Al in All His Glory

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There he was, in all his glory–and his Ralph Lauren tux–accepting an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth. He was not the old Al Gore we have come to know who, well, bores us. He was funny. He was genuinely happy. He wasn't debating about putting Medicare money in a lockbox. He was THE darling of Hollywood; no more No. 2. And what about that 2000 presidential race that Democrats are so mad at him about? Ah, never mind.

Gore has been born again–as an environmental evangelist. And he played it up on Oscar night, with a joke about his intention to ... (music up). His comedic timing was perfect–especially for a guy known to be stiff on the stump. (The oldest joke in Washington: Al Gore is so stiff that his Secret Service code name is Al Gore.) With the Oscar, it's clear that Gore has spread the word about the dangers of global warming.

But he has also changed the political climate: Now it's cool to be green. Just look at all the stars who glom onto Al (Leo, Cameron, Meryl). It's a long way from George H.W. Bush calling Gore "Ozone Man" in the 1992 campaign. Now Bush 43 is touting hybrid cars–and five western governors have announced that they're banding together to reduce greenhouse gases–which they say cause record fire and drought seasons.

It was always easy being green. But now it could take Gore into another presidential run. (Now, polls show that 70 percent of the public believes that global warming is real, and important.) How could he do it? Well, he's in no rush to get in. He waits to see how the current field does–and if Obama and Clinton destroy each other. Then he enters late (even as late as November), writes himself a large personal check, raises $50 million more–and tells Democrats that he was never for the war in Iraq.

It's not a likely scenario–but it is one worth thinking about.