Last night, Tim Russert’s CNBC Show discussed the state of the 2008 race as it stands now. This show, about which I’ve written before, has no transcripts available and almost every time I write about it, it is usually from memory. Last night, however, I did take notes.
I almost always watch this one-hour show as it allows the guests maximum time to elaborate their viewpoint. Unlike ‘Meet The Press,’ Russert rarely interrupts and proves what one of my favorite journalists ever, Robin MacNeil, once said of the concept behind PBS’ The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, “If you allow a politician or a policy maker more than a few seconds to speak, they might even say something substantive.”
Towards the end of last night’s show, Russert and his panel discussed Al Gore’s political future.
It had been a few months since this show discussed Al Gore’s potential entry into the race. From what I could tell, the show was taped just before Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize was announced on early Friday morning. The panel included Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, Norah O’Donnell of MSNBC, and Chuck Todd, NBC News’ Political Director. Apparently, they discussed the 2008 Republican field in the first half of the show of which I only caught the last few seconds.
Russert asked his guests that if Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize (they assumed he would win), would he consider jumping into the race as a candidate? Here’s a summary of what I heard with my comments following each pundit’s in italics.
1. Chris Cillizza: answered by saying that it was his job to keep track of “All Things Gore.” At one point early on this summer, he thought Gore would strongly consider doing so should Barack Obama or John Edwards falter badly and lag far behind Hillary Clinton in the poll. Cillizza also cited other reasons for Gore’s reluctance: new-found fame and fortune (literally), the ability to influence debate outside elective office, international status, and wondered why Gore would give it all up. He said that presently “Gore had a great life.”
I don’t know if Obama and Edwards have “faltered” but they do trail Hillary badly in national polls. Iowa, however, is another story and remains much more competitive with the vast majority of voters not making a final decision until just before the caucus or primary. As I watched, I agreed with the panel that with a tight primary schedule, Iowa’s significance would be magnified this year as, unlike in previous political cycles, it wouldn’t give the losers much time to recover politically. Remember John Kerry from 2004?
2. Norah O’Donnell: she really didn’t add much to the discussion except to offer that were Gore to become a candidate again, he would confront past charges (you know them all) and would have a difficult time changing perceptions.
Although she is a halfway decent reporter, her punditry skills are non-existent. Don’t be dazzled by her looks or her smile. She never mentioned that much of what she said has been refuted by articles in both Vanity Fair and by Bob Somerby’s The Daily Howler. In my book, O’Donnell frequently spouts conventional wisdom. Last night was no exception. Sorry, Norah!
3. Chuck Todd: he had previously been dismissive of the idea of Gore’s candidacy. But, then he said something I paid close attention to. He noted that given Gore’s assertion in The Assault on Reason that our political system was broken and that it was becoming increasingly difficult to get anything accomplished, could Gore decide to run on his own terms and possibly pair with NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg on an independent ticket next year? This way, he avoids butting heads with Hillary during the Democratic primaries and still offers himself as an alternative to the country. Of the declared Democratic candidates, based on his sources in all the campaigns, he said that Edwards was pushing the hardest for an endorsement from Gore. And, how about Obama? Todd was critical of Obama for not reaching out sufficiently to Gore. Talking further about Gore-Bloomberg, he thought they’d be a serious ticket, if you combine Gore’s new-found fame and vast experience with Bloomberg’s deep pockets.
I’d never heard a major political pundit suggest before that Gore could even run as an independent. Could it happen? It could. Will it? I’m not sure. And even if it did, how would the Democratic Party (or each of us as his supporters) react? Again, I don’t know for Gore has been a lifelong, loyal member of the Democratic Party. But Todd did repeat the fact that if Gore were to run, he’d “do it on his own terms”. Whatever that means.
4. Tim Russert: he acknowledged the potency of the Nobel Peace Prize and said it was a “great honor.” He said that once someone runs for president, they never get rid of the urge to try again and given that some Democrats have reservations about the electability of many of the other candidates, wouldn’t Gore be the most electable Democratic candidate in 2008?. He also didn’t dismiss the idea of a 2008 Gore-Bloomberg ticket as something out of left field.
(h/t DKos member Panda)
What Russert said about presidential ambition is essentially true. As 1976 Democratic presidential candidate, Congressman Mo Udall, once said: “Presidential ambition is a disease that can only be cured by embalming fluid.” It is also true that once a potential candidacy (Hillary’s) is perceived as inevitable months before an election, reporters don’t necessarily want to write the same story over and over again. Hence, the renewed interest in Gore.
I hope this gives you an idea of what was discussed on the show and while not definitive, it at least conveys what some of the major political pundits are thinking.
In my poll, more than one political event could likely happen next year. If that’s what you think, do elaborate in your comments.