A Tale of Two Veeps

This is a story about two men, one a former VP of the United States, and the other the current Vice President of the United States. Although their position of power gives them commonality, there are no two individuals in government who are so diametrically opposed than Al Gore and Dick Cheney. One fights to protect environment, the other fights to rape it. One realizes that it’s possible to work for change to make a better world for our children, the other can’t see beyond the narrow confines of the Middle East. In every way, these two men respectively represent the heart of the progressive and conservative movements, and I find it absolutely fascinating.

When Al Gore lost to George W. Bush in the 2000 election, many in Washington, and indeed around the country, wrote him off as just a footnote of the Clinton era. The man was perceived as a boring, know-it-all who was prone to wild claims. In contrast, Dick Cheney had been an intergral part of the first Bush administration and when W. came to power, Cheney was seen as the man who would help the administration compensate for Bush’s lack of foreign policy experience. Cheney lent Bush credibility, and many in the GOP thought he would be one of the most admired VP’s in American history.

Time changes all things.

Today, Al Gore is the one who is widely admired and respected, not only in America, but around the globe. He started teaching, devoted himself to the problem of global warming, wrote a best-selling book and won an Oscar for his work on An Inconvenient Truth. Where ever he goes, he attracts huge crowds who draw strength and hope from this self-professed “geek with a slide show” and they secretly hope that he will decide to run for President again.

Dick Cheney has spent the last seven years in the Bush administration amid firestorms that he, himself helped to create. He has been deeply involved with some of the most egregious acts of government in recent memory, including the death of Habeas Corpus, illegal domestic wiretapping, leaking classified CIA identities and avoiding oversight whenever and however possible. Cheney’s popularity is even lower than that of the President himself, and now those in his own party seem to have had enough of him. Whispers of impeachment have resurfaced as well, although I doubt they will solidify.

This weekend, the Live Earth concerts were performed on all seven continents and drew the attention of over 2 billion people to the ever-growing problem of the climate crisis. Thanks to Gore’s involvement, this concert series was the greenest ever produced and involved dozens of artists performing for hundreds of thousands of people. Gore intends the Live Earth concerts to kick off a 3-5 year campaign to help fight global warming and judging by the enthusiasm that was generated online and in cities around the world, I’d say he’s off to an excellent start. People are ready to act, and Al has given them the rallying point they are so desperately searching for.

Al Gore and Dick Cheney have made decisions that effected all of our lives. Some say that Gore did not do enough while in office for the environment. I wasn’t paying attention to politics back in the 90’s, so I can’t speak to this criticism. I do pay attention now however, and what I see in Gore’s post-government service gives me hope for our country and our world. Watching Cheney makes me sorry for the conservative movement. His supporters believe that might always makes right, and liberty must be sacrificed for security. Terrorism is indeed one of the most pressing problems of this generation, but Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush’s reaction to it has made us less secure, globally isolated and exhausted our military and treasure. History will eventually write the final chapters for these two men, but I think many of us can already see who will be required reading, and who will be just another footnote.

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