Fans of Al Gore are a passionate lot. Take, for example, Stephen Cohen, a 68-year New York City old medical writer who first encountered Gore 20 years ago when the then-svelte senator from Tennessee made an unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination. It was love at first sight. "He was a bright and brave guy, tackling issues other people ignored," he says. "Some of Gore's opponents have called him a loser. I don't think that's true. I think he's one of the biggest winners of all time."
Since 1988, Cohen has given three of his four presidential votes to Gore (Bill Clinton, Gore's running mate in 1992 and 1996, was "secondary"); volunteered to serve as president of the New York wing of the Draft Al Gore PAC, a federally registered nonprofit that has gathered 127,000 signatures in support of a third Gore bid; rallied for Gore at countless events, come rain or shine, with signs in hand and buttons pinned to his shirts, and, most recently (and perhaps most impressively), awoken at 4:30 this morning, slipped on blue sweatshorts and a green polo, poured a cup of tea and settled into a striped armchair in the living room of his small Upper East Side apartment to watch on CNN the 5 a.m. announcement from Oslo of this year's Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He was rooting for Al Gore.
For now, however, there was only Lou Dobbs. To occupy himself, Cohen cataloged the alternate-universe accomplishments of the Albert A. Gore administration, 2001-07. "Of course, we wouldn't be in Iraq, because, you know, Gore gave a magnificent speech in 2002 predicting everything that would happen there" he said. "And by leading the fight against global warming from inside the White House, he would've persuaded Congress to take action. What's more, Gore would have—" Suddenly, Dobbs's jowls faded from the screen of Cohen's 23-inch Quasar TV and in their place appeared the white-haired, bespectacled head of Nobel Peace Prize Committee Chair Ole Danbolt Mjoes speaking what was allegedly Norwegian. It was 4:59 a.m.
Cohen stopped talking, turned up the volume and leaned forward in his seat. He tilted an ear toward the set. More nonsense. "They don't have a translator!" he said, struggling to keep his voice down so as not to wake his sleeping girlfriend. "They've gotta be kidding! They knew this was coming! Are there no Norwegians in this country!"
He flipped to Headline News. No Oslo. "I guess that's it," he said. "But I'll understand 'Al Gore' when I hear it." Seconds passed. Nothing. Then the CNN anchor interjected. "Don't know if you managed to catch that from the Norwegian," he said, as Cohen clasped his hands together. "But they've just announced that the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize has gone to former U.S. vice president—"
Cohen started clapping. He had guessed, correctly, the rest.
"Oh, that is wonderful," he said. "This is a great day."
Sipping his tea and smiling, Cohen considered his next move. There would be a three-week street-corner drive, complete with "buttons, lapel pins and stickers," aimed at "spreading DraftGore's message around the state," followed by a petition drive, starting Oct. 30, to place Gore on the ballot for the New York Democratic primary and a "major rally" on Nov. 10 featuring "celebrities and entertainers asking him to run." Cohen was convinced his group's efforts would affect Gore's calculations—and, potentially, the outcome of the election. "He's aware of us," he said. "I'm very proud of the impact we've had on his thinking. And if does step in, I'm sure that he'll win the nomination and the presidency. Easily." (Gore spokesman Kalee Kreider says "we truly appreciate all the enthusiasm out there for the former vice president, but he does not have any intention to run for president.")
Asked why Gore will win, Cohen recalled a trip he and his girlfriend took to California in January 2006. Switching on the TV in a motel room on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the couple saw Gore giving a speech "criticizing Bush for his assault on civil liberties." When it ended, they turned to each other. Both were in tears. "Neither of us could remember the last time a political speech made us cry," he said.
So your girlfriend is also a fan?
"Oh, absolutely," said Cohen. "Just not enough to wake up at 4:30 in the morning."
With that he went back to bed.