Al Gore was determined to talk about Live Earth, a series of concerts around the world this weekend to raise climate change awareness, in an interview on TODAY. But the show’s host, Meredith Vieira, was able to get him to address his son’s recent arrest, Bush’s controversial commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence, and his own aspirations for the White House.
Insisting again that he will not run for president in the 2008 election or in a future one, Gore told Vieira he is focused on his campaign for the environment and his belief that accumulating greenhouse gases have put Earth on a collision course with a climatic catastrophe.
“I don’t have any plans or any intentions of being a candidate again,” Gore, 59, told Vieira on Thursday. “The main reason is I am involved in a different kind of campaign to try to raise awareness to what I believe is truly the most serious crisis our civilization has ever faced.”
Undeterred, Vieira tried again to get Gore to concede that he has the name recognition, credentials and passion to make reversing global warming “job one” as president, but Gore wasn’t biting.
“I’ve kind of fallen out of love with politics,” he finally admitted. In 2000, Gore received more popular votes than George W. Bush, but lost the presidential race in the Electoral College and the courts.
Reaching across party lines
“I really want to focus my attention and whatever experience and talents I’ve gained over the years,” he said. “I think it may well be that the highest and best use of that is trying to bring enough awareness of the solution of the climate crisis, and enough of a sense of urgency, that we come together across party lines on behalf of our children.”
Gore is an organizer and chief front-man for Live Earth, a series of simultaneous 24-hour concerts this Saturday on all seven continents. More than 150 artists are scheduled to perform, including Madonna, the Police, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alicia Keys. (Organizers are fighting a judge’s ruling in Brazil that threatens to nix the concert in Rio de Janeiro because of inadequate security.)
“We really have to solve this,” said Gore, the Tennessee Democrat who first became interested in global warming while a student at Harvard. “We are putting 70 million tons of global warming pollution, every day, into the atmosphere, as if it was an open sewer. The scientists have been trying to tell us for years that this is creating a catastrophe that we really have to address.”
Dealing with son’s arrest
Gore’s appearance on TODAY to discuss Live Earth was overshadowed somewhat by the arrest early Wednesday of his 24-year-old son in California on suspicion of possession of marijuana and drugs without a prescription. Al Gore III was allegedly driving a blue Toyota Prius about 100 mph south on the San Diego Freeway when he was pulled over by sheriff’s deputies, who said they smelled marijuana, according to the Associated Press.
“Not as a politician or someone who is concerned about the climate, as a dad, what was your reaction to this?” Vieira asked the former vice president.
“We are dealing with this as a private family matter,” Gore said. “We love him very much. We are glad that he is safe and that he’s getting treatment. We are gong to leave it as a private matter.”
Vieira then asked Gore if one of the reasons he didn’t want to run for president was his concern about putting his family “under the microscope.”
“No, not really,” he replied. “My family has been supportive of whatever I wanted to do in terms of politics.”
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Libby’s commutation ‘disappointing’
When asked about his reaction to President Bush’s decision to spare I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby 30 months in prison, Gore said he thought it was “very disappointing.” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, was convicted of lying to FBI agents investigating the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity to the media.
“I thought it was improper,” Gore said of Bush’s clemency order sparing Libby prison time. “He was charged with knowledge that could incriminate his bosses in the White House, which included the vice president and the president.”
Gore said the fact that Libby may or may not have acted on behalf of others in the White House makes the order “different” than President Bill Clinton’s pardons of politically connected criminals during his final days in office.
While still young enough to run for president in 2012 or even 2016 if he wanted to, Gore resisted numerous attempts by Vieira to get him to hold out the option that he might one day again run for the nation’s highest office. For now, he appears to be content being a player on the world stage.
Stopping short of endorsing Sen. Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, Gore said his mission from now until the convention is to make one of the major candidates adopt global warming as his or her top priority. To do that, he said, the American people and the rest of the world will have to pressure their leaders.
That’s where Live Earth comes in.
“We are going to ask the two billion people estimated to be in the audience Saturday to take a seven-point pledge that is designed to change behavior and also to put pressure on political leaders in every country across the ideological spectrum,” he said. “We really have to solve this.”
Although all the major candidates in both the Republican and Democratic parties have expressed concerns about global warming, Gore said climate change must rank high on the next president’s list of priorities.
“It’s 500 days off,” Gore said of the Democrats’ convention. “If I do my job, then all of them will make this their top issue. None of them have yet.”
Live Earth will be broadcast Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo and Telemundo. Concerts are scheduled for Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.; London; Johannesburg, South Africa; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Shanghai, China; Tokyo; Sydney, Australia; and Hamburg, Germany. A band comprised of scientists will also perform in Antarctica, stretching Live Earth across seven continents.
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