It was a bit of political theater that makes us news folks drool: The "former next president of the United States" and the man who actually won the title, chatting about global warming in the Oval Office.
Al Gore, of course, has spent the time since losing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush campaigning on the "planetary emergency" that is global warming. Bush, in his first weeks in office, reversed a campaign promise to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and now leads the only industrialized nation in the world that hasn't joined or pledged to join the world effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (Australia, the other holdout, is poised to join the Kyoto Protocol, now that it has a new prime minister).
While Bush has led the free world, Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize, which earned him his first visit to the White House since Bush's inauguration.
Neither Gore nor Bush, nor their various handlers, are talking much about the discussion between the two men. It's hard to believe that Gore, who has shouted loudly from the outside, would make much headway face-to-face. But we can hope.
The United States announced its delegation to the U.N. climate talks in Bali today. Bush has tried to blaze a parallel path on global climate talks, veering toward soft targets when the U.N. agrees hard targets -- reduction of worldwide emissions by some 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 -- are what is needed to stave off the worst consequences.
It's not hard to imagine the United States playing a vastly different role in Bali, had Gore been elected.
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