This note, after just getting back from hearing Al Gore speak a couple of hours ago at the Barnes and Noble on Union Square in New York. There was a crowd of 1,300 jammed standing room to the back of the fourth floor where book events are held. Some people had gotten there at 6am apparently. Great excitement and cheering when Gore made his way to the front. He spoke for 20 minutes or so, without notes. (The store had promised only 10 minutes).
He opened by asking a question he said he'd heard from various folk around the country:
"Doesn't it feel like you woke up one day and found yourself in an alternative reality?"
Indeed. Terrific applause. But Gore cautioned it's far too easy to just blame Bush/Cheney. The problems lie deeper. How did we get to a point where 70% per cent of the country thought Saddam was involved in 9/11? How come, in our more or less functioning democracy, congress and media could be so feckless and useless, so enabling of the things which impede wise decisions in difficult days? The line between entertainment and news has been blurred, said Gore. The capacity to make decisions based on reason was almost the heart of the original American revolution in governing. And the anchor of its international appeal. And that's being dismantled. He pointed to Iraq and climate change as the two great areas where all the facts were and are there, but they're constantly being dismissed and triviliazed. Reason is under assault, to bring it back to the book title.
Congress and big media are not going to change this state of affairs, said Gore. The change must come from a new mass movement.
Indeed, indeed. He thanked us all for coming and got ready to sign books.
It was thrilling, it was exciting, it was, I dunno, ennobling. There were no clever showstopper "applause" lines or sound bytes in his remarks. More an accumulation of impassioned argument, marshalling of facts. Lincon-era virtues, almost. As I say, exciting as hell.
But a question formed in my mind, and out on the street I ran into Gore's prodigious young book editor at Penguin Press, Scott Moyers. I asked him: I'd love Al Gore to be president. But how does he, or someone like like him, actually run for president? Does he engage, say, in the ludricous useless gauntlet of exchanging soundbites with a gaggle of other candidates on a tv stage? Does he hold back, to be a write-in candidate? Does he demand that any debate he takes part in be extensive and substantial on the clock?
How does he conduct a candidacy? What's the model for not getting manipulated into the forms of mass media, which are essentially hostile to reasoned discourse?
That's a good question, said Scott, there on the sidewalk, where it's 90 degrees today.
That's a question I'd love to hear addressed. I'm sure it will be asked of him here on Huffingtonpost tomorrow.
(And speaking of books, I have a new kids' book out, Yet Another NASTYbook:MiniNasties. Get to em while they're young, I say!)
now also @ smirkingchimp.com