Better than being president

The day after Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize, the lead editorial in The New York Times began: "One can generate a lot of heartburn thinking about all the things that would be better about the country and the world if the Supreme Court had done the right thing," seven years ago. In other words, if the man who won the popular vote had become president of the United States.

Yes, of course Gore would have been a better president than the present disgrace, but then so would my Aunt Sally. Now, freed of Bill Clinton's shadow, seasoned and far more confident, he could be far greater.

Most defeated presidential candidates vanish from view. Heard about Michael Dukakis lately? Seen John Kerry? Say, what's Bob Dole been up to?

Nobody knows, or cares. Yet Albert Gore has reinvented himself as a hero on a worldwide scale, trying to shock us into consciousness about what we are doing to this earth. And he is succeeding, even when jeered by the criminal element of the right wing for telling the truth about our "planetary emergency."

Now, within the last several months, Albert Arnold Gore Jr. has won both an Academy Award (aka an Oscar) and the Nobel Peace Prize, something nobody else has ever done. Internationally, no American receives anything like the admiration and respect he does. He has more knowledge and political experience than any of the candidates in either party.

Were he to be the nominee, he would be a heavy favorite to win, and my guess is that it wouldn't even be close this time. So — will he? Should he run for president?

My somewhat informed guesses are no to both questions. Now, if the question were, should Albert Gore be president of the United States, my answer would be yes, beyond any doubt. Yet I am fairly sure he won't run. For years now, he has devoted his energies to saving the environment — saving the planet. He knows how important that is, and actually believes in his cause more than himself.

He knows that if he ran, immediately that would be lost and all the good work he has done would be instantly suspect. Scientists would pull away from him, lest they be seen as mere pawns to be used in achieving power.

Many of the people praising Gore now would savagely attack him. He would have to get in an immense fight with Hillary and Bill Clinton. He would have to stand at podiums next to the likes of Mike (who?) Gravel.

Rahm Emanuel, an influential Illinois congressman who worked on Hillary Clinton's ill-starred health care proposal, put it this way: "Why would he run for president when he can be a demigod? He now towers over all of us."

Were he to run, that would end in a moment.

In a perfect world, the Democrats would beg him to run. They would hand him the nomination on a silver platter. That, however, isn't going to happen.

Yet you don't have to be president to be influential. You can even be the most important person on the planet without being in politics. Bill Gates knows all about that, as did that other Albert, Einstein.

Now Albert Gore knows it too. When it comes to the presidency, you can never say never. Just don't look for it to happen for him now. But I intend to cast a write-in vote for the man who should be president in the Michigan primary, if there is one. You can try to figure out who I am voting for.

Political terrorism, Michigan-style: When Benito Mussolini was establishing fascism in Italy, his Blackshirts used to intimidate and kill members of Parliament whose votes they didn't like. Today's version of that are the attempts by the far right in Michigan to "recall," or remove from office, members of the Legislature who voted for the tax needed to prevent a government shutdown.

One of those most threatened is a man I have a lot of respect for, state Rep. Steve Bieda (D-Warren), who did a lot to get Michigan a credible and workable business tax after the idiots repealed the old one — without having anything to replace it with. They are also trying to recall state Rep. Marc Corriveau (D-Northville), who in the end did the right thing for his state and voted yes on the income tax increase. In earlier columns I beat up on Corriveau — perhaps a trifle too harshly — for trying to have it both ways.

But he did the right thing in the end, when some other Democrats did not. However, recalling any of these people for how they voted is wrong.

Trying to remove members from office for casting principled votes on issues is one of the most chilling and anti-democratic notions I can imagine. Yes, there is a place for recalls. When I see an Idaho Republican trying to recall U.S. Sen. "Toilet" Larry Craig, I'll be favorably impressed. I would like to have seen recall efforts made against some recent legislators, most of them Democrats, who seldom showed up for work and miss many key votes.

What's going on now, however, is a form of fascism. The main figure urging recalls is an odd little man named Leon Drolet, who has spent his life on public payrolls, first as a state legislator, then as a Macomb County commissioner. He doesn't seem to do much Macomb work, however; instead, he drives around Lansing with a pink fiberglass pig and vows to recall lawmakers whose conscience led them to take the particularly risky step of raising taxes.

Drolet has every right to try to get people whose votes he doesn't like thrown out — at the next election. In the case of state representatives like Bieda and Corriveau, that means next year. Does anyone really think having another expensive election (two elections, if the recall succeeds) makes sense?

The state is broke, and the tax increase is now on the books. Here's an idea: Instead of signing his petitions, let's start a fund to buy Leon a puppy, drive him back to his neglected Mount Clemens office, and gently tow his piggy away.

Worst and stupidest in media update: Part of the reason we are in the mess we are in is the steady decline in the number of reporters serving as watchdogs in the public interest. Last week, Detroit Media Partnership, which is controlled by Freep owner Gannett, announced 110 positions were being cut due to "worsening economic conditions." Editorial departments at both Detroit dailies will be taking a hit. But Gannett was also making additional cuts elsewhere.

One woman left a job at a decent small chain last year to become one outstate newspaper's best columnist. She wouldn't listen to warnings about Gannett. "Gannett owns our paper, but not the souls of the news management," she wrote me. "It has been a joy, even throughout 80 hour weeks and an endless array of tasks. I have been able to coach young writers, which is an honor. I get to do what I love every day without very much compromise."

Friday, they told her she'd be laid off at the end of the year. She is divorced, has no money, and a young daughter. Cut this out and put it on your refrigerator if you are thinking of going into newspaper work.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]