Why Al Gore Can’t Be the Face of Climate Activism

By Keith Kloor | May 6, 2013 4:04 pm

A long time ago, in the pre-blog era, I watched a TV debate on CNN between a newly minted U.S. Vice President and a quirky Texas businessman who, at one point during his extended 15 minutes of fame, was considered a serious presidential candidate.

In the span of 90 minutes, Al Gore sold wavering Americans on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and snuffed out Ross Perot’s political star. This was a major event 20 years ago. Weeks after the November debate in 1993, Congress ratified NAFTA and Perot, who by then was getting kookier by the day, never regained his footing, though he still won 8 percent of the popular vote when he ran for President again in 1996.

This is ancient history, especially when we consider all that has transpired since then. But the Gore/Perot debate spectacle yielded notable moments, including this one-liner from Gore that a UK correspondent picked up on:

In one withering riposte, Mr Gore recalled his opponent’s prediction three years ago that 40,000 Americans would die in the Gulf war, and that 100 banks would close if the Democrats won the presidency. ‘The politics of negativism and fear only go so far,’ he said.

This seems like the kind of advice that a present-day Al Gore and his fellow climate campaigners would do well to heed.

In light of Gore’s business riches and opulent lifestyle post-2000 (see this new Bloomberg piece), you also have to wonder if it’s time that he recused himself from a cause he helped kickstart. New York magazine, in a current profile of Gore, paints an image of him puttering around in his Tennessee mansion when he’s not on the Davos circuit. Let’s recall, too, that Gore was recently put on the defensive for selling his cable network to a tiny oil-rich Mideast country. All this suggests that Gore might not be the best face for a climate movement that routinely calls on the world to curtail economic growth and downsize its consumptive ways.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Al Gore blazing a path to sustainability, so long as we can all follow in his lead.

File:Al Gore at SapphireNow 2010 cropped.jpg

Photo: Wikipedia

  • Buddy199

    I’d say any public figure who makes himself the face of an issue needs to actually practice what he preaches (see Jimmy Swaggert, etc.). Gore might be sincerely about the environment but he’s also very sincerely about Al Gore and big money. If he were a loathsome conservative “denier” he would be crucified by the same liberals who wink and nod at his bloated, wasteful lifestyle because he’s considered one of theirs. Gore’s hypocrisy and that of other high profile, large livin’, finger wagging greens fuels much of the skepticism about AGW theory.

  • Tom Scharf

    Please, please, keep Gore as a climate leader…please…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1531501552 John W. Boyd Jr

    The ManBearPig is real, and his name is AL.

  • TexCIS

    People would do better to follow George Bush’s example than Al Gore. http://www.snopes.com/politics/bush/house.asp

    • JonFrum

      So typical. Those who talk the talk don’t walk the walk.And those who walk the walk keep their mouths shut.

    • SixSixSix

      Oh goody. Let all be war criminals, undermine the international diplomatic system, and trigger a financial collapse. Mass murder is its own reward, I guess. Oh yeah, let’s ignore the intelligence when told four weeks earlier that threats were coming before 9/11 because an ego driven war of aggression took up all attention. Apparently, that constitutes mission accomplished.

      • Buddy199

        Which ego driven war of aggression was being planned four weeks before 911? I thought Bush, Cheney and Doctor Evil were planting the thermite charges on the Twin Towers at that point.

        • SixSixSix

          August 2001. The Bushies called in the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a war planning meeting about Iraq. 9/11 was just a lucky break stemming from not following due diligence when warned that Al Qaeda was planning an attack in America. Al Qaeda was not considered very important, just a messy left over collection of CIA “freedom fighters” from the 80s run by a member of Bush’s good friends in the Bin Landen family. The same ones he let go without questioning in the immediate days after 9/11 when Americans were not allowed to fly. That family, that Iraq decision, and that attack.

          • Buddy199

            Give it a rest.

          • SixSixSix

            There never were war crimes investigations or at at least a Truth & Reconciliation. What we permit without penalty becomes precedence. It will be back. See how much rest there is then.

          • Buddy199

            So, should Obama and his administration be subject to your same high moral standard? Someday be prosecuted as “war criminals” for the 2,000+ American and who knows how many civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan while he was in office, continuing Bush’s genocidal wars? Or the trial and execution by Predator of unconvicted, overseas American citizen suspects and any innocent civilians who happen to be within the blast radius? Your moral indignation should include democrats as well as republicans.

          • SixSixSix

            Yet again false equivalency, a specialization of the Americo-Fascist Right wing when caught out. Obama did not start the war of aggression. He finally brought the combat troops out. He did not drop billions of dollars of ordinance in a “show” of “shock and awe”. Bush’s wars were not genocidal, except to minority groups including certain ancient Christian ones. He was a mass killer, not a total exterminator if that makes you feel better. Predators are an issue but there is a big difference between that program and 250,000 people who did not need to be dead today. I remember being very sad at the start of the war that soon thousands who are alive at tjo,e will die shortly for a lie and for family ego. Bin Landens good, Hussein’s bad. Yes, it did not take a genius even at the time to see the WMD story line was lie.

          • Buddy199

            Well, then you were much smarter than Bill Clinton and all the other Democrats you see on YouTube who believed there were WMD’s and voted for the war – good for you! And you’re right – it’s immoral to attack an Arab oil rich country that didn’t attack us first and had nothing to do with 9/11, unless it’s Libya and soon to be Syria and a Democrat president is doing the attacking. 2,000+ Americans killed under Obama, who would still be alive if he pulled the plug on both his first day in office instead of keeping the killing going. Basically,if Bush did it it was a crime. If Obama does the same, it’s just fine, or Bush’s fault. Luckily, Bush Derangement Syndrome is covered under Obamacare.

          • SixSixSix

            Perhaps but I was not politically motivated. I watched the big surprises that came out after 1992 and the good job done by the UN Weapons inspectors. I watched the corresponding lack of new evidence that came out while the Bushies demonized the same people. I look at the huge infrastructure needed to built a bomb and how it could not have been hidden from ground and river sensors. I looked at poison gas that would be obsolete even as noted by one of the more aggressive whistle blowers of 1992. I looked at how those tubes had already by discredited. I considered the IAEA had discredited any evidence of atomic activity for which the Bushies vilified it. If the Bushies with the huge US Intelligence apparatus couldn’t do better, I knew it smelled. I knew the Al Qaeda stories had already been discredited. I know enough about the region to know that Saddam and Al Qaeda have zero interests in common except in the fevered imaginations of neo-cons. If you know the region, you know to look for natural enemies which Saddam and Al Qaeda were. I knew that Bushies were firing analysts who disagreed with them and set up their own phony “intelligence” operations at the Pentagon and VP’s Office. I knew how Bush I had allowed phony cold war propaganda to be peddle as “intelligence” over the objections of the professionals when he was the head of the CIA in the 1980s. I knew that Bush II had a deep family ego thing. I knew how Bushies had backed Saddam and Osama Bin Landen in the 1980s as “freedom fighters” but not when they defied the Bush family. Very strange. That suggests more than a little ego and deception going on. It was all there for those who wished to look. I knew only Iran would benefit from this act of madness. The only thing thing I got wrong was the quagmire would develop even faster than it did. Likely it was simply the embedded, compromised press that took longer to recognize and more importantly to admit what was going on.I knew before the first American boot was on the ground that we would be defeated by a society, people, and political situation that we did not understand. So no act of genius, open source intelligence was enough to pretty damn sure it was a charade. I said as much to friends of mine in Israel who were initially concerned: you face real threats, but Saddam is not one of them.

            Obama should have left earlier, agreed. If Obama has real blood on his hands, and colossal acts of stupidity, it is in Afghanistan. But Obama came into a situation requiring whatever extraction he could – Bush created it. As they said in Nuremberg, the worst war crime is to start a war of aggression because all other war crimes come from that. That charge belongs to Bush’s “war of choice”. You can’t sweep that under the carpet by distractions. Just because other fought in a war, does not make them war criminals.

      • JonFrum

        Quick, quick, change the subject! Climate change hypocrisy? Look, over there, a war criminal!

        • SixSixSix

          The thread was Bush’s example. You know the guy who after being appointed by the Supremes following the loss of the election who didn’t take a week to reverse his lies about regulating Carbon Dioxide. Happy, hot summers and devastation to you too.

          • harkin

            You mean the election that six different recount studies (including one by the NYT) all said Bush won?
            I’ve kept my carbon footprint to 1/20th that of Al Gore and my hot air output to 1/1,000,000th.

          • SixSixSix

            Not state wide.

            I also mean the one that the American people chose. We have a sick,decrepit process originally meant to keep slave owners from being challenged. Didn’t work, had a civil war anyway but still have the process, that never worked once the way it was original designed for your brainless “originalitsts” out there.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Miller/100002869556788 David Miller

            You know, if Gore had won his own state, Tennessee, nobody would have cared about Florida. Do you understand that? Gore was so lousy a candidate that he could not win HIS OWN STATE, but those 11 electoral college votes would have made him President, even with Bush winning Florida.

            Gore lost because he was a terrible candidate, and because he mismanaged his recount requests in Florida, not because Bush manipulated the Supreme Court.

            The claim that Bush “stole” the election is bogus. Bush is a Machiavellian manipulator in Florida, but goes on to become the stupidest President ever? Please!

          • SixSixSix

            Romney lost everyone of his “home” states – multiple times. So what? If he had won enough votes elsewhere he would be President today. Failing to do the latter, not the former, is why Romney is also ran.

            No Democrat has won Tennessee since Clinton/Gore. It has completed the transition from automatic racist Democratic identification post Civil War to automatic racist Republican identification post Civil Rights. So you know that what a bogus contested. Ohio tilts slightly Republican, I was there at the time, and 2000 was a peak year for Repubs. Again, there is nothing special about Ohio. Presidents have done just fine with out it.

            Dave Boise made a critical error in contesting specific counties that Gore made the mistake of agreeing to, but that was in light of the way the Supremes later chose to bias the case. They could have reordered a total recount. The whole process was chaotic. None of that changes the fundamental dishonesty of the “you can’t use it as a precedent” precedent. What the hell is that so to mean in legitimate process?

            Bush was an idiot, a bright guy, but an idiot. What do you expect for a white knuckle drunk with enormous ego and daddy problems who had had the same job? Baker and Rove, two of the best political operatives of the time, and Theodore Olson, perhaps the must successful lawyer ever before the US Supreme Court, were the key players. Bush had the better team in the beginning, but disastrously worse later on.

  • jh

    I recently listened to an interview Al on a local radio station when Al was here to oppose coal exports.

    Al always starts off sensible so you’re thinking, hey, he isn’t so bad, and the next thing you know he’s off into the looney bin talking about things that just aren’t real at all. And he talks like there isn’t a doubt in the world by anyone about everything he says.

    This, I think, is what happens when you refuse to recognize that your opposition has any valid concerns or criticisms – you get more and more and more to really believe that you can’t possibly ever be wrong and start saying more and more and more nutty stuff. I think it won’t be long until Al and the nutmegs of the extreme climate left start finding themselves left out to dry by the center lefties, like Keith here. When that happens, we’ll have a chance of making real progress on the climate issue.

    • SixSixSix

      Things that are real at all. Just what would that be?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “All this suggests that Gore might not be the best face for a climate movement that routinely calls on the world to curtail economic growth and downsize its consumptive ways.”

    Interesting. Gore’s been acting like this for years, it’s been pointed out numerous times, and yet up to now he’s been fine as ‘the face’ of global warming. Did you only now just notice? Or are people who have up until now been travelling happily on the ‘USS Global Warming’ starting to casually glance around for where the lifeboats are?

    Fascinating.

    • Tom C

      No one cared until he got more rich than Romney. Now that is a sin!

  • pinroot

    I don’t have the kind of money it would take to follow Gore’s lead.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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