Internet pioneer, global-warming crusader, Academy Award-winning director — Yale’s choice for president of the United States?
Despite his new Nobel Peace Prize and the nationwide effort to draft him into the 2008 race, former Vice President Al Gore says he is not planning on running for president next year — and Yale students are doing nothing to change his mind.
Although many students interviewed said they believe Gore would be a strong candidate, a student organization aimed at pushing Gore back into the political arena has yet to take shape on campus — a fact that some attribute to the perceived inability of students to effect political change.
Gore, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on “man-made climate change” and strategies for preventing the resulting environmental degradation in Oslo, Norway, in December.
The accolade has prompted some national groups to step up efforts to pressure Gore into running in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.
In the wake of the Nobel Committee’s announcement, some organizations — such as Draftgore.com and America for Gore — have drawn up petitions asking Gore to get back into presidential politics for the first time since he lost to current President George W. Bush ’68 in 2000.
There are currently 12 groups in Connecticut dedicated to recruiting Gore for the 2008 race.
But Gore spokesman Kalee Kreider recently issued a public statement from Nashville, Tenn., saying Gore “has no intentions of running for president in 2008.”
At Yale, faculty and student reactions to Gore’s award were divided, though a large majority of those interviewed said they think the prize makes the former vice president more appealing as a presidential candidate.
Geoffrey Shaw ’10, vice chairman of the Yale Political Union’s Independent Party, said he is thrilled about Gore’s recognition and would like to see him in the White House.
Shaw said he joined the nationwide student Facebook group “Al Gore for President!” in support of Gore’s candidacy. But he said he has not done much to reach out to Yale students about convincing Gore to run because he doubts students can have a major impact on Gore’s decision.
Samuel Kahn ’08 said although Sen. Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 currently holds a commanding lead in most national polls, Gore’s entrance into the primaries could cause a significant realignment of many voters’ preferences.
“He could win if he entered, but I would be very, very surprised if he did this late in the game,” he said.
But Eric Baehr DIV ’09, founder of the Yale Conservative Council, said he thinks many of his Democratic peers would be unlikely to switch candidates at this point in the election cycle.
Some students said they are unhappy with the Nobel award and the nationwide press for Gore’s candidacy.
Frederick Mocatta ’10 said he believes the Nobel committee displayed its arrogance in trying to influence national opinion by awarding Gore the prize.
“An international peace prize should be for an uncontroversial figure who has incontrovertibly saved lives,” he said. “If they cannot find such a person, they should not award the prize.”
Isaac Benowitz MED ’11 said he believes Gore should not be president because he is inextricably tied in the public mind to the issue of climate change.
“I think he has been able to accomplish a lot of important work in the past few years that he probably would not have been able to do if he were serving as president,” he said. “He occupies a unique position.”
Baehr said he thinks Gore has become a single-issue candidate, which would make it difficult for him to run.
Still, many University faculty members and students said they think Gore will continue to influence the public debate about global warming, regardless of his decision to run for president.
“He has proven to be a very successful environmental advocate, and I hope he continues in that role,” said David Esty LAW ’86, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and a professor at both the Law School and the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, in an e-mail. “Al Gore has done a great service to our country and the world in raising consciousness about climate change.”
In addition to being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Gore won an Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 2006 for “An Inconvenient Truth” — in which he narrates a slide show about the effects of global warming — and a Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Television” in 2007 for his television network, Current TV.