Does the cantankerous Christopher Hitchens control the media?

I’m beginning to come to that scary conclusion after scanning the papers this morning. Two weeks ago, Hitchens posted one of his regular columns on Slate in which he predicted that if Al Gore is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he would surely join the race for the Democratic nomination for president the very next day. Hitchens laid out the scenario with near airtight precision. “Should he make up his mind not to run,” Hitch wrote, “he would retrospectively abolish all the credit he has acquired so far. It would mean in effect that he never had the stuff to do the job and that those who worked and voted for him were wasting their time. Given his age and his stature, can he really want that to be the conclusion that history draws?”

Obviously, Hitchens is not the only one to have had this thought about Gore. But I was surprised to see how much this notion was hyped today, twenty-four hours before the Nobel is announced —and in the news pages, no less.

There’s a New York Times article about the Draft Gore campaign that ends with this quote from an expectant Bob Alexander, chairman of the Michigan group urging Gore to run: “Hopefully, the euphoria of winning the Nobel Peace Prize, plus all this other positive stuff, will be enough for him to say: ‘O.K., this thing is taking off. We’re ready to run.’”

The San Francisco Chronicle headlines a story, “The faithful pine for Gore to parlay prize into presidency.” And the CBS News Web site reports that “the possibility that former Vice President Al Gore might take the prize has some Gore supporters buzzing that the 2000 Democratic Party nominee for president might be convinced to take the plunge once again.”

Even the European press (but of course) is in on the action. To wit, this headline on a piece in the Independent, one of many papers on the other side of the pond pondering Gore’s hypothetical entry into the race: “Nobel win ‘would boost hope of Gore candidacy.’”

Now, I’m not propagating some Hitchens-driven conspiracy - though if he’s got money on Gore, I’m not ruling it out, either. More likely, there is some aspect of atonement in all of this. As an interesting Vanity Fair piece pointed out last month, the political press was not always friendly (or even fair) to the vice president in the past, and there is much evidence of its contribution to his political demise in 2000. Pumping up his chances of Nobel gold and dreaming aloud of a future candidacy (who wouldn’t love to see Clinton v. Gore?) might just be the press’s way of making amends.


Gal Beckerman is a former staff writer at CJR.