BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Al Gore faced an unwelcome choice when a fan pushed a copy of his new book at him for his autograph.
Inside the cover she wrote, "Plan to run for president in 2008?" with boxes marked "yes" or "no." Gore paused, then scribbled one word - "plans"- next to the "no" box and checked it. No plans, but not a firm no.
His artfully qualified answer underscored the fact that, despite his protests, Gore refuses to rule out another run for president. He's keeping his options open.
"If he is running, he's doing all the right things," said Brian Melendez, the chairman of the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota. "He tried it the traditional way the last time and look what it got him. This time, he's a passionate man indulging his passion. If it happens to take off for him in the next year, he would be very well positioned."
His crusade to curb global warming by staging an award winning movie and writing a best-selling book is pushing him back into the spotlight - and into the hearts of rank-and-file Democrats in ways that more conventional politicians can only envy. In the process, he's invented a deceptively clever path back into presidential politics, should he decide to take it.
While it's not a traditional campaign, "it's the most brilliant campaign anyone is running right now," said Martin Peretz, a longtime Gore friend and the editor-in-chief of The New Republic, a neo-liberal magazine. "It may be the most brilliant campaign launch in our time."
At a recent book signing in Beverly Hills, hundreds of people waited for as long as four hours to see Gore in a line that stretched more than a block. When he first walked in, tie-less and clad entirely in black like some latter-day Johnny Cash, he was greeted by chants of "08, 08, 08."
"You're president in our hearts," said Julia Winbrandt, an administrative assistant from Los Angeles.
To those urging him to run, Gore repeated again and again that he had no plans to run. But he never ruled it out.
Monday, July 03, 2006
"Al Gore keeps his options open..."
The story that won't go away: