Even before winning the Nobel Peace Prize, former Vice President Al Gore was better positioned than most for a bid to head the Democratic ticket in next year's presidential election. Ironically, given the historically domestic thrust of U.S. campaigns, he has done it with a global concern - climate change - arguably the most compelling issue of our time.
Now, some supporters say, Gore has moved beyond the merely formidable and possibly entered the realm of the unbeatable.
I do not know about that, but I sense that Gore's snaring of one of the world's most prestigious awards has caused trepidation among the other candidates. Moreover, it has injected excitement into a lackluster campaign, and I rather enjoy it. By the way, I am saying this from an intensely nonpartisan vantage point. Not only am I a card-carrying independent, I have not expressed a candidate preference.
However, in a column last spring, I outlined a couple of "dream teams" that I thought would make for an interesting campaign. On the Democratic side, the players happened to be Gore as the presidential candidate and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as the No. 2.
On the Republican side, I proposed Arizona Sen. John McCain for No. 1 and Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe as his running mate.
To return to the Gore-Obama combination, specifically, it looks better than ever. In fact, I have to emphasize that 2008 surely is the year for Gore. In the recent past, he has amassed one major credit after another - an Oscar, a best-selling book, an Emmy and, now, a shared Nobel Peace Prize.
Most importantly, he has a vision and a mission, hammering away at the climate-change conundrum with a level of passion and commitment that I have not seen in the declared candidates on any issue. Whether one agrees with him or not about the exact circumstances of the environmental predicament, his effort is admirable and inspiring. Thus, I would welcome Gore's entry into the presidential race.
Of course, Gore himself has stuck to a steady mantra, saying that he does not intend to run and promoting the nonpolitical, moral nature of his climate-change platform. But that reluctance - combined with the fact that he has not categorically ruled out throwing his hat into the ring, perhaps to ensure a spotlight for climate change, or endorsed anyone - merely serves to motivate followers. No wonder the draft-Gore movement has been shifting into overdrive.
Where will all this euphoria and speculation go?
Perhaps nowhere. Perhaps to a Gore run in 2008. Or perhaps to a Gore bid later, in 2012, should Republicans retain control of the White House next year.
To me, though, the most appealing part of this discussion is that Gore has succeeded in making a global issue that requires long-term strategizing an essential part of the campaign. Whether he runs or not, the other candidates have no choice except to confront and state their views about climate change.
Indeed, it is the kind of attention that more than one international topic deserves from the presidential candidates. They should, as well, think and talk seriously about detailed, long-term solutions to problems - ranging from terrorism to human-rights abuses - that affect, challenge and demand responses from them and all of humanity.