Gore Endorses Obama as a Solver of Problems
DETROIT — Former Vice President Al Gore made his debut appearance in the presidential campaign here Monday evening, offering a vigorous endorsement of Senator Barack Obama and urging Democrats to keep in mind the consequences of not taking the general election with grave seriousness.
|Alex Brandon/Associated Press Former Vice President Al Gore formally endorsed Senator Barack Obama on Monday in Detroit.|
“Looking back over the last eight years, I can tell you that we have already learned one important fact since the year 2000,” Mr. Gore said. “Take it from me, elections matter. If you think the next appointments to the Supreme Court are important, you know that elections matter.”
Mr. Gore and Mr. Obama strode onto the stage arm in arm to thundering applause from a crowd of nearly 20,000 people at a downtown arena. As Mr. Gore ticked through a long list of challenges facing the nation, he hailed Mr. Obama as “clearly the candidate best able to solve these problems and bring change to America.”
Mr. Gore had purposefully stayed on the sidelines during the long Democratic primary fight. He announced his endorsement of Mr. Obama a few hours earlier on Monday in a message to supporters on the former vice president’s vast e-mail list. Their appearance here touched off a flurry of curiosity among Democrats, with many quietly asking if Mr. Gore would be on Mr. Obama’s list of prospective running mates.
“When I am president,” Mr. Obama said, “I will be counting on Al Gore to help me lead the fight for a clean energy future here in the United States and around the world.”
Since Mr. Obama opened his presidential bid in January 2007, the two have talked frequently, including in a meeting last fall at Mr. Gore’s home in Nashville. Mr. Obama said Monday that the former vice president had been helpful throughout the primaries, lending his ear and his thoughts, but always taking care to stay impartial.
The rally here at the Joe Louis Arena was a rare political appearance for Mr. Gore, 60, who implored Democrats to unify behind Mr. Obama and disregard any suggestions from Senator John McCain of Arizona that Mr. Obama lacked the experience to serve in the Oval Office.
Mr. Obama, 46, smiled as Mr. Gore read a quote that President John F. Kennedy once read to a rival: “To exclude from positions of trust and command all those below the age of 44 would have kept Jefferson from writing the Declaration of Independence, Washington from commanding the Continental Army, Madison from fathering the Constitution and Christopher Columbus from even discovering America.”
The decision to stage the appearance in Michigan underscored the importance of the state for Mr. Obama. It was also in Michigan that former Senator John Edwards unveiled his endorsement of Mr. Obama in a surprise setting. The state, a general election battleground, was one of the few places that Mr. Obama did not campaign in before the state’s primary because of a dispute over delegates.
Mr. Gore, who seldom talks about the disputed 2000 election in which he won the popular vote but lost the presidency in the Electoral College, urged Democrats to remember that as they made their election decisions. He praised Mr. McCain as a valued American public servant, but said it was time for a change in Washington.
“For America to lead the world through the dangers we’re facing, to seize the opportunities before us, we’ve got to have new leadership,” Mr. Gore said. “Not only a new president, but new policies. Not only a new head of state, but a new vision for America’s future.”
At a fund-raising reception before the rally, Mr. Gore stood a few paces behind Mr. Obama, a reversal of roles for the man who served for eight years in the White House and dreamed of becoming president. Mr. Gore applauded repeatedly as Mr. Obama gave his remarks, heavily weighted with points about the environment.
Every few minutes, Mr. Obama referred to Mr. Gore’s prescient decisions and judgments, referring to Iraq as “a war that Al Gore understood should never have been authorized and never should have been waged.”
On climate change and energy, Mr. Obama said: “Al Gore has done more to educate the world about this problem than anyone. But I have to say, as extraordinary as Al Gore’s work has been, there’s nothing like $4 a gallon gas to get your attention.”
Earlier on Monday, Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, called for lifting the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling for states that want to permit it. He said the impact of high fuel prices was hitting Americans not only at the pump but also in the form of rising food costs and threats of inflation, so he favored giving states incentives to allow exploration as well.
“We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gases through the development of alternate energy sources,” Mr. McCain said at his campaign headquarters, adding that he still supported a summer gasoline tax holiday.
In the Senate, Mr. McCain has a mixed record on the issue of oil exploration. In 2001 and 2006, he voted in favor of offshore oil drilling in Florida, but in 2003 he voted against it in Florida and other states. Mr. McCain has consistently opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Daniel J. Weiss, a global warming expert at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group, said Mr. McCain’s call to lift the moratorium was a “partial capitulation” to the oil industry in that states that did not want to drill offshore would not have to.
“McCain is handing America’s coasts on a platter to the big oil companies the day before he goes to talk to them in Houston,” Mr. Weiss said.