No, Al Gore did not make any major announcements Sunday night. But he certainly did not still speculation about the prospect that he might yet enter the 2008 presidential race.

The former vice president was never going to use the Academy Awards ceremony as a launching pad for a third presidential bid. In fact, no one familiar with the man could have imagined him even pondering such a stunt.

The senator’s son who has always been a little too conscious of proper protocols would never play games with something so consequential as his last chance to be seriously considered for the Oval Office. He was at the ceremony to join the crew from “An Inconvenient Truth,” as they collected the inevitable Oscar for best documentary.

And he was there to continue exploring popular reaction to the notion that he might again bid for the office that he won in the November, 2000, popular vote but lost in the December, 2000, Supreme Court vote. For Gore, it is a serious – and open – question.

But, because of the unique elder-statesman-slash-rock-star position in which he finds himself these days, Gore does not have to claw for approval – and money – in the way that New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Illinois Senator Barack Obama and the rest of the formal contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination must. Gore knows he has time to make a decision; indeed, he knows that as long as he isn’t running he will be just about everyone’s favorite son.

For Al Gore, politics can finally be fun. And so it was Sunday night.

His Oscar night adventure offered the former vice president a perfect opportunity to show the side of the ponderous politician that is rarely evidenced in public. Despite his reviews, Gore is one of the wittier people in public life. And so it came as no surprise to anyone who has spent much off-camera time with the man that he played the Academy Awards like a Saturday Night Live appearance.

With attention constantly turning his way, Gore mocked and mugged with the best of the A-listers around him. The crowd was his from the start of the night, when host Ellen DeGeneres made reference to the fact that America voted for Gore, not George Bush, in the 2000 election – a line that drew loud and knowing applause.

Gore’s main appearance of the night came when the former vice president joined actor Leonardo DiCaprio for one of those deliberately hokey Oscar night versions of a public service announcement.

Ostensibly, they were at the podium to tell the viewing audience that, in DiCaprio’s words, “this show has officially gone green.”

“Which means,” Gore chimed in, “that environmentally intelligent practices have been integrated fully into every aspect of the planning and production of these academy awards. And you know what? It is not as hard as you might think. We have a long way to go, but all of us can do something in our own lives to make a difference.”

After steering the curious to for environmental tips from the Academy and the National Resources Defense Council, DiCaprio got down to the meat of the moment, declaring, “Now, although our time is almost up, I want to say I’m very proud to be standing next to such an inspirational leader in the fight against global warming. You are a true champion for the cause, Mr. Gore.”

“Now,” DiCaprio continued, “are you sure, are you positive that all this hard work hasn’t inspired you to make any other kind of major, major announcement to the world here tonight?”

Smiling like the Cheshire Cat that he can be for at least a few more months, Gore said, “Well, I do appreciate that, Leo. And I’m kind of surprised at the feelings welling up here actually. You’ve been very convincing. Even though I honestly had not planned on doing this, I guess with a billion people watching, it’s as good as time as any. So, my fellow Americans, I’m going to take this opportunity right here and now to formally announce my intention…”

The music that stirs up when a stunt-double-thanking winner goes on just a little too long roared up, silencing Gore, who exited the stage to laughter and more, much more, applause.

It is said that the best entertainers always leave the crowd yelling for more. The same goes for prospective presidential candidates.


John Nichols’ new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders’ Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson hails it as a “nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe ‘heroic medicine’ that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to ‘reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'”