Gore, Albert, Jr. (1948 – ) American Former U.S. Representative, Senator and Vice President of the United States
Albert Gore Jr. (1948 – ) American former U.S. representative, senator and vice president of the United States
Albert Gore, Jr. was born and raised in Washington, D.C., where his father was a well-known and widely respected representative and later senator from Tennessee. Gore attended St. Alban's Episcopal School for Boys, where he excelled both academically and athletically. He later went to Harvard, earning a bachelor's degree in government. After graduation he enlisted in the army, serving as a reporter in Vietnam in a war he was opposed to. After completing his tour of duty, in 1974 Gore entered the law school at Vanderbilt University. Following in his father's footsteps, Gore ran for Congress, was elected, and served five terms before running for and winning a Senate seat in 1984. He served in the Senate until 1992, when then-governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton selected him as his vice presidential running-mate. After winning the 1992 election Vice President Gore became the Clinton administration's chief environmental advisor. He was also largely responsible for President Clinton's selection of Carol Browner as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bruce Babbit as Secretary of the Interior.
A self-described "raging moderate," Gore for more than two decades championed environmental causes and drafted and sponsored environmental legislation in the Senate. He was one of two U.S. senators to attend and take an active part in the 1992 U.N.-sponsored Rio Summit on the environment , and after he became vice president in 1993, he took a leading role in shaping the Clinton administration's environmental agenda. As vice president, Gore's ability to shape that agenda was perhaps somewhat limited. At the close of Clinton's first term, most environmental organizations rated his administration's record on environmental matters as mixed, at best. Yet clearly environmental groups had more access to the White House than they had ever had before. And in his second term, Gore was thought to be responsible for salvaging the 1997 Kyoto agreement on climate change when he flew to Japan as negotiations were falling apart and personally represented a new American position.
Gore's most notable contribution to the environmental movement might be as an author. With a wealth of statistical and scientific evidence, Gore's 1992 book Earth in the Balance makes the case that careless development and growth have damaged the natural environment; but better policies and regulations will supply incentives for more environmentally responsible actions by individuals and corporations. For example, a so-called carbon tax could provide financial incentives for developing new, nonpolluting energy sources such as solar and wind power. Corporations could also be given tax credits for using these new sources. By structuring a system of incentives that favors the protection and restoration of the natural environment, government at the local, national, and (through the United Nations) international levels can restore the balance between satisfying human needs and protecting the earth's environment. But restoring this balance, Gore maintained in his book, requires more than public policy and legislation; it requires changes in basic beliefs and attitudes toward nature and all living creatures. More specifically, environmental protection and restoration requires a willingness on the part of individuals to accept responsibility for their actions (or inaction). At the individual level, environmental protection means living, working, eating, and recreating responsibly, with an eye to one's effects on the natural and social environment, now and in the future in which our children and their children will survive.
Despite the strong stances Gore articulated in Earth in the Balance, his achievements as vice president under Clinton were more moderate. His former staffer Carol Browner headed the EPA, and she prevailed in promoting several major pieces of environmental legislation. But she had to withstand concerted attacks on her and her office by the Republican majority in the House and Senate after 1994. Gore had managed to save the Kyoto treaty on climate change by his personal efforts in 1997, but the Clinton administration never committed to specific actions to cut carbon-dioxide emissions. In August 1998 Gore met with the leaders of several environmental groups and explained to them that he had no political backing for advocating controversial actions like limiting pollution from coal-burning power plants . When he ran for president in 2000, the environment was not a strong feature in his campaign, though this was an area where he had sharp differences with his opponent, George W. Bush. In the last months of the campaign, Gore found himself defending his record on the environment against Green Party candidate Ralph Nader . Though Gore had the backing of the Sierra Club and other major environmental groups, Nader accused Gore of "eight years of principles betrayed and promises broken." In the end Gore lost the election to Bush, who quickly reversed Clinton administration environmental policies such as new
standards on drinking water safety, and refused to endorse the Kyoto climate change treaty.
After losing the election, Gore began lecturing at Fisk University in Nashville, at UCLA, and at the School of Journalism at Columbia University. Out of office, he remained for the most part out of the public eye. But he did speak at Vanderbilt University on Earth Day in 2002, roundly criticizing George W. Bush for his environmental policy . Gore noted that some of his more extreme environmental stances, such as calling for new technology to replace the internal combustion engine, were now being considered even by Republican lawmakers. In mid-2002, Gore would not commit to another run for the presidency. But it did seem that he stood by his earlier ideas, and would continue to identify himself with the environmental movement.
[Terence Ball ]
Gore Jr., Albert. Earth in the Balance. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
Barro, Robert J. "Gore's 'Reckless and Offensive' Passion for the Environment." Business Week, November 6, 2000, 32.
Berke, Richard L. "Lieberman Has One Eye on '04 Run, the Other, Quite Expectably, on Gore." New York Times, May 2, 2002, A25.
Branegan, Jay, and Dick Thompson. "Is Al Gore a Hero or a Traitor?" Time , April 26, 1999, 66.
"How Green Is Al Gore?" Economist (April 22, 2000): 30.
Jehl, Douglas. "On a Favorite Issue, Gore Finds Himself on a 2-Front Defense." New York Times, November 3, 2000, A28.
Seelye, Katherine Q. "Gore, on Earth Day, Says Bush Policies Help Polluters." New York Times, April 23, 2002, A16.