Al Gore may not have invented the way for human beings to connect with one another via the internet, but he is showing other politicians, and all of us, how to connect with something far more important . . . ourselves.
"An Inconvenient Truth" in 100 minutes, shows us something that pollsters, political strategists and fear had hidden from us all for eight years. . .
The real Al Gore.
The transformation of Al Gore . . . starting with his surprisingly relaxed concession speech in 2000 and more recently seen in his fire and brimstone speeches on the stump, his masterful appearance on Saturday Night Live and now, as the shockingly warm, intimate, passionate and soulful man and his slide show in this superb film . . . is a thrilling case study of what is so terribly wrong in politics and what can be so terribly right.
Every politician should see "An Inconvenient Truth", but not only for the scientific wisdom. They should see it because Al Gore, genuinely the professor here, shows us the true potential power of politics . . the simple yet awesome power of being one's self.
That that power wasn't there in 2000 but is, so profoundly, in the movie, illustrates what is possibly the political teaching for our time.
There are five things that great speakers and great political leaders do to engage and captivate audiences. The first four, as important as they are, are dwarfed by the fifth. They 1) Understand and use the power of voice tone and body language, 2) Have a "Lasered, Compelling Message", 3) Communicate to the people, as FDR did, all the way back in 1933 with his "Fireside Chats", in a conversational manner, rather than as a performance or presentation, 4) Speak each of the "4 Languages" or "frequencies" of human communication so they can relate to every possible audience. But, throughout history, the one quality that has defined our great speakers and our great leaders is the one quality that has been literally sucked out of most current politicians. . . . "Authentic Passion".
It is the authentic passion of one's beliefs that imprinted the speeches of Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan and, in softer ways, Lou Gehrig and Bobby Kennedy on our collective consciousness.
It is an irreplaceable quality of character and leadership.
What we see in this film is that since Al Gore's college days this man has had a burning passion for this subject. So much of a passion that in 1992 he said, in his rather visionary book, "Earth in the Balance", that the environment should be "the central organizing principle for civilization".
But in 2000 Bob Shrum and his team wouldn't let him talk about it. They ripped that authentic passion, and the soul, out of their client. In his recent outstanding article in Time Magazine about how consultants are ruining politics, Joe Klein reports that he asked Tad Devine, one of Shrum's consultants, "if he'd ever considered the possibility that Gore might have been a warmer, more credible and inspiring candidate if he'd talked about the things he really wanted to talk about, like the environment?" Remarkably, Devine answers, "That's an interesting thought."
Desperate to help, back in 2000, I watched hours and hours of videotape in an effort to find one instance of "authentic passion" to show his staff. I was planning to send it with the simple note that said "do this, just do this" and you'll easily beat the Governor of Texas, who was not, and is not, a world class orator.
But when it came to discussing political issues or policy, I couldn't find one. Not one. The only example of Authentic Al Gore in the entire 2000 campaign came in a clip with Barbara Walters where he finally stopped pontificating long enough to break into a deep, warm smile and wax passionately and proudly about his amazing little grandson, Wyatt.
His exhortations, his professorial incantations, his dizzying mathematical rants on social security, his prescriptions for everything all had the cadence of forced emphasis, the lift of the head showing a touch of the "I know better than you" arrogance and a condescension that drove America nuts.
In fact, I have to confess that in my own speeches I used to use Al Gore as a role model for what NOT to do as a speaker. I would remind audiences that "Bill Clinton and Al Gore had the same team of White House Speechwriters", using the obvious disparity to illustrate the critical point that it is always the non-verbals (voice tone and body language), not the words, that make a speaker effective . . . or ineffective.
And Al Gore's non-verbals were, frankly, horrible.
His voice always went up or down on the wrong word.
His voice always punctuated the wrong syllable.
His tone was always that of someone giving a "performance" rather than the FDR, JFK, Reagan or Clinton-esque "conversation"
His body gestures were either too much or too little and usually out of "sync".
And, because of the lack of any real variation driven by any real passion, hanging in on an Al Gore speech for more than 5 or 10 minutes was almost always a chore.
But watch this man now.
He's calm, centered, relaxed and, like JFK, Reagan and Clinton, truly comfortable in his skin. His voice tone and body language, far from being stiff and awkward now, finally communicate the real guy that Al Gore has always been.
And, in the last few seconds, as he said "Live From New York, It's Saturday Night" in his "SNL" appearance as President, his ear to ear smile and the look in his eyes showed the first signs of a real charisma that few politicians or celebrities ever possess..
It's taken a "dark night of the soul" experience in 2000 and several years abstinence from toxic polls and consultants, but Al Gore, the most unlikely of heroes, is beginning to show politicians and America a different kind of "Inconvenient Truth" and that is that money and makeovers and talking points and audience research do not make politics or politicians or America better.
Al Gore, left to his own devices, left only to his own very deep and honest passion, has had a spiritual and political transformation that may, indeed, make Americans want to elect him . . . again.
His journey is the best current illustration of the real truth behind all of politics and all politicians, as best spoken by Ralph Waldo Emerson . . .
"Who you are speaks so loudly, I can hardly hear what you are saying."