BUSH V. GORE. Great presidents educate the public, and what's most distressing about the Bush era is that the president has so horribly mis-educated the public on the two biggest public policy decisions of his presidency: taxes and Iraq. On the first count we were told by Bush during the 2000 campaign and many times subsequently that, despite massive debt, annual surpluses were a problem for the public and the economy. (This is akin to telling a person with $10,000 in credit card debt that it would be a bad idea if, finding extra income at the end of the month, he should spend it rather than apply it to his credit debt.) On the second count, I simply don't have enough space to review all of the mid-education at work on Saddam Hussein as a threat, Saddam as an al Qaeda ally, the need and ability to democratize Iraq, etc, etc.
The irony of the Bush presidency/Al Gore non-presidency is that, during Bush's reign, Gore has succeeded rather well in educating the public about his own pet issue: global warming. Though Gore cannot be credited entirely with the rising public awareness on this issue, a Zogby poll released this week shows that 40 percent of Americans are "much more convinced" that global warming is occurring and another 34 percent are "somewhat more convinced." (Not surprisingly, rates are higher among Democrats and Independents than Republicans.) That Gore has achieved success without the benefit of the bully pulpit is all the more remarkable.
There are a lot of reasons why Gore would make a great president, and one of them is that he has managed to educate the public in ways that few non-presidents can. (On issues, like the Internet, he also proved he was capable of educating fellow members of Congress like few presidents have been able to do.) One can only wonder how the 2000 election would have turned out if Gore had taken his favorite issue and campaigned as passionately then as he is now.