by Mark Silva
Al Gore slipped out the side door of the West Wing.
In his private Oval Office meeting with President Bush, the former vice president insisted that they had spoken about global warming "the whole time.'' It wasn't clear if the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who shared the honor for his work on climtate change, was serious.
"Of course,'' they had spoken about global warming, Gore said, strolling down a rain-slick Pennsylvania Avenue with wife Tipper Gore after a private session with the president. For Gore, who had gone into the White House for a reception for the American winners of the 2007 Nobel Prizes, this was his first return to the Oval Office since leaving office.
But Gore, calling the meeting with Bush "very cordial'' and "substantive,'' declined to elaborate on their meeting. "I'm not going to do an interview here,'' Gore said in his walk down the streets outside the White House. "I don't want to comment more.''
This was the first private meeting of Gore and Bush since the Tennessee Democrat won more of the popular vote than Bush in the presidential election of 2000 but lost in the Electoral College – following a 36-day court fight over Bush’s disputed 537-vote margin in Florida.
This may have been a cordial reunion of erstwhile adversaries from a contested election, but it was kept discreetly private, within the confines of the Oval Office – where photographers and pool reporters arrived near the end for “a photo-opportunity.’’ The two appeared relaxed, smiling and in good moods, the pool reported.
Gore had come, along with the other American winners of the 2007 Nobel Prize, for an official reception by the president.
The president, who had personally telephoned Gore to invite him and arranged the date of the Nobel recognitions to fit Gore’s own travel schedule, also received the Democrat and wife Tipper Gore for a private session before the “photo-op’’ with Gore’s fellow Nobel laureates.
Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize this year for his work fighting global warming, a cause that Bush has only reluctantly embraced – with the Bush administration lately acknowledging the role that humans play in global warming, but still opposing mandatory caps on polluting emissions.
Gore also has been outspoken in his criticism for other administration policies, most notably the war in Iraq.
The White House insists the president holds no ill will toward Gore, who carried his challenge of the outcome of the 2000 election to the Supreme Court.
“I don’t believe so,’’ Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino said of any “bad blood’’ between the two. “I know this president does not harbor any resentments. He never has.’’
The two had met one another publicly at the dedication of the Clinton presidential library in Arkansas, and both had attended the funeral of President Gerald Ford, but the White House said Monday’s meeting was the first opportunity they had to meet privately.
“The president didn’t make a calculated decision to invite Al Gore to the White House... He invited him because he’s one of the Nobel winners,’’ said Perino, pressed about the purpose of the additional private meeting. “I didn’t psychoanalyze the president to find out why… It was a presidential, gentlemanly thing to do.’’