Last Thursday at 10 AM a reminder popped up on my screen telling me to buy tickets to see Al Gore talk about his new book, “The Assault On Reason” at the Seattle Town Hall. Tickets were only five bucks, and I’m fortunate I didn’t hesitate before making my purchase since they sold out in three minutes.
Tonight Susana and I used those tickets to see Nobel Peace nominee, Oscar-winner, and the man who received 500,000 more votes than his opponent in the 2000 election talk about the current state of political discourse in the country.
When the Vice President walked out on stage I was actually a little star struck — he seemed larger than life. He started off with a joke, “I’m a recovering politician. I’m on about step nine. I figure you win some and you lose some and then there’s that little-known third category.” But his talk wasn’t so much about politics as it was about the breakdown of the system in which politics operates: no congressman gives noteworthy speeches on the floor of the Senate or House because nobody pays attention anymore: instead, they give sound bites on Meet the Press and are constantly raising money to spend on 30 second commercials because the news doesn’t cover serious issues; only politicians with big donors can afford to get their message out.
The media is full of trivial stories about Anna Nicole Smith and TomKat. And he does concede that there’s a desire for that type of news, but everything has its place — coverage of serious problems confronting the future of our republic are squeezed out by this crap.
He touched on a lot of history of the engagement of ideas, from the ancient Greeks and the Roman Forum to Gutenberg and his press using Columbus’ return from the Bahamas as the original O.J. story. “Leif Ericson didn’t have a printing press,” he noted.
His talk was for an intelligent audience, not pandering or any kind of a political rally, not as highly polished like he would be for a media appearance, but also more human than he appears on television most of the time.
Some good questions were asked by the audience, such as why didn’t he do more about global warming as Vice President? Because the Kyoto Protocol only had the backing of a single senator (Paul Wellstone) — congress simply wasn’t hearing from its constituents about it, so it was hard to get wide support.
Book SigningThere was a book signing afterwards and most of the thousand people in the auditorium lined up with their books. As the line whittled down at a surprising speed, Susana put her book on the table and he looked up at her, smiled and said “Thanks for coming tonight.”
When he took my book I mumbled, “I would love to vote for you again.”
“Where?” Mr. Gore asked.
There was an awkward silence while I was trying to think of a snappy response and he said, “What did you say?” I repeated myself and he said, “Oh, I thought you said you had left a note for me. Thank you very much”.
The woman next in line said, “We’d all like to vote for you again.”
“That’s very kind.”