Here’s a handy political rule of thumb: don’t front on John Dingell.

In recent weeks, House Speaker Pelosi moved to create a special committee on global warming chaired by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). It won’t have subpoena powers, but it will call hearings. It was a shot across Dingell’s bow, letting him know he better take global warming seriously.

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Well, Dingell has just booked Al Gore as the sole testimony before a March 21 joint hearing of his Energy and Commerce Committee and the Science Committee chaired by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.). With a stroke, he sucked the air out of Pelosi’s special committee. It’s a reminder whose turf is whose.

Credit Pelosi with spurring him to action, though. This will be an epic moment: Al Gore returning triumphant to speak to House committees of which he was once a member. It’s been a lifetime since then, filled with unfathomable setbacks and unlikely second chances.

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Gore returns having transcended politics. Whether he runs in 2008 or not — perhaps even more so if he doesn’t — he’s earned a place in the small global fraternity of wise leadership.