WASHINGTON – Maybe he’ll bring the slide show.
Former Vice President Al Gore plans to return to the White House after Thanksgiving, apparently for the first time since leaving office, to be honored by the man who beat him seven years ago.
President Bush will host five American winners of this year’s Nobel Prizes in the Oval Office on Nov. 26, including the winner of the Peace Prize, who fell 538 votes short of hosting the event himself. No word on whether the Supreme Court will be on hand to mediate in case of trouble.
The president regularly invites Nobel laureates for a handshake and photograph and decided this year would be no different, even if they include his vanquished rival from 2000. The Gore camp said the White House went out of its way to accommodate the former vice president’s schedule, even moving the event when there was a conflict with the first proposed date. Bush telephoned Gore on Friday to finalize the arrangements.
“The president wanted to call him and lock that in and make sure he’s going to be able to come,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. “He also offered his congratulations and said he looked forward to having him here.”
A Gore adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged the awkward nature of the event. “It’s unusual, that’s for sure,” he said. “But the conversations were good, and the White House has been very gracious about it.”
The situation is not entirely unprecedented. Bush invited Jimmy Carter to the White House to mark his Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, even though the former president had been lambasting the march to war in Iraq.
President Bill Clinton honored defeated challenger Bob Dole with the Presidential Medal of Freedom three days before taking the oath of office for the second time in January 1997.
But Bush and Gore, while together at events such as the opening of Clinton’s library in 2004 and Gerald Ford’s funeral last year, have never reconciled the bitterness from their showdown, and the adviser believes that Gore has not been back to the White House since leaving as vice president.
Gore has been a vocal critic of Bush’s policies, while the president has been dismissive of his former opponent’s work against global warming. Asked once whether he would see Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” Bush had a curt response: “Doubt it.”
This could be the chance to change that. “I’m sure he would love to give the slide show to the president,” the Gore adviser said.