In storm-hit Florida, Hillary Clinton ties Hurricane Matthew to climate change

Former Vice President Al Gore campaigns Tuesday with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Miami Dade College in Miami. Gore, who lost the contested 2000 election in Florida, talked about climate change and Hurricane Matthew.
Former Vice President Al Gore campaigns Tuesday with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Miami Dade College in Miami. Gore, who lost the contested 2000 election in Florida, talked about climate change and Hurricane Matthew.
Published Oct. 12, 2016

Hillary Clinton brought Al Gore to Miami on Tuesday to underscore her message that she will fight climate change — unlike Donald Trump, who has said he's "not a big believer."

"We cannot risk putting a climate denier in the White House," she declared.

Clinton mentioned increased damage from last week's Hurricane Matthew due to higher sea levels. But it was former Vice President Gore, ever the academic, climate-change science evangelist, who scored the Miami disaster trifecta. He tied global warming to Matthew — "from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in just 36 hours, that's extremely unusual" — and to the faster spread of the Zika virus.

"Mother Nature is giving us a very clear and powerful message," he intoned.

What seemed to amuse the crowd most at Miami Dade College's Kendall campus, however, was Gore's painful recollection of the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

"Your vote really, really, really counts," the former nominee said. "You can consider me as an Exhibit A for that."

Some in the audience of 1,600 — the older ones, Gore joked — groaned. He lost the state, and the race, by just 537 votes.

"You won! You won!" people chanted.

Said Gore: "I don't want you to be in a position years from now where you welcome Hillary Clinton and say, 'Actually, you did win . . .' "

By the end of the rally, the audience had heard him repeat himself so frequently that they recited in unison: "Every vote counts."

Just two days removed from perhaps the ugliest presidential debate in U.S. history, Clinton took a remarkably conventional and focused approach, delivering a speech on a single topic, Gore's warnings about close elections notwithstanding. Both veteran politicians, neither known for their theatrics and with a shared tense relationship from Bill Clinton's time in the White House, seemed eager to geek out on environmental policy.

"It's actually pretty exciting out there," Clinton said of the country's clean-energy boom, saying it has been eclipsed by Trump's "dark" economic message.

Gore stuck with the campaign message, imploring voters to register "today."

"The stakes in this election simply could not be higher," Gore said. "You will often hear people from podiums like this one say something like that at election time. I know I've heard it — I've even said it before."

Nevertheless, he insisted: "The world is on the cusp of either building on the progress and solving the climate crisis, or stepping back, washing our hands of America's traditional role as the leader of the world."

Several hecklers interrupted Clinton, accusing her husband, former President Bill Clinton, of being a "rapist." They were escorted out of the arena. One wore a Trump T-shirt. Another carried a printout of Bill Clinton's face with the word "RAPE."

"My friends, please," Hillary Clinton said calmly, continuing as the crowd drowned out the demonstrators, "let's focus about what's really important in this election."

The college venue drew fans of Clinton's primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who made climate change a central plank of his campaign platform.

University of Miami student Rachel Siegel said she backed Sanders in March, but now "it is my duty as a Democrat to support Hillary."

"It baffles me there are still women who support this man after he said those words," she said, referring to a tape released Friday showing Trump making vulgar comments about grabbing women sexually. "I can't mentally comprehend that."

"I'm kind of nervous — I don't want Donald Trump in office," said Viviara Wallace, a 19-year-old Miami Dade College student. "He is a liar. He is not a very solid man. He is very emotional. I don't trust anybody who gets mad on Twitter and goes on a Twitter rampage."

At least one person attended because of Gore: Marian Azeem-Angel, 18, a no-party-affiliated Miami Dade College student studying environmental science.

"He is the one I'm most excited about," she said. When Azeem-Angel heard Gore was coming, she confessed, "I got heart palpitations."

"Environmental topics a lot of people feel are out of reach, but he can help educate people — you don't need to be extremely knowledgeable on the subject to get involved," she said.

Trump, she said, is "someone who says global warming is a hoax, that it's not happening, is just in denial. There is so much science. We need to start facing it and dealing with it."

Clinton wasn't only promoting herself in Miami-Dade County, home to Florida's second-largest number of Democrats (after Broward County). For the first time, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, who's challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, got to speak from the stage before Clinton arrived.