Tickets for Al Gore's talk at Town Hall Seattle on June 4 sold out four days earlier, three minutes after they went on sale. Elliott Bay Book Company only had a week's notice to organize the event for The Assault on Reason, Gore's new book that links the Iraq war to the climate crisis to dozens of other infamous examples of ideology colliding with rational thinking. It's a fascinating subject, and thank God there's a venue in Seattle that can hold 850 people on a moment's notice.
But can someone please get on Town Hall's climate crisis? It was sweltering in the auditorium, and the fans weren't cutting it. LaRouche cultists started singing in the middle of Gore's lecture and were ushered out by security, where they sang as loudly as possible under one of Town Hall's big open windows, meaning that, to top it off, that window had to be shut. The editor of this paper, live Slogging next to me, was sweating in a T-shirt. Gore, under his suit, must have been soaked.
Gore began with funny throat-clearing stuff, like, "I'm a recovering politician." Laughter. "I'm on about step nine." More laughter. "You win some and then you lose some. And then there's that little-known third category." Loudest laughter and applause you've ever heard at Town Hall.
Gore—even his extemporaneous sentences are spiraling and beautiful—said things like: "When reason is taken out of the center of the democratic conversation, it leaves a vacuum, and what fills that vacuum is fundamentalism, extreme nationalism, in the worst cases, racism and ethnic ferocity. And what led to the possibility of self-governance in our society was the idea that people could govern themselves on the basis of a new sovereign that displaced the monarchy and the church: the rule of reason."
A literary agent whispered to me in the lobby beforehand, paraphrasing Gore's 2000 campaign manager, Donna Brazile, that the way to tell if Gore is going to run for president is whether he appears to be on a diet. Sure enough, the guy looked trimmer than he did the last time he was in Seattle (KeyArena, October 2006). Sadly no one in the audience asked why he isn't currently planning to run for president, or what it would take to get him to run for president, or any like variation on the one question that pops into your head when you think of Al Gore. What did the people of Seattle ask? One lady: How can we change the minds of other people whose minds are already made up? In a startlingly dumb subsequent question, another lady: How can we change not just people's minds but also their actions? Then the Q&A was over.
After he'd signed everyone's books, I asked: "What would it take to get you to run for president?"
Gore said, "If there were changes in the way the political ecosystem works, that would make a difference." And then he was whisked away.