He who wistfully describes himself as the man who used to be the next president of the United States in 2000 is a new man on the presidential campaign trail in 2004, and folks hardly recognize him.
Al Gore, who went through several transformations during his failed bid for career advancement in the White House, has morphed into a fire-breathing Democrat, astounding both party members and Republicans with his go-for-the-jugular stump speeches.
The reaction of both camps is predictable to the point of comical. The former vice president, sporting a wider girth and longer hair, has assumed the Zell Miller flair for the dramatic bordering on the outrageous.
Recently he slammed Vice President Dick Cheney s conduct on the hastings as sleazy and despicable and lashed out at the Bush re-election campaign for moral cowardice in giving tacit approval to the lowest sort of politics imaginable. Private citizen Gore even likened President Bush s faith-based governance to the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia.
The reserved, steady, famously stiff half of the Clinton-Gore ticket has turned into an astonishingly forceful Bush-basher at Democratic rallies with speeches that bring the party faithful to their feet and generate mixed reactions elsewhere.
Like the sometimes over-the-top campaign rhetoric of his counterpart in the Bush Administration, Mr. Gore s fiery, attention-getting tone on the trail is no doubt making some advisers on the John Kerry team nervous. They worry about offending swing voters with Gore comments that are too electric, too furious, and too unrelenting.
Funny how the Democrats presidential candidate is being faulted for acting just the opposite too cautious, too restrained, and too slow to counter damaging Republican attacks. Funny how some Democrats are so clueless as to be concerned at all that Al Gore is demonstrating too much passion about his politics.
What a difference four years makes.
Republican dismay is palpable. The party that mastered the art of dirty politics paints the new and improved Mr. Gore as wild and crazy. GOP strategist Keith Appell compared him to some kind of cheerleader on acid.
Ralph Reed, party consultant and former head of the Christian
Coalition, denounced the Gore approach as reckless and
Certainly not like Vice President Cheney linking a vote for John Kerry with death and destruction.
Meanwhile loyal Democrats can only wonder what might have been if that energy had been unleashed four years ago.