Former Vice President Al Gore, in Chicago on Wednesday, gave no indication he wants to run for the White House again as he delivered the best stump speech I have heard in the 2008 presidential season.
Gore talked about change in its most useful context, attached to a subject -- the climate. He also, in his dismal predictions, gave reason for hope. There is a lesson here for candidates who campaign on change and hope.
"I'm Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States," he deadpanned in opening before the Economic Club of Chicago. A crowd of 2,101 people came to the Hyatt Regency to listen to Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize last Friday for sounding the alarms on the climate crisis.
"The planet has a fever," said Gore, who was introduced by new club chief William Daley, the mayoral brother who chaired Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.
Gore calls himself a "recovering politician." The Nobel Prize triggered speculation that Gore would jump into the 2008 race. There is no political intelligence to indicate that's a course Gore will take.
Earlier on Wednesday, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee told a Norwegian broadcaster, "I don't have plans to be a candidate again."
"What I am working to do," said Gore, is to "create conditions" in the United States so that a new president in 2009 "will face a new transformed political situation at home."
Gore painted a depressing picture of the catastrophic effects of global warming in a 35-minute verbal version of his Oscar-winning movie, "An Inconvenient Truth."
The North Polar ice cap is melting at a record pace, but Gore said it's not a reason to quit. "Don't give up hope. ... We can solve it."
I've been in Chicago listening to supporters of White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). They're worried that Obama's message of change and hope is too vague and cautious. They're worried that he is so consensus oriented that he is not making it clear where he draws a line.
Rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards also are chanting the change mantra. Obama does not own the word. His most ardent backers I've been talking to worry that his caution makes it hard to discern his non-negotiable moral imperatives.
"We now face common challenges worldwide," said Gore as he wove climate change into the international picture. He said he wants to use the recognition from the Nobel Prize to deliver his climate warnings "more effectively."
Said an Obama backer, "Good thing he is not running."