Next time he runs for president, things will be different. That was Al Gore's pledge to Democrats after the 2000 election: "If I had to do it all over again, I'd just let it rip. To hell with the polls, the tactics and all the rest. I would have poured out my heart and my vision for America's future."
Those words had a familiar ring. Fifteen years ago -- before he was vice president -- Gore wrote about his internal struggle between ambition and conscience: "I have become very impatient with my own tendency to put a finger to the political winds and proceed cautiously." He added, "Now, every time I pause to consider whether I have gone too far out on a limb, I look at the new facts that continue to pour in from around the world and conclude that I have not gone nearly far enough."
Gore's topic then was global warming -- the same subject that brings him, fresh from the Oscars, to Capitol Hill.
Will Gore run in 2008? The question will echo throughout his appearances Wednesday before the House and Senate committees dealing with climate change. It likely will echo through all of American politics for months to come. There are two ways to ponder the question.