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Gore Earns Nobel Nod; Thompson Debuts with Debate Performance

Among the week's news, former Vice President Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his climate change work and former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., debuted in his first presidential debate. Analysts David Brooks and E.J. Dionne discuss the week's political stories.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Now, the analysis of Brooks and Dionne, New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne. Mark Shields is off tonight.

    So, E.J., Al Gore has to move aside his Emmy and his Oscar to make room on the shelf for his Nobel medal.

  • E.J. DIONNE, Columnist, Washington Post:

    Or maybe he’ll make a new shelf for it. I mean, this is extraordinary. And I think now there’s a consensus on global warming, even when people argue around the edges.

    When Al Gore started doing this, a lot of people thought he was cranky, he was boring. The first President Bush used to make fun of him and called him “ozone man.” And he was, as it were — he cared about global warming before it was cool.

    And so I think this is the product not of some short-term thing, not of some fad, but of a life’s obsession that turned out to be an obsession about something very, very important. It’s unusual that somebody gets that kind of satisfaction in their lifetime.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Satisfaction and maybe vindication, David?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    I think so. I should, since E.J. said I should mention it, the Supreme Court has ruled that George Bush is actually going to get the prize instead of Al Gore, one of the many jokes I’ve heard today on the subject.

  • E.J. DIONNE:

    It wouldn’t be a surprise.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    No, I think it is vindication. I mean, the guy, as E.J. said, has been at this forever. And he deserves it. Of course, it’s now prompted a mountain of speculation, will he get into the presidential race?

    And I think some Democrats think so. James Carville, the Democratic consultant, said there was still a 25 percent chance that he would get into the race. I personally think it’s extremely unlikely, and I think others in the Democratic Party have said it is extremely unlikely in part because the race is so well-developed and in part because the candidates in there actually have superior political talent just as campaigners.

    But I would say — and this comes through. And when you see Gore, and when you see him speak about this issue, it is true, even on the Democratic campaign trail, the candidates talk about global warming. But let’s face it, it’s issue number 13. It is not top of the issue. There’s health care; there’s middle-class squeeze; there’s a lot of much bigger issues.

    And if Gore actually says this is the crisis of our moment, there would be some plausible reason he would at least want to get in, because, let’s face it, if he doesn’t, it will be an issue that everybody gives lip service to, but nobody will really call for sacrifice for.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Does this change the shape of the ’08 race at all? Do you agree with David?

  • E.J. DIONNE:

    Well, I agree to this extent. I’d be very surprised if Al Gore got into this race. And my sense is there’s a very simple reason for that: He’s really happy. He’s enjoying his life.

    Al Gore joked at an interview a couple years ago, “You know, there’s one thing I’m not very good at, and that’s campaigning.” And it was a sort of sweet remark, but it was also realistic. He was realistic about himself. I mean, he’s gone through a year where he wins the Academy Award, he wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Why would he want to wreck that?

    The day he gets into the race, Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton, who praised him to the skies today, suddenly that changes. Suddenly you’re under attack. And I disagree with David only on this. Of course he’s right that global warming is not going to be the central issue in a campaign that’s going to be dominated by Iraq, economic inequality, health care.

    But there is a kind of growing consensus, certainly in the Democratic Party, and I think getting in the race might not raise the profile of the issue. Maybe it would turn it into a divisive campaign issue. So I think he’s better off where he is.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    There’s certainly a consensus, either about some sort of cap-and-trade approach, or I think there’s also a consensus among economists that some sort of gas tax is the right approach, but that doesn’t mean any living politician is actually going to ask for sacrifice.

    To actually enact this consensus, I think there’s a big leap there, and I think, right now, we are right to be pessimistic about some actual policy being enacted, no matter who’s elected.

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