Gore in the Balance

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WASHINGTON: Over the best advice of his aides, Al Gore is going to Kyoto. The global warming conference is not a place for politicians; with the business-friendly Senate brandishing a veto at his back, Gore will be wagering his eco-friendly credentials on a conference at which the U.S. is very much the villain. Why?

"Gore figures he can't afford to skip this," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. "On Monday, negotiators were sending back word that they think they can get a deal. And Gore needs to be there when it happens."

Tuesday, Janet Reno is expected to decline an independent counsel for Gore's White House phone calls which means that Gore can show up in Kyoto with nothing to answer for to except greenhouse gases. "The U.S. position is relatively firm; Gore will tell the Europeans that it's better than nothing," says Branegan. "The environment is his issue; if he can bring a deal back home, he can make headlines in a positive light." For the tainted Gore, that is an opportunity not to be missed.