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Slate's Politics: A Political Comeback for Gore?


More politics now. Is the new hope for the Democratic Party Al Gore? He has this new global warming documentary. And according to many Dems, he's got new attitude, new energy.

John Dickerson is Washington political correspondent for the online magazine Slate. We spoke earlier about his new Slate column on Mr. Gore.

John Dickerson, what is it that Democrats now see in Al Gore that is so appealing?

Mr. JOHN DICKERSON (Washington Political Correspondent, Slate Magazine): Al Gore has a kind of a rock star status today. He's been vindicated on everything from global warming to Iraq, to America's addiction to foreign oil. And so the momentum is with Al Gore. And for a lot of Democrats who've been kind of dispirited, even as Republicans are in trouble, Al Gore makes them feel like they could potentially be on offense. And they also, of course, get to talk about the 2000 election, which many of them think was stolen from Al Gore.

CHADWICK: Is it really that Al Gore has changed so much for the better? Or is it more that they're, we've got to stop the Hillary train now?

Mr. DICKERSON: I think it's a combination of things. Al Gore is clearly, if you talk to people who know him, and have talked with him, and been in his orbit recently, he's unplugged a little bit. He enjoys his role as an elder statesman. He gets to speak his mind. He doesn't have to worry about polls and advisors. And people find that appealing. But also, you have Democrats who are just nervous about Hillary Clinton.

CHADWICK: Does Al Gore even want to run two years from now, to run for President?

Mr. DICKERSON: It's not clear whether Al Gore wants to run. He's been a little coy in his answers. He says he's not planning to run. He has another role he can play. And when you talk to people who are familiar with his thinking, they say he hasn't been convinced yet and he's not likely to be, at least at the moment. But all of this adulation has got to be something for him. I mean, it's a new role for him to have everybody fawning over him. And that's got to appeal to a politician.

CHADWICK: Well, you write about, in Slate this week, his authenticity conundrum. He does - his appeal now is partly that he seems so authentic and real and genuine. But suppose he becomes a candidate?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, that's right. A lot of what you hear from people who are talking about Al Gore in such glowing tones today is that they talk about the new Al Gore, how he's authentic and full of energy and not holding anything back. But what happens is that once you become a candidate, you have to trim your sails a little bit.

The additional problem for Al Gore is that at the center of his previous candidacy was this question of does he know his own mind? And that is something voters take into account. And it seems to me that the coverage of Al Gore's new candidacy, should he decide to run, will be sort of laden with that question at every turn.

CHADWICK: And those are the same questions that people raise about Senator Clinton, that she's all calculation, no heart.

Mr. DICKERSON: That's right. And Democrats are sick and tired, many of them, of calculation and all of this trimming that goes on in politics. They want somebody who can stand up there and speak their mind. And that's what they see in Al Gore. I think, though, that potentially they might find some disappointed if Gore gets into the race and has to do the inevitable things that a politician has to do to kind of get through the day to day of campaigning.

CHADWICK: Just before we began speaking, you said that you've already had enormous reaction to this piece in Slate. And people hate you for it because you say that Al Gore, if he runs, is going to revert to the old Al Gore. And he's going lose.

Mr. DICKERSON: That's right. I think there are a lot of people who are -see me as kind of raining on their parade. My case, though, is based on sort of what you have to do to get elected. And a lot of that is unpleasant, and requires, again, trimming of the sails that they don't like and don't want in their politicians. And I think those two things are going to collide if he does become a candidate.

CHADWICK: John Dickerson, senior political writer for the online magazine Slate.

John, thanks again.

Mr. DICKERSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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