” attitude and urged delegates at the UN conference on climate change to ignore Washington if necessary to pursue the “moral imperative” of a new global regime.

“My country is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali,” the former US vice-president told 2,000 of the 12,000 people attending the conference on Thursday. “[But] over the next two years the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now.”(...)Mr Gore, fresh from receiving the Nobel peace prize jointly with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said delegates must “find the grace to navigate around this enormous obstacle, the elephant in the room that I have been undiplomatic enough to name.”

The US delegation in Bali has repeatedly said it is committed to finding a consensus and reaching a deal but numerous countries have accused it, as well as Japan, Canada and Saudi Arabia, of blocking progress.

A substantial part of Mr’s Gore’s hour-long address was a recap of material he has used on numerous occasions since making An Inconvenient Truth, his Oscar-winning film, in 2006. He described how scientists are warning of a rapidly escalating crisis unless greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.

He sought to inspire the audience by telling them they had the privilege of being some of the few people in the world who can make a difference in saving “the world’s civilisation”.

“The way ahead from Bali is difficult,” he said. “The truth is that is the maximum now considered possible even here in this conference is still far short of the minimum that will really solve this process. So we have to expand the limits of what’s possible. We must have the moral imagination of humankind to see ourselves as the symbol of global civilisation.” READ IT ALL


badri said...

it is always possible people really change . i am however not so sure about AL . here is a link to some one looking at his past .
comparing him to gandhiji is way way off to say the least .
Al Gore: It sure is hard to walk with these feet of clay

mnuez said...

Comparing Gore to Gandhi? Ouch! - what did Gandhi ever do to you? ;-)

Gandhi never held office, yet he is universally considered the father of Indian independence and one of the most memorable and influential politicians of the 20th century. Not only that, he has given the Indians a lasting image of moral excellence that they are trying as hard as they can to forget.

The first sentence happens to not be entirely right, owing to Gandhi's having led the Indian National Congress for a time. The second sentence is brilliantly beautiful and was something already mourned by TIME magazine's anonymous editorial writer just a few days after Gandhi's death.

The Onion's take on the matter is also instructive.