When Al Gore won the popular vote by more than half a million, but lost the Supreme Court vote by 5 to 4, he gracefully conceded the 2000 election to George W. Bush—something Donald Trump would apparently be loath to do this time around even if Joe Biden beats him decisively in both the Electoral College and raw ballots on November 3.
Gore insisted Tuesday—in an online interview with Reuters Editor in Chief Stephen J. Adler, introduced by Reuters Editor at Large Sir Harold Evans—that he’s had no second thoughts about his concession speech two decades ago because there was zero alternative.
“When you say there were potentially some other moves,” he told Adler, “I researched them, and it turns out there’s no intermediate step between a final Supreme Court decision and violent revolution.”
But what if Trump declares the results illegitimate, Adler asked, and demands to stay on as president? Or does Gore believe the former reality star would concede defeat in the same spirit that he did?
“I don’t know,” Bill Clinton’s former vice president—these days a fit-looking, silver-haired 72-year-old mega-millionaire—answered with a mirthless chuckle. “But it’s important to say that it’s really not up to him. I hear people saying, ‘Well, would he accept that decision?’ Well, it doesn’t matter because it’s not up to him. Because at noon on January 20th, if a new president is elected… the police force, the Secret Service, the military, all of the executive branch officers, will respond to the command and the direction of the new president.”
Gore added, “I’m hoping that it will be a decisive victory [for Biden], but I don’t want to get ahead of myself, because like a lot of people in my political party, I felt kind of optimistic four years ago, and we all saw what happened. So I don’t think anybody who is a partisan for Biden or [Kamala] Harris are going to be relaxing or coasting just because they have a lead in the polls right now.”
Last time around, Gore said, Trump “won the Electoral College and lost the popular vote and went on with this nonsense about millions of undocumented immigrants coming [across the border to vote for Hillary Clinton]. It was just complete nonsense, just like his birther slander against former president Obama and his stillborn efforts to pull the same stunt with Kamala Harris. He had to abandon that.”
In an wide-ranging interview that largely focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and Gore’s Nobel Prize-winning efforts to combat global warming—a phenomenon that is causing increasingly violent hurricanes in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico along with record temperatures and raging wildfires across California and other states—the ex-veep languidly sliced and diced the 45th president.
“He seems to have no compunctions at all about trying to rip apart the social fabric and the political equilibrium of the American people,” said Gore, who spoke, as usual, in lengthy, perfectly formed paragraphs, without notes or pause-filling “ums” and “uhs.”
“And he’s strategically planting doubts in advance to try to undermine people’s confidence in the election. So Americans of whatever party have to gird ourselves to push back against this despicable strategy.”
Gore—who appeared from Nashville in front of a backdrop of the blown-up photo of the horizon and the thin layer of Earth’s atmosphere—pronounced last week’s Democratic National Convention “a stunning success,” noting, “Of course I’m biased so I don’t qualify as a focus group.”
Asked his thoughts on this week’s Republican conclave, Gore didn’t hold back.
“We’ve had the first night. It didn’t seem as joyful and uplifting as the president promised us it was going to be,” Gore said, not bothering to stifle laughter. “It was pretty dark and depressing at times. But I understand they’re trying to make a case, and when you have the facts, argue the facts—as the old lawyer’s cliché has it—and if you have the law, argue the law, and if you have neither, shout and bang the table. I think there was a lot of shouting last night.”
Asked if he’d consider accepting a position in a prospective Biden administration, Gore replied, “I’m a recovering politician and the longer I go without a relapse, the less likely I will.”
What he didn’t say was “No.”