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September 28, 2007

The Post-Presidencies of Al Gore and Bill Clinton

Over at TAP, I have a column evaluating the Clinton Global Initiative, and what it says about the differing approaches both men have taken to social justice in their post-presidential years. An excerpt:

In their post-presidential careers, Gore and Clinton have pioneered almost precisely opposite methods of affecting social change. Clinton has made remarkable strides activating and orienting the private sector towards good works. Gore, who has emerged as a cross between an atmospheric scientist and a folk hero, has sought to lead a post-millennial social movement capable of exerting the intense pressure required to move the government towards collective, even coercive, action to stop climate change.

The difference in approach was sharply apparent at the panel. Preceding Gore was Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr., whom Clinton lauded for his company's plans to move from incandescent light bulbs to compact, fluorescent bulbs. Then came Gore: "There should be no mistake that this crisis, the climate crisis, is not going to be solved only by personal action and business action," he said. "We need changes in laws, we need changes in policies, we need leadership, and we need a new treaty, we need a mandate at Bali, during the first 14 days of December this year, to complete a treaty -- not by 2012, but by 2009, and put it completely into force by 2010. We can do it and we must do it."

The mere fact that Gore was on the stage, saying such things to the gathered world leaders and business titans, was, in its way, radical. But it wasn't sustained. Clinton didn't follow up by turning to the assemblage and driving home Gore's point, saying that all of today's rhetoric and good intentions are for naught if they are unable to transcend acts of personal virtue and make the public sacrifice required for a cap-and-trade program or a carbon tax. Instead, he launched into a question on a Merrill Lynch initiative to encourage companies to voluntarily report their carbon usage.

Read the rest...

September 28, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Damn good story, Ezra!

But this puts me in a melancholic mood...

Gore for president 2008!
Earth to Al - do you copy? Al? Hello?
:-(

Posted by: Gray | Sep 28, 2007 11:10:48 AM

gore for president 2008!
earth to al - do you copy? al? hello?
:-(

Posted by: jacqueline | Sep 28, 2007 11:25:02 AM

Ezra,

With no real health care posts for a week, I'm left with commenting on something quasi-health care (to the degree the Clinton Global Initiative focuses on health care).

I'd suggest the difference is in world views on the relative importance of political power versus private sector power.

There is interesting data suggesting that the trend is consistent with Clinton's world view. If you look historically at a ranking of the world largest economic entities, you'll notice a shift over the last half century-- while the list used to be solely countries, there are an increasing number of corporations whose annual economic output outdwarfs almost every country in the world. To the degree economic prowess equals power, this suggests that the private sector is trending towards greater power in their own right.

I'd suggest that Clinton appreciates this dynamic and understands the degree to which the private sector is an essential component to change-- even on complex, global issues.

Combine that with an increasingly caustic and consequently unproductive political dynamic in the US (which he has seen first hand), it seems to be a reasonable approach to changes in social justice.

Posted by: wisewon | Sep 28, 2007 11:36:56 AM

This post Shows clearly:

Hill & Bill are interested in getting close to wealth and power for the purpose of self aggrandizement.

AL Gore, is interested in getting policy right for the purpose of setting this country back on it's tracks.

I can't believe, the Democrats want more of Hill & Bill.

History Please, Hill & Bill decimated the Democratic party.

Posted by: S Brennan | Sep 28, 2007 12:51:42 PM

Kind of interesting that not only are both men's prescriptions for effective climate-change action directly opposed to each other's, but also to their own current choices: Bill's working to help his wife obtain political power even as he talks up private efforts, and Al's steadfastly refusing to seek the same political power he's advocating as a solution.

Posted by: latts | Sep 28, 2007 4:42:58 PM

Given Clinton's increasing bellicosity (nasty attack on a restauranteur, unworthy of a former president, near assault on Chris Wallace, etc) and the noticeable absence of his former smoothness and glibness, I think we all have to consider the possibility that he is now suffering from pump head, a mild cognitive impairment that often occurs after people have gone on a heart lung pump. This impairment is usually permanent. He just can't think as well as he used to, and has far less control of his emotions -- and self control was never his strong point.

Posted by: klein's normal nut | Sep 28, 2007 8:09:39 PM

If you google clinton pump head you will get, among other articles, one in the JAMA with findings that EIGHTY PERCENT(!) of people who go on the pump suffer cognitive decline, and after 5 years 40 percent still have it. All his current behavior has to be considered in light of the fact that he just doesn't have his former intelligence.

Posted by: klein's normal nut | Sep 28, 2007 10:49:51 PM

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