Rob Meltzer: Al Gore's global vision
Al Gore is on his way to Old Europe to accept a peace prize named after a man who is probably responsible for the death of more people than almost any other weapon inventor. But then again, there are so many ironies at work today that this particular old cliche probably has no further meaning. But it is important for us to reflect on what the Nobel Committee might have been thinking when it nominated Al Gore for the peace prize, and I can only do so from my own personal feelings toward Al Gore.
Many of us still remember Gore's "win at any cost" philosophy in the presidential primaries of 1988, and there seemed to be almost nothing underhanded or mean-spirited that Gore would not do to win the party nomination. Indeed, there was a perception, correctly or not, that John Kerry was the guy who was feeding local dirt to Gore for the smearing of Dukakis. I was still angry at Al Gore when I moved to California in 1990. It seemed to me, ironically in retrospect, that Al Gore's unfair savaging of Michael Dukakis had put George H.W. Bush in to the White House. In another irony, Al Gore discovered in 2000 that malicious sound bites can rarely be countered by truth, much like what Gore had done to Dukakis in 1988, and what Bush had done to Kerry in 2004. It all comes around.
But when I got to California, I learned that Al Gore had developed a somewhat different reputation. In the mid 1980s and the early 1990s, a strange synergy started coming together in California consisting of Japanese investment money spawned by the sale of electronic consumer toys, of San Francisco venture capital financers who had fled from the bond trading debacle in New York and of the techno weenies of Silicon Valley. These groups, in conjunction with the military, were starting to pull together the threads of a computer network that would eventually come to be known as the Internet.
And it was also very clear that the final and crucial piece of the nascent Internet equation was a public/private partnership between the technology/finance communities who had the wherewithal and the government which controlled and regulated some of the key components. The guy who was spearheading the government side of things in Washington seemed to be none other than Senator Al Gore. There are a lot of people in California who would say that Al Gore, who of course did not invent web technology, must be given credit for creating the legal framework of what became known as the Internet.
The nascent Internet was viewed through a very narrow lens back in California in the early '90s. Globalization did not mean a McDonald's on every street corner in India. Globalization was defined as an international web of communities, in which common issues and common concerns could be addressed by the global village. It was a short-lived piece of idealism. But it also provided a substantial boost to environmentalism, as the Internet finally provided a mechanism for people to think globally.
It shouldn't be surprising that Al Gore, who early on appreciated the nature of global communication, became so devoted to global environmental concerns. Had Al Gore been inaugurated in 2000 after being elected by the people, he would have been the first Internet president, someone who had learned to view the world through rose tinted bandwidth. He had also developed an appreciation that global communication provides a forum for understanding other people, and the differences between us and them.
If you look at his better campaign speeches from 1999, you can see glimpses of what might have been had the Supreme Court not handed the presidency to a narrow-minded megalomaniac - perhaps no 9/11, perhaps no war in Afghanistan, certainly no war in Iraq.
Gore has been subject to some ridicule for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Wrongly, these critics have focused on Gore's global warming movie as the sole reason for this award. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Nobel Committee awards the prize for vision and courage, and a demonstrated commitment to improving the lives of the people of the world through peaceful coexistence, the Arafat and Kissinger awards notwithstanding.
As we near the end of Bush's failed presidency, the Nobel Committee has made a bold and valid statement about the world as it exists today, and the kind of leaders we need to solve the problems which confront us. By selecting Al Gore for the Nobel Peace Prize, the Committee has reminded us fairly dramatically not only of Al Gore's contribution to the cause of a better and more secure world, but also of the harm that can be done when corrupt democracy denies us the intelligent and thoughtful leaders the people elect.
Rob Meltzer practices law in Framingham, Mass.