Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The New New Gore

The New New Gore
Five years ago, Al Gore was the much-mocked pol who blew a gimme with his stiff demeanor and know-it-all style. Today? C’mon, admit it: You like him again.

By Ezra Klein
Issue Date: 04.08.06
The American Prospect

The most important speech of Al Gore’s post–non-presidency was neither well-covered nor particularly dramatic. He delivered it against a plain blue curtain, and when he finished, the applause rippled but never roared. None in attendance, however, would have dared call it boring.

The address was the keynote for the We Media conference, held at the Associated Press headquarters in New York last October and attended by an audience that included both old media luminaries and new media innovators. In attendance were Tom Curley, president of the AP, Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, all leading lights of a media establishment that, five years earlier, had deputized itself judge, jury, and executioner for Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, spinning each day’s events to portray the stolid, capable vice president as a wild exaggerator, ideological chameleon, and total, unforgivable bore.

They must have been wondering what changed. Over the next 48 minutes, Gore laced into the state of the media, lamenting the “systematic decay of the public forum,” and echoing Walter Lippmann’s belief that the propaganda emanating from the press corps was rendering America’s “dogma of democracy” void. Journalism, Gore said, had grown “dysfunctional,” and now “fails to inform the people.”

The speech wasn’t just an isolated blast aimed at wresting some headlines or settling some scores. Gore has long been quietly obsessed with excising the media from the politician-public relationship. That’s been the unifying aim of all his seemingly disconnected ventures since returning to the public eye: a determination to evade, and eventually end, the media’s stranglehold on political communication. Yet few seem to have noticed this campaign, with most observers too caught up in Gore’s old storylines to recognize his new efforts.....