Al Gore’s Golden Years

Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum/New York Magazine

The house in Nashville is gleaming white, with symmetrical wings and four twenty-foot-high Victorian columns. Under the soaring portico stands Al Gore, dressed in his casual uniform—a button-down blue dress shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots.

This is Gore’s White House, a 10,000-square-foot mansion he and Tipper renovated in 2007. It’s currently uninhabited but for his dog, Bo (by strange coincidence, the name of the dog in the real White House, too), a chow mix, who is barking wildly. “I’ve got the house to myself most of the time,” Gore says.

By mansion standards, the house is modest. The most famous feature of the Gore living room, Tipper’s drum kit, has been moved out since they separated in 2010. Off the living room is Gore’s writing room, with floor-to-ceiling whiteboards, where he spent the better part of two years—nights and weekends included—writing his latest book, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, 533 pages, 154 of which are endnotes and bibliography. Shortly after finishing his manuscript, he sold his cable channel, Current TV, in a deal worth $784 million—Al Gore is now richer than Mitt Romney, according to Forbes magazine. Add that to his books, his investment company, his Oscar-winning movie, and his Nobel Prize, and you have a flawless American success story—except, of course, for one little detail.

We pass through the kitchen, where Gore delivers a brief disquisition on the dangers of aspartame in diet drinks, which may cause you to crave sweet things, and thus help make you fat—one of Gore’s concerns, along with saving the planet.

In the backyard, the poplars have just started to bloom, white as teacups. Gore settles us onto cushiony patio furniture not far from a rectangular pool. Bo, finally quiet, has taken up a spot on the well-tended lawn.

It’s perfectly pleasant here in the yard—but wherever Al Gore is, it’s hard not to get the sense that there are dark clouds lurking. This is partly because of his core identity—the man who should have been president. And it’s also because his writings are apocalyptic—like nature hikes through the Book of Revelation, a phrase he sometimes uses in a different context. His environmental writings are replete with biblical images of the destruction that awaits unless we change our ways. His best seller The Assault on Reason laments the fading power of evidence and logic and the disdain with which intellectuals are treated. Even The Future proposes that America has lost its way and that its current course leads to “the possibility that civilization as we know it would come to an end.”

“Your books all seem to be built around a sense of loss and hopelessness,” I begin.

Gore quickly rebuts my premise.

“Oh, gee, it doesn’t come from that place,” he says. “Look, there are some dangers here and some opportunities. And we have to make conscious choices.

“I’m trying to push back against the idea that my writing comes from a place of sadness or lament.”



“You’re optimistic, then?”

“Yeah, I’m very optimistic. We’ve faced stormy days in the past. Good things can happen quickly. They can, and they do.”

The image of Albert Gore Jr. as a man for whom the sky is always falling was created in the five weeks after November 7, 2000, a day when he believed he’d won the presidency (and many still believe that he did). The Supreme Court, by one vote (and Sandra Day O’Connor, a retired justice, has just suggested that the court perhaps should not have taken the case), put an end to that dream. “For two and a half decades, he was on a trajectory that was supposed to end in the presidency,” says one of his closest advisers, Carter Eskew. Then it was ripped out of his hands, and that changed everything.

Part of Gore’s gift is that he’s always managed to make light of the situation. He’s developed a big banging laugh and a talent for self-deprecation—“I used to be the next president of the United States,” he likes to say. Or he play-acts.

“How hard was it to be so close?” ­Charlie Rose pressed one recent evening at the 92nd Street Y. How, in other words, could you bear it?

Onstage, Gore, in a suit that looked too small for him, mock-blubbered: “Oh, Charlie, you have no idea.”

In the absence of direct testimony, those close to him have filled it in. “He endured a long night of the soul,” says one aide, echoing the standard view of Gore after 2000.

Gore shifts us inside—it’s gotten a bit cold, and the host is hungry. There are relatively few signs of the wealth he’s lately accumulated. There’s a sideboard with dishes on display, a compact living room facing a flat-screen TV, and a dining area where the table is set for three—we’re joined by a young aide, Betsy ­McManus,­ who addresses her boss as “Sir.”

Gore outside his home in Nashville.Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum/New York Magazine

Gore serves the lunch himself. Vegetable soup, salad, and for dessert, fruit salad. “I have been eating more healthfully. I’ve been trying to get in much better shape,” he says, then adds grayly, “and I’ve enjoyed that.”

Gore’s weight and outward appearance have often been taken as a reflection of his inner state. Immediately after the loss in 2000, he’d disappeared, gone on vacation, grown a beard, put on weight—which many observers took to mean inner torment. But Gore laughs his big laugh at this. “Seven weeks in Spain, why shave?”

It wasn’t that his loss wasn’t hard. “The Supreme Court decision was an excruciatingly difficult experience,” he tells me. “It was excruciating. I don’t want to pretend that it wasn’t a devastating experience, it was. It was really, really hard.”

But it didn’t transform him, he insists; it quickly led him back to a place he’d been. He was good at governing—if not at ­campaigning. He examined the data, the options, and chose the best among them. He learned to do the same with his own life.

“So what are you going to do?” he asks, shrugging over soup. “You get up and get going.”

Gore pushes away from the table. “I’ll show you something.” He hustles up the stairs and plucks a frame off the wall. It’s a needlepoint of a quote from Ecclesiastes: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”

In defeat, Gore discovered the guiding principle of his next chapter: Get to work.

The question for Gore has been what work—what kind of career—is appropriate for a man in his unique position, having prevailed in the popular vote in an American presidential election but not having been elected president—“the little-known third category,” as he puts it. On the one hand, he has a certain moral gravity and a responsibility to his stature as a public figure that is much like that of an ex-president. On the other hand, no one is going to be building him a library.

These imperatives have produced a career of remarkable ambition, a kind of parallel presidency. “I have chosen to serve in other ways,” he says solemnly. Being denied the presidency in the way that he was is, in a sense, the ultimate Davos Man credential. He has the values and the heft and the contacts and the frequent-flier miles of any leading CEO. It’s a treadmill, but a glorious one. And, of course, he’s also gotten very, very rich, another CEO credential. Besides his Current TV payout, he is chairman of his own investment firm and a partner at a venture-capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Al Gore played a supporting role in inventing the Internet as we know it—but the Internet has played a much larger role in reinventing him. He is a director at Apple and purchased stock options for a fraction of their value, and as a senior adviser to Google, he was able to buy a substantial chunk of options before the company went public—for just a few cents per share, said one business partner.

Gore has leveraged his oddly attained moral stature to become a sort of American prophet—the Goracle. The status was validated by his share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the environment.

As a campaigner, he was dismissed as stiff, wooden, arrogant. But the stiffness has been transmogrified; now his cadences move inexorably toward the preacherly.

The results of his environmental initiatives have certainly been more mixed than those of his business ventures—the global-warming agenda seems to have stalled since his film An Inconvenient Truth, partly but not only because of the financial crisis. Gore puts some of the blame on the current president. “Obama failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action,” Gore recently wrote. He believes that the White House needs to lead on the issue and that so far it hasn’t. So he will lead. Now that Current TV has been sold, he is once again on the global-warming trail. “It is my mission in life,” he intones.

After Gore’s defeat in 2000, he thought hard about resuming his campaign for the presidency. He considered Bush a coward—unable to say no to the stronger personalities around him. “I thought very seriously about running again,” he tells me. “It’s hard for a lot of people to remember now what it was like just prior to September 11. Bush and Cheney were in trouble.” And Gore’s stature had only risen—he was the anti-Bush, curious and intelligent. Then came the attacks on the Towers, and everything changed. Politically, Bush was untouchable, and Gore’s view of his role in the American firmament made it imperative that he give Bush his full backing. “George W. Bush is my president,” Gore said in a speech, “and I will follow him, as will we all, in this time of crisis.”

But in another sense, 9/11 freed Gore to move past politics. Gore’s heart was not in a rematch. “I don’t think he wanted to run,” says Eskew. “There was not a systematic series of conversations about running. As a friend, I thought losing again would’ve been really devastating.”

Soon, Gore’s narrative coalesced around one theme: that defeat had liberated him. He was free to “let ’er rip,” he told a journalist in 2002. Gore tells me he doesn’t like that story line so much anymore. “What was Dylan’s line? ‘Are birds free from the chains of the sky?’ ” he asks. But, a year after 9/11, having played his role in legitimizing the Bush presidency, he was deeply disillusioned with the administration’s policies. And as Bush prepared to invade Iraq, Gore decided to speak out. He showed a former senior adviser, Michael Feldman, notes for a speech he planned to deliver at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in September 2002. Feldman was alarmed: “I told him, ‘I think this places you on the wrong side of history. You’re out of step with the party leadership. You’re going to seem bitter about losing the presidency.’ ”

“You have no idea how wrong you are,” he told Feldman. “I couldn’t feel more strongly about this.”

The speech was an impassioned flaying of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq, and Gore emerged as the fiery politician that his supporters had always hoped he’d be. But it was a polarizing speech, not the carefully calibrated utterances of a man planning a presidential run.

Gore was also free to become a businessman. Because, even as he’d begun to build his new career as a Cassandra, many of his concerns were much more quotidian. When he was a public servant, Gore had assets, such as they were, that came mostly from his home. He was worth $1 million to $2 million around the 2000 election.

So when the dust finally settled, “it seemed like a good time to make some money,” he tells me. He began a highly lucrative career as a speaker, commanding as much as $175,000 per speech. And he went to Silicon Valley—“The first thing I did after I left Washington,” he says—­hooking up with his friends Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google, who needed advice navigating Washington’s regulatory landscape.

Gore also explored the investment world, a tried-and-true path to wealth for former politicians. “I had this offer from an investment firm based in California,” Metropolitan West Financial, which managed around $50 billion.

At first, Gore found a level of intellectual stimulation in the work. “You work on big challenges that allow you to learn a lot of new stuff. I like things that are hard. That motivates me.”

But the experience was far from satisfying. Gore should have known that his primary role at MetWest was not to be an analyst or visionary but a rainmaker—a glorified salesman. It came to seem an undignified way of monetizing his stature. “There were great people there,” he says, “but it was just making money.”

For a man like Al Gore—as for his former boss, Bill Clinton—“just making money” is the wrong way to make money. Gore had always been comfortable with capitalism—in fact, part of the reason he didn’t win in 2000 was that a not-insignificant segment of the Democratic Party found him indistinguishable from a Republican. But the truth was that Gore had always been a save-the-world, future-focused Democrat. And saving the world, it turns out, can be pretty lucrative.

Gore’s current wealth is based partly on his Internet investments, primarily Apple and Google. But just as important have been his ventures as a kind of moral entrepreneur. He’s turned at least three of his obsessions into businesses. For Gore, capitalism and commitment to the health of the planet and its citizens, far from being in opposition, are now completely synergized and inseparable.

One of his first projects was to reform capitalism itself. “It’s a big idea, and it’s an important idea,” Gore tells me. He had first looked at the socially conscious investment niche, but found that investing purely based on politics was more about feeling good than about either capitalism or changing the world. In 2004, he launched Generation Investment Management with David Blood, a former Goldman Sachs executive who’d overseen assets totaling $325 billion.

Generation is a moneymaking enterprise wrapped in a cause. “Sustainable capitalism,” it was called in an elaborate white paper, which meant that investment criteria were expanded to include things like whether management had a long-term view—“Short-termism,” says Gore, “is a blight on the economy”—and also took into account supposed externalities like environmental and social concerns. Gore and Blood (Gore originally wanted to call the firm “Blood and Gore”) hired two thirds of their employees from the traditional investment world and one third from the sustainability-research community and laboriously created the method and the rhetoric themselves. Strange as this hybrid creature is, the investments have often been pretty conventional. The returns have consistently beaten their benchmarks, says Gore, but he is proudest of investments the company has avoided. “We were invested in BP,” he says. “Then our investment team noticed a refinery fire in Texas, then a pipeline fire in Alaska—they’d done some major acquisitions and hadn’t extended the safety culture. We got out of it. We designed a model to pick that up.”

His work in green tech has been less successful. Gore joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers with fanfare in 2007. A Kleiner partner, John Doerr, had been around at the start of the Internet and made a fortune betting on Google and Amazon and Netscape. Partly based on the near-deafening buzz over An Inconvenient Truth, Doerr was betting that the next big thing was green technology, and by the time Gore came onboard, KP had raised $600 million to invest.

But as an investment, green tech has lagged. The downturn in the economy hit the sector hard. Kleiner Perkins invested in some 60 companies, and thus far, only two have had liquidity events—either been acquired, merged, or gone public. Kleiner Perkins’s green business has damaged Doerr’s reputation as a visionary—but Gore, though he’s still a partner, has focused his energies elsewhere.

It makes sense that another of the things he wanted to reform was the media. A certain bitterness was a catalyst. During his presidential campaign, the media fixed on a caricature of him as a supercilious Ivy League egghead. “They focused on the sighs,” he tells me, “not the substance.”

After the election, Gore talked over the media’s problems with a friend and co-combatant and came up with a grander diagnosis. “The media was a dysfunctional oligopoly, and there was no real journalism left,” explains Joel Hyatt, an entrepreneur who was co–national finance chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2000. “It was less about ‘They screwed us’ than ‘This is bad for democracy.’ ”

So, in 2003, Gore and Hyatt decided to launch their own cable-TV station. It wasn’t, at first, a matter of leveraging Gore’s political capital to launch a liberal response to Fox. “I thought it would be much more important to do something disruptive, transformational, that would link the Internet with the television medium and, in the process, empower individual citizens to get back into the mix,” Gore tells me, his dense explanation bringing to mind why he couldn’t always grab people even when championing their cause. “The essential insight was, look, there are all these very low-cost, very high-quality consumer video cameras out there now. Why not see if we can make television by asking people to contribute?”

Current TV, as it was to be called, would rely partially on user-generated content—even user-generated ads—which could be bold, personal political statements, with the added advantage of also being cheap. It would, he says in Gorespeak, “catalyze the emergence of … a multi-way conversation on television that brought out creativity and political passions.” He adds, “That was a thrilling idea for me.”

In 2003, in the days before YouTube, this seemed a pretty radical idea—but as a business proposition, it wasn’t so outlandish. A cable station doesn’t need viewers, at least to start; it requires distributors like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and DirecTV, which pay for the right to carry programming from ESPN, CNN, or, perhaps, Current.

At the time, Gore and Hyatt had NWI (Newsworld International), a cable station based in Canada, in their sights. NWI had few viewers but possessed valuable distribution deals that piped it into 17 million homes (producing an estimated $25 million a year in revenue).

The problem was those deals expired within a couple of years, and without extensions NWI was worth very little. NWI’s largest distributor was DirecTV—and Rupert Murdoch was in the process of buying a controlling share in it, subject to FCC approval.

Murdoch’s Fox News had virtually campaigned against Gore in 2000—and Gore had every reason to detest him. Instead, Gore invited Murdoch to his class at Columbia journalism school in 2001. “I want to understand what the hell you’re doing,” he told Murdoch. He questioned the oligarch in front of the class. “There were no punches pulled,” Gore tells me. “I asked what I wanted to know: ‘Do you interfere with your editors?’; ‘do you select journalists and editors because of their ideological disposition?’ ” It seems a banal exercise. Gore pressed Murdoch to admit the obvious: that he uses his media as ideological weapons. But Gore was satisfied to hear Murdoch’s straight talk. And the relationship came in very handy.

In the fall of 2003, when Gore and Hyatt needed Murdoch, a meeting was arranged by Gary Ginsberg, who had worked for Gore and then for Murdoch.

Murdoch had no interest in Gore’s plan to upend the media paradigm. But Gore’s timing was excellent. “Rupert is a smart guy,” Gore tells me. “This was a great opportunity for him to demonstrate that he was not interested in consolidating his control of DirecTV just to launch an ideological jihad.” As proof, “he could say, ‘Hey, I put Al Gore’s channel on.’ That was something that would work for him. It would certainly work for me.”

A minute into Gore’s presentation, Murdoch put up his palm.

“Wait a second, Al,” Murdoch said. “You guys are here because you want to know if you buy NWI whether I’ll kick you off. I can assure you we are not going to do that.”

On the spot, Murdoch agreed to a ten-year extension. Over ten years, it amounted to a “gift” of about $200 million, as DirecTV’s execs later said.

On the strength of Murdoch’s commitment, Gore and Hyatt raised $75 million—mostly from wealthy Democrats like Ron Burkle and Richard Blum, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s husband—and bought NWI. “We thought we were going to change the world,” says Hyatt.

The world indeed changed. But Gore and Hyatt didn’t change it. Gore was Current TV’s only real asset. As chairman, he served as a strategic thinker, which suited him. But in business, the role of a person of Gore’s stature is to open doors—his “convening power,” as one associate explained.

Current’s user-generated programming never gained traction. “We overestimated the volume of high-quality material that could be made by people with consumer video cameras,” Gore explains politely. (Also, Current at first refused to schedule shows. Viewers didn’t know what they’d get when they tuned in.)

Still, Current’s revenues increased every year—as long as Gore and Hyatt signed up distributors, they earned money. (And it was often easier to negotiate a deal with Al Gore’s network than risk negative publicity.) Current eventually reached up to 70 million homes worldwide, usually at around $1.20 per home per year.

The problem was that Current rarely notched more than 40,000 actual viewers, even in prime time, and eventually distributors got impatient. Current felt pressure for another reason: The station was irrelevant. “You’re not having an impact if you don’t have an audience,” notes Hyatt. Gore complained that his blog had more impact than his TV station. So, in 2009, Current shifted to “more appropriate content,” as Hyatt puts it, playing to its strength. In 2011, it recruited Keith Olbermann, who’d recently left MSNBC, paying him a reported $10 million a year, roughly 8 percent of the channel’s annual revenue at the time. “We both knew the same thing about him,” says Hyatt. “He had a great show on MSNBC.” They’d been told he had a big ego and chafed at authority. Hyatt ignored the warning: “I’m going to be his friend and partner,” he says he thought. That illusion didn’t last long. Within a short time, Olbermann reportedly wouldn’t take Gore’s phone calls.

Olbermann’s presence led to an initial ratings spike, but it didn’t last. It did, though, get attention from other quarters. Murdoch controls BSkyB in England and SkyItalia, both of which unceremoniously dropped Current after Olbermann signed. “There is no doubt whatsoever that that’s what resulted in the cancellation,” Gore tells me. The irony is that Olbermann was soon shown the door, replaced by Eliot Spitzer. Gore, too, stepped in. During the 2012 election season, he even anchored some coverage, and some argued for him to do more. But for a man who had a Nobel Prize, being a talking head on a liberal channel—even if he owns it—is not great for the Gore brand. And without Olbermann or Gore, the game was over for Current TV.

In 2012, Hyatt and Gore looked to sell Current; its worth was estimated at $450 million by analysts. The only other possibility was to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to create a first-class news organization. That meant surrendering control—“It was our network, and we could do what we wanted,” says Hyatt. “We weren’t going to change that.”

An investment banker suggested approaching Al-Jazeera, the Arab news network funded by Qatar. Hyatt initially dismissed the company out of hand, as did Gore—they associated it with Islamic propaganda. But Al-Jazeera offered several advantages, not least of which was that the ambitious network had bottomless funds. “At Al-Jazeera, making money isn’t what we worry about,” one of Current’s executives was told.

For Al-Jazeera, Current offered a rare opportunity. The organization was already the world’s largest news-gathering operation, and one of a very few that were expanding, but it had been unable to gain a foothold in the U.S. TV market, crucial for a network with global ambitions.

Hyatt decided to rethink his first reaction. He visited Al-Jazeera’s impressive headquarters in Doha. “I was there three seconds, and I saw what you can do if you have the resources,” which Current would never have. “It was an obvious decision to sell.” The financial incentives were high: The Al-Jazeera deal was worth $784 million, according to Privco, a firm that analyzes private companies.

For Gore, publicity about the deal came at an inopportune time. He was on a book tour for The Future and thus accessible. He defended Al-Jazeera as a reputable, award-winning news source that would broaden the dialogue in the U.S., as Current had tried to do. He argued that Al-Jazeera covered the environment better than any American network. But Gore looked greedy taking money from oil-rich Qatar, the very despoilers he crusaded against, a point made by Jon Stewart and Letterman as well as by Fox. But ideological consistency has never been one of Al Gore’s hobgoblins, for better or worse. And one benefit of having endured what Gore has endured is that he has a very thick skin. “When you’ve had the worst thing happen to you, who cares?” says Eskew.

User-generated content is now everywhere, thanks to YouTube—but in the end, Current TV did not reform the dysfunctional media oligopoly. Gore is philosophical: “It was a worthwhile experiment.” He earned about $100 million from the sale.

One casualty of Gore’s Davos Man, overscheduled life has been his marriage, one to which the term “storybook” had often been applied. He and Tipper, who’d met in high school, had been natural complements: Tipper’s “healing and soulful” mien, as Donna Brazile, Gore’s campaign manager in 2000, calls it, balanced Gore’s analytical predilections. She communicated emotion fluently and was easy to like. And she was a devoted political wife—the most supportive of the supporting cast.

But Tipper had never signed up for the political life. She thought of herself as a photographer—she’d worked as a photojournalist at The Tennessean while Gore worked there as a reporter. In those days, their shared dream was to buy a small paper and lead a bohemian life. “Tipper lived a life for a long time that I don’t think she would’ve chosen but for Al,” says a friend. “She saw his new wealth and new status as a Nobel laureate and thought, We’ve finally moved on to the next part of life.

But Gore wanted to stay in constant motion. “I can’t really imagine retiring,” he tells me.

It was Tipper who pushed for separation. Gore didn’t want to split—but he wouldn’t rein in his schedule in order to save the marriage. “I don’t think they were compatible anymore,” says the friend.

So he and Tipper began to live separate lives—showing up to social events alone. In 2010, they made the separation public, selling it as a storybook divorce. Nowadays, they mainly see each other at events for their children and grandchildren. Tipper spends her time in Virginia and California, where, it has been reported, she is dating a photographer and continues her own photography. On her website are photographs of melting glaciers.

In January 2012, Gore threw himself a coming-out party of sorts. His Climate Reality Project, which he founded and helps fund, chartered the National Geographic Explorer, a roughly 370-foot icebreaker, to take him and 142 carefully selected paying guests to Antarctica, where he could dramatically illustrate the perils of global warming. He’d stocked the cruise with more than a dozen of the world’s top climate scientists—they came for free. The rest of the manifest was a sampling of Hollywood, do-gooders, business leaders, political loyalists, and, he hoped, future funders—the net worth of the passenger list easily was upwards of $20 billion. Tommy Lee Jones, famed actor and ­Gore’s classmate at Harvard, was aboard; so were Ted Turner, Tom Brokaw, Laurene Powell Jobs (Steve Jobs’s widow), John Doerr, and Richard Branson, whose Virgin Media carried Current in the U.K. and whom Gore had personally convinced over breakfast that climate change was real.

And, in one of her first public appearances, Gore showed off his new girlfriend, Elizabeth Keadle, a dark-haired, attractive woman in her fifties. Keadle is the anti-Tipper, a wealthy biotech entrepreneur, Democratic fund-raiser, environmental activist, and philanthropist. But the real mating call was science. “Proteomics,” Gore says as he details her involvement in breakthroughs at the Salk Institute. She and her ex-husband founded Invitrogen, which became Life Technologies, a public company. “It was started in her garage,” Gore says, a certain wonder in his voice.

Keadle and Gore are intellectual companions, and she is as overscheduled as he is. “She has her own standing in the world,” he says. It’s a modern arrangement. He refers to her as his “partner.” It works. “I’ve never seen him happier or more secure in his personal life than in the last year,” says a friend. Gore is quick to profess his love. “She has really been wonderful for me,” he says. “We have a great relationship, for which I thank my lucky stars.”

Floating off Antarctica, with the assembled luminaries looking on, Gore and Keadle donned bathing suits and took a ceremonial plunge into 33-degree water. “Twice,” says Gore.

Eating the soup he’d heated up in his kitchen in his solar-paneled bachelor pad on the outskirts of Nashville, Gore is open-eyed about what he lost. “Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, you’ve been able to do more since you left politics,’ ” he tells me. “I know better than that. I’m under no illusion that there is any position with anywhere near as much potential for shaping the future in a positive way than as president of the United States.”

He laughs. He’s now a rich man. “In the business world, there are rewards for solving for X,” he tells me. “But I’ve never cared that much about making money. I don’t own a plane. I own a houseboat—solar panels all over the top—my redneck yacht.

“I never said I enjoy business more than politics. I’ve never deluded myself. I miss most of all being able to grab the levers and push the buttons and have an impact on policy and lives.”

In the absence of power, there is constant travel, and writing, between knocking around this empty house. And, of course, his global-warming crusade, hair-shirt labor that somehow gives weight to the rest of it.

“There is a sense of joy in having work that is worthy of everything you can possibly pour into it,” Gore says.

“I was just on the phone this morning,” he says. “I’ve got a three-day training in Istanbul, and a three-day training in Chicago. I do probably a thousand people at each training,” teaching them to give the slideshow, the one on climate change that he’s been delivering in some form since 1989. “I’ve got slideshows in practically every language,” he says.

And there’s one specific capitalist he hopes to enlighten. Gore tells me of his ambition to have another meeting with Rupert Murdoch, to talk him through the issue, convert him to the cause. “There is still hope that he will awaken to the reality of this,” Gore says. “It would make a huge difference if he would.”

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