During the 2000 presidential campaign, Al Gore's political consultants counseled him to quit talking about the issue that, since his college days, had stirred his passions more than any other. Voters didn't care about global warming, his political brain trust told the then Vice President, and going on about it would make him look like the kind of fuzzy-headed extremist that George Herbert Walker Bush had once mocked as "Ozone Man."
Gore took that advice, which may help explain why he came up short in that race. It also may account for the zeal that the man who describes himself as a "recovering politician" has displayed in his second act. Rather than retire to the sidelines of public life, Gore has stayed in the game by continuing to fight for the environment and other causes close to his heartwhether as a teacher, an investor whose fund puts its money in socially responsible ventures or an entrepreneur who founded a youth-oriented television network.
Gore, 58, now finds himself in his unlikeliest role yet: movie star. The lecture on global warming that he has been giving for decades to any audience that would let him set up his flip charts has been turned into the indie documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The movie got raves at the Sundance Film Festival in January and will begin rolling out in theaters across the country in late May. In Los Angeles theaters, the trailers have been getting ovations.
There could hardly be a more opportune time for the country to be giving Gore another look, given that the man who edged past him in Florida is at his all-time low in the polls. But while Gore has not entirely shut the door on another run for President, he insists that he is "not planning" to be a candidate again. After all, 2008 is still a long way away. And in the meantime, Gore has decided, there's a planet to save.