Environmental Al Gore Is Back

Former Vice President Has 'No Plans' for 2008, Fights Global Warming

By ED O'KEEFE

June 4, 2006 —

In an exclusive appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," former Vice President Al Gore said he's content to stay out of the political arena, preferring to fight against global warming rather than run for the White House.

"I have no plans to be a candidate for president again," Gore said. "I don't expect to ever be a candidate for president again. I haven't made a so-called Sherman statement, because it just seems unnecessary."

Then he joked, "I'm 58 years old; that's the new 57 now."

So far, the long-time politician -- whose crusade to educate Americans on the effects of global warming is the subject of the documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," released worldwide this weekend -- is content to spread his message at the theater and not on the campaign trail.

"I can't imagine any circumstances in which case I would become a candidate again," he said. "I've found other ways to serve [and] I'm enjoying them."

Stephanopoulos, ABC News' chief Washington correspondent, pressed Gore as to whether or not the former vice president might feel a "duty" to run if Democrats appeared poised to lose the White House for the third consecutive election.

Gore thanked Democrats who have been making the case for his candidacy in 2008 but insisted his focus would remain on global warming.

"I don't feel that I have to apologize for focusing my energies on trying to create a sufficient awareness and sense of urgency on the single biggest challenge that humankind has ever faced," he said.

A longtime environmentalist, Gore wrote "Earth in the Balance," a bestseller about the perils of global warming and the importance of environmental issues, shortly before joining then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in a successful run for the White House in 1992. And this summer, "An Inconvenient Truth" competes against the likes of "The Da Vinci Code" and "X-Men 3" in an attempt to spread his global warming warning.

Gore's film debut came after producer Laurie David, wife of comedian Larry David, saw the global warming lecture he has been presenting and refining for the past 20 years. David teamed an at-first-reluctant Gore with documentarian Davis Guggenheim, who turned the former vice president's slides and charts into a Cannes Film Festival entry.

"This has to do with the future of the human race, literally," Gore told ABC News. "Because if we really should cross this point of no return that the scientists are warning us about, the world wouldn't end tomorrow. The world wouldn't end in a century, but it would mean that the process of degradation would then be irretrievable."

In their one-on-one at the Gore family farm in Carthage, Tenn., Stephanopoulos asked, "Here's what I've heard. Tell me what's right and tell me what's wrong. One group says, if Sen. Clinton runs, you're not going to be able to help yourself, you're going to have to get into the race. The other is, you'll only get in if there's a vacuum, if she chooses not to run. Any truth to any of that?"

Gore replied, "No, no," adding, "There's a lot about the political process I really don't like. It's a toxic process. There are things I miss -- having the ability to influence events from the White House, of course. It's unparalleled, as I've said. But, you know, there's a lot about politics I don't think I'm particularly good at. And I also think that the urgency of creating a political environment where whoever runs for president in either party will be forced to respond to this [global warming] crisis is the most important thing that I can possibly do."

On the subject of Iraq, Gore, who opposed the invasion, said of the allegations of Marine misconduct and possible war crimes in Haditha, Iraq, "I don't have enough evidence to see how they've handled that particular set of charges. I don't think that we have enough information now to know how they have handled it. I think that the situation in Iraq itself has contributed to the impossible situation our soldiers so frequently have found themselves in, and so that's a part of it."

The former Democratic contender criticized his former foe's handling of the war.

"The environment has been set where truth is a career decision for this administration," Gore said. "When Gen. Shinseki told the truth about what was needed [in troop levels] before the war in preparing for it, he was cashiered prematurely. And so, the environment is partly involved. But where these specific allegations are concerned, I think that we need to let the process work. And I think the process of military justice can. And I hope we'll deal with this appropriately."

Gore, however, disagreed with Sen. John Kerry's, D-Mass., call to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year.

"I would pursue the twin objectives of trying to withdraw our forces as quickly as we possibly can, while at the same time minimizing the risk that we'll make the mess over there even worse and raise even higher the danger of civil war," Gore said.

Dismissing calls for any deadline, Gore added, "It's possible that setting a deadline could set in motion forces that would make it even worse. I think that we should analyze that very carefully. My guess is that a deadline is probably not the right approach; but again, you have to weigh that question in the context of how the political decisions are made between the Congress and the executive branch. Sometimes the Congress itself has blunt instruments and limited options to play a role in matters like this."

Regarding another hot political topic, the NSA wiretap surveillance program, Gore inched back from his previous statements that indicated he thought the issue was an impeachable offense.

"That's for Congress to decide," Gore told Stephanopoulos. "From what we know about it, it's hard not to conclude that it's a violation of the law."

When asked by Stephanopoulos how America would be most different had Gore become president, the former politician said, "It's hard to look in a crystal ball and see what would have happened."

He quickly turned the subject back to his pet cause.

"Let's just take the question of global warming," Gore said. "I would have urged the Congress and done my best to lead the country to take on this climate crisis, become independent of carbon-based fossil fuels as quickly as we can, to shift towards conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.

"I'm under no illusions that there is any position in the world with as much influence as that of president of the United States," Gore added. "But I ran for president twice, and I was in politics for a quarter century, and I honestly believe that the highest and best use of my skills and experience is to try to change the minds of people in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world about this planetary emergency that we simply have to confront."

The former vice president concluded, "I hope to get the message about the climate crisis to more people in a shorter period of time. I've been trying to tell this story for 30 years, and the debate in the science community is over. And my single objective is to try to move our country, and to the extent I can play a role in it people elsewhere, past a tipping point beyond which the politicians in both parties will feel compelled to start competing by offering genuinely meaningful solutions to the crisis."

Five percent of the film's overall proceeds will go to battling global warming and 100 percent of the Gore's take will do so, as well.

"This is not a political issue. It is a moral issue," Gore told ABC News.

But, the one-time Democratic nominee couldn't resist a subtle political shot.

"I don't exclude the possibility that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney will be forced to change their minds about global warming during these next two years," he said. "Reality has a way of intruding on illusion, and they've tried to create their own reality where global warming is concerned, and a few other things as well. And over time, that tends to collide with the real world."

George Stephanopoulos's entire interview with former Vice President Al Gore can be viewed at "This Week's" Web page at www.abcnews.com.