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Playing it safe in 2008 campaign

Saturday, October 20, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:59 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Kennedy is a professor emeritus at the MU School of Journalism.

Al Gore for president!

OK, OK; I’m as realistic as the next politics junkie. I know that being elected president for the second time would be pretty pale stuff after winning both an Academy Award and the Nobel Peace Prize. I also know that when Al says he’s not a very good campaigner, he’s right again.

And I’m prepared to concede that, like most people I talk to, I’m already wishing this campaign were over, when it has nearly 13 months to run.

All that aside, it seems to me that Al Gore stands head and shoulders above any of the actual candidates, in either party, in his willingness and ability to articulate sensible positions on critical issues. Unlike Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Al was right on the war from the beginning, back when it took not only vision but guts to just say no. He’s not only right but alone among major American politicians in insisting that global warming is THE real problem of our time.

I’m a self-confessed Democrat, even an admitted liberal. So my view of the Republican candidates is probably both jaundiced and irrelevant. Still, I can’t help noticing that the top three are a bully, a chameleon and an actor who appears both uninformed and uninterested.

I never expect much from Republicans, so I’m seldom disappointed. The current crop of Democratic candidates is another matter. I always have high expectations, so I’m often disappointed and sometimes in despair. So far in this campaign, I don’t think I’m alone.

Where are the big ideas, the Democratic ideas? On the war, only Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich, a pair of no-hopers, are where most Democrats stand. The real contenders are closer to President Bush than they are to their voters. On health care, nobody is willing to speak the obvious truth, that the only real answer is some version of the single-payer system the rest of the industrialized world enjoys.

Immigration reform? Saving Social Security and Medicare? Fair trade? Inequality of income and of opportunity? If you’ve heard any interesting proposals, please pass them along. And global warming? Well, there’s Al, the scientific community and the rest of the world clamoring for action. The candidates, in both parties, are just contributing to the problem.

More knowledgeable observers than I have commented that 2008 ought to be a Democratic year. Maybe that’s why the Democrats already seem to be running not to lose rather than offering up any ideas that might be the slightest bit risky. If Al were so inclined, he might be able to remind this year’s candidates how well that strategy worked in 2000.

My main complaint about Hillary has always been, as it was about her husband, that her big brain seems to produce such small ideas. Maybe that’s good politics. I’m dubious. As bad as most of Mr. Bush’s big ideas have turned out to be — see, for example, pre-emptive war and tax cuts for the rich — at least he’s had some.

Al Gore is a big man with big ideas. Too bad he won’t run.

Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.


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