Through odd circumstances, I ended up introducing Al Gore at a technology-world conference 36 hours before the Peace Prize news was announced, and then seeing him from the back of the room at his post-award appearance this morning in Palo Alto (below). Three quick points:
1) Whatever he must be feeling inside, Gore's statement was as non triumphalist-sounding as imaginable. He said that the recognition was all the more significant because he had the honor of sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; that he hoped this would help get out the message about a planetary emergency; that he would go to Oslo on behalf of the thousands of people who had been working on this issue for years; etc. He allowed himself not one displayed note of "I told you so." Update: Yes, of course I understand the Uriah Heepish concept of "ostentatious modesty." But in real time, and in the circumstances, it was an impressive statement.
2) For nearly seven years, anyone watching or thinking about Gore has to have wondered: how can he stand it? How could he get up each day and see George W. Bush in action, or watch his former boss Bill Clinton basking in the fruits of the post-presidency, knowing what had happened to him in 2000? From the Buchanan ballots to Ralph Nader to Katherine Harris to Bush v. Gore. Life is unfair, but that was unreasonable; Gore has to feel less Job-like now. I would love to have heard Jimmy Carter's congratulatory phone call to know how the two men signaled their shared understanding of the redemptive power of this prize.
3) The press: The Gores appeared in a very small room jam-packed with with TV cameras. Just before they stepped to the microphone, an aide announced that Gore would make a brief statement but take no questions. "Then why are we here??" a TV man next to me grumbled "One camera, one still photographer, that would do it." The instant Gore finished his statement and before he'd taken the few steps to the door, three questions were shouted out simultaneously: "Are you running?" "What about the Presidential race?" And one other I could quite hear, but also about his political intentions and not, of course, about the prize, the climate issue, his recommendations, etc.
In a way it's reassuring when people behave completely according to stereotype. But it can be a little depressing too.