Washington: Presidential candidate Barack Obama picked up the endorsement of Nobel laureate and former vice president Al Gore, getting a boost from one of the Democratic Party’s most-respected figures as he works to unify party ranks after a divisive primary campaign.
Gore’s commitment “to do whatever I can” to get Obama elected was not surprising now that Obama has locked up the Democratic presidential nomination. But Gore’s whole-hearted support could add luster to Obama’s campaign as he tries to win over Democrats who backed his former rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Gore endorsed Obama on Monday night before 20,000 people at a raucous rally at Detroit’s Joe Lewis Arena, delivering a blistering attack on President George W. Bush.
He said Obama can lead the country past “eight years of incompetence, neglect and failure.” He said Bush, who defeated him in the 2000 election, dishonored and disrespected the Constitution and made the worst foreign policy mistakes in the nation’s history.
Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 race, but lost the presidency after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bush in the disputed Florida recount. Gore said, “Take it from me, elections matter.”
To support environmental policies
But McCain touched on a key difference between Republican and Democratic environmental policies, calling for oil drilling in offshore regions of the U.S. Democrats have opposed offshore drilling for environmental reasons, but, McCain said it is needed to provide relief for Americans struggling with record high gasoline prices.
The current drilling moratorium is a perennial cause for controversy, pitting those who favor additional exploration on the one hand against environmentalists on the other. The current ban on offshore drilling covers an estimated 80% of U.S. coastal waters. Given Democratic opposition in Congress to ending it, the Bush administration and congressional Republicans have been seeking the type of state option that McCain endorsed.
Meanwhile, Obama spent Monday in Michigan, a state in which he did not campaign until recently because its January primary was held too early in violation of party rules. He focused on his plan to improve the economy, a key issue in Michigan, which has the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.
Obama is counting on a win in Michigan in November, but brought Gore and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards to help validate him among Democrats in the state after skipping their primary.
Gore is one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party, but he maintained a low profile in the primary campaign. He served as vice president under former President Bill Clinton, husband of Obama’s ex-rival.
Gore has made combatting global warming his signature issue, and has been recognized worldwide for his effort,from an Academy Award for a documentary to the Nobel Peace Prize. He asked for donations to help fund Obama’s effort through his Web site AlGore.com.
Travel to war torn Iraq, Afghanistan on cards
Meanwhile, Obama said he would travel to Iraq and Afghanistan. He has said before he was considering a trip, but his comment to reporters Monday was his first clear confirmation. Obama has been under fire from McCain, a war veteran and longtime senator who says the Democrat lacks insight into the situation on the ground in Iraq.
The visit would be Obama’s first since he made his only trip to Iraq in January 2006 as part of a congressional delegation. McCain has been to Iraq eight times, most recently in March.