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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 13:50 GMT
Washington diary: Al meets Oscar
By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

Timing and tone have never been Al Gore's forte.

Remember the lingering kiss of the 2000 race?

Al Gore kisses his wife Tipper at the Democratic National Convention in 2000
Mr Gore's lip-lock with his wife failed to arouse enough support
After his campaign realised that Al was displaying an emotion deficit they decided to correct the balance with an on-stage, on-camera, on-message French kiss that lingered so long you could practically hear Hollywood screaming "Cut, cut, cut!"

His wife Tipper looked less like the adored First Lady-in-waiting and more like the unfortunate victim of an alien suction attack.

The kiss, which displayed all the spontaneous passion of the campaign focus group that had ordained it, failed to tip Tennessee and Florida in Mr Gore's favour.

Then there were his ructions at the presidential debates.

Yes, the irascible vice-president had a firm grasp of every wonky policy detail, but George W Bush had the charm. The rest is history.

Major, major announcement?

Compare the glutinous Mr Gore of seven years ago to the slick Al who melted the hearts of Hollywood at Sunday's Oscar ceremony.

For those who missed it, the former vice-president mounted the stage with Leonardo DiCaprio to present an award.

Al Gore at the 2007 Oscars ceremony
Mr Gore seems to have discovered a talent for comedy
First there was a rather tedious celebration of how green the Oscars had become.

Green Oscars? Are the famous statuettes now made of alfalfa and wheat germ?

But then Al and Leo got down to their double act.

"Now", Leo said, "are you sure, are you positive that all this hard work hasn't inspired you to make another kind of major, major announcement to the world here tonight?"

"Well, I do appreciate that, Leo," the former vice-president replied dead-pan, pulling a sheet of paper out of his breast pocket with perfect timing.

"And I'm kind of surprised at the feelings welling up here... and I guess with a billion people watching it's as good a time as any - so, my fellow Americans, I'm going to take this opportunity right here and now to formally announce my intention..."

At that precise point the Oscar anthem - whose volume is always yanked up when a winner has droned on for more than the allotted 30 seconds - drowned out Al Gore.

He obliged with a cheeky grin.

Bouncing back

Timing and tone were pitch-perfect. The audience erupted in laughter.

It was Al Gore's most high-profile funny moment since 2000, but not his first.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The opinions of the "left coast" should not be viewed as indicative of popular American sentiment
Bill, Philadelphia, USA

In fact he's almost a regular on Saturday Night Live and the late-night comedy shows where he has developed a hilarious repartee in self-deprecation.

By all accounts it hasn't all been one long joke since the Florida recount.

First came the depression. Then came the full beard. Then the snacks.

But Al Gore has bounced back.

He may be a few pounds heavier than he was in 2000 but he seems much lighter on his feet.

Here is clearly a man who has been liberated by failure.

Gore father and son

And America loves a tale of redemption told by a famous person.

By the way the fact that George W Bush used to be an alcoholic never bothered even his most puritanical supporters.

In fact throwing out Johnny Walker and embracing Jesus Christ has always spoken for him. It shows strength of character.

And so does Al Gore's resurrection.

The writer Gore Vidal, who says he is related to the former vice-president, once told me that the young Al was funny, sensitive and had a passion - and talent - for painting.

It was his ambitious father, the late Senator Albert Gore Sr, who pushed young Al into politics and forced him to forsake a more frivolous and creative calling.

Well, the combination of former statesman and stand-up comedian suits him perfectly.

But seriously...?

The big question still bouncing round the Beltway is whether Al meant what he said.

If he did eventually decide to run in 2008, he would certainly not need to remind people who he was.

A helicopter over flooded New Orleans eight days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005
Is post-Katrina America more inclined to think about global warming?
There would, I expect, be no shortage of cash.

Half the audience in LA's Kodak theatre would surely reach into their pockets to support the presidential bid of a man who has taken Hollywood's fears about climate change to a higher level.

And although the greening of Al will not sway Texas or even Tennessee, it could certainly impress storm-ravaged Florida.

A combination of high petrol prices, instability in the Middle East and the devastation of a Hurricane called Katrina have made millions of Americans think more carefully about the planet they inhabit and the resources they pillage.

Moreover, Al Gore doesn't need to get in a twist about the Iraq war.

He was publicly against it when almost everyone else was still for it.

He may be less exciting than Barack Obama, but he has a lot more experience.

He may not possess the Hillary Clinton machine but, curiously, he appears a lot fresher than the senator from New York.

A race between the two of them for the Democratic nomination really would turn the 2008 election into the Antiques Roadshow - the former First Lady versus the former vice-president!

You really couldn't make it up.

But while Hollywood may love sequels, the audience tires easily of them. That too is an inconvenient truth!


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