What Al Should Have Said

I have no illusions about Al Gore, but he will always occupy a warm place in my heart.


My first run-in with Al Gore was long ago. I had taken over the president’s job at a struggling national health promotion organization, and Sen. Gore was our angel in Congress. Health care screening was his mission back then, and he opened doors to sponsors, allies and funding around the country. Then, one day, he stopped answering our phone calls. We were curtly told that Sen. Gore was no longer the Herald of Preventive Health Care. Now he was the guru of something called “the information super-highway,” and we would have to fend for ourselves. (The organization went belly-up a year later). Thus I learned that Gore was nothing if not opportunistic, and perhaps not the guy you would want to be in a World War II foxhole with if he spoke fluent German.

Still, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be the unlucky loser of the highest office in the land in one the nation’s rare popular vote/electoral vote splits, and I admire the fact that Al’s not in a rubber room by now. I thought his concession speech in 2000 was one of the high-points of political nobility during my lifetime, and the  Saturday Night Live appearance that was Gore’s farewell to politics will always stand as one of the bravest, quirkiest, saddest, funniest, most fascinating public breast-barings in media history. Al is a phony, and an opportunist, and I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him, but he’s lived out a roller-coaster life in the hot lights of center stage, and I’m not certain I could do it any better.

Thus I was dismayed to see him lying his head off to Matt Lauer on the Today Show. Matt, who typically rolls over like a spaniel for any credentialed member of the liberal-progressive establishment,  apparently got an NBC memo that Gore is off the Suck-Up list, and so morphed into a real journalist, which must have shocked Al. They had this exchange, in which Lauer challenged the ethics of the former Vice President’s sale of  Current TV to Al Jazeera:

LAUER: Yet even as you sold to Al Jazeera, you in the book blast other television news programs, saying this: “Virtually every news and political commentary program on television is sponsored in part by oil, coal, and gas companies–not just during campaign seasons, but all the time, year in and year out–with messages designed to soothe and reassure the audience that everything is fine, the global environment is not threatened.” And the critics jumped, and they said, here’s the guy who just sold to Al Jazeera, which gets an undetermined amount of funding from the country of Qatar, which gets its money from oil reserves. Isn’t there a contradiction in that?

GORE: I certainly understand that criticism. I disagree with it. I think Al Jazeera has, obviously, long since established itself as a really distinguished and effective news gathering organization. And by the way, its climate coverage has been far more extensive and high-quality than any of the networks here–

LAUER: But if they get funding from a country that bases its wealth on fossil fuels, and fossil fuels are the enemy you target in climate change, isn’t there a bit of hypocrisy in that?

GORE: Well, I get the criticism. I just disagree with it, because this network has established itself. It’s objective, it’s won major awards in countries around the world and its climate coverage, as I said a moment ago, has been outstanding and extensive.”

Suuure, Al. It’s OK to sell your network to a news organization that is substantially dependent on fossil fuel income, and to pocket a large amount of that income, because it, unlike  CNN, CBS, NBC, and all the U.S. networks you condemned in your book, “established itself as a really distinguished and effective news gathering organization.” How does its news gathering mitigate what you claimed was most important, the connection to oil interests and complicity in global warming? Winning awards for its largely anti-American (which must mean it’s unbiased, right?) reporting just wipes the environmental slate clean for Al Jazeera, is that your position?

This is just one more example of Gore changing horses when the one he’s been riding is played out and he’s got a sweet offer, that’s all. I would have more respect for Al if he wouldn’t insult our intelligence and just admitted  what everyone assumes. I wish he told Matt Lauer:

” 100 million bucks, Matt! Would you be hypocritical for 100 million bucks? Hell, I bet Gandhi would have done a McDonald’s commercial for 100 million bucks.  Sure, yeah, you’re right, it contradicts a lot of what I’ve said and written, but you know what? I can do a lot more good with all that money than I can being a model of integrity. Or maybe I won’t! I’m single now, my kids are grown, I’ve been a public servant all my life, and maybe it’s time for me to do what I want for a change, buy a yacht, or six yachts, get a hot girlfriend who makes Tipper look like Roseanne, and have some damn fun! If anybody deserves it, I sure do! Most Americans, if they’re honest, won’t hold it against me, because they know what principles they’d abandon for that much money. I might have stuck to principles for five million, maybe more, but 100 million?  Are you kidding me? You’d take it; heck, maybe even that jackass Ralph Nader would take it. And what do I say to those who criticize me anyway? I say, “Screw you! I’m RICH! Stinking rich! What do I care what you say about me?” And  100 million dollars almost makes up for having to work with Keith Olbermann.”

That would be impressive. Open, searing honesty about his opportunism, with no apologies—that’s more ethical than petty lying to Matt Lauer. It’s also what I think Al was really thinking. When the non-ethical rewards become great enough, very few of us have the integrity and courage to reject them for ethics alone. Somehow, I just don’t think Al Gore is one of those few.


Spark and Pointer: Michael

Source and Graphic: The Washington Free Beacon


7 thoughts on “What Al Should Have Said

  1. Well, Al has had quite a year. Selling out for $100 million and being ‘allowed’ to buy $30 million in Apple stock for $500,000. It must be nice to be one of our humble public servants. I’m sure Mr. Gore might say that he needs the money to pay the $20,000/year electricity bill at his main house…

  2. You’re ignoring an essential part of Gore’s statement.

    If I said “I’d never agree to be published by a superhero company, because they’re all run by straight people who promote homophobic views.’

    And then, a year later, I agree to be published by a Danish publisher of superhero comics, which is very pro-gay.

    Then I’m not being a hypocrite. My objection was not to straight people in general, but specifically to straight people who promote anti-gay values.

    • I’m dense tonight. You’ll have to explain to me how Al and Al match up more ethically than Al and ABC, by Al’s standards. Taking sponsorship money from oil interests seems to be the common denominator, and the Arab news network is hardly anti-fossil fuels—I’m guessing it would just be happy to have the US cripple itself by handcuffing its own productivity while China, India and the rest of the world catch up. Do you really find his answer to Lauer sincere and credible? Gore knows that this sale pretty much sinks his credibility. I think he feels it was worth it. No?

      • You’ll have to explain to me how Al and Al match up more ethically than Al and ABC, by Al’s standards.

        ABC, in Gore’s view, does lousy coverage of climate change. As I understand his views, he believes that ABC and the other networks too often treat climate change as an open debate rather than a settled question, and also cover climate change way too little.

        Al-J, in contrast, reports on global warming as if its a settled, known fact, and an urgent news story which is frequently covered. As Gore says, it has “highest-quality, most-extensive, best climate coverage of any network in the world.”

        It is not hypocritical for Gore to sell his station to a network which he thinks has the best climate change coverage in the world, rather than to a network which he thinks has awful coverage.

        (It’s not as if Gore is just making this up, by the way; Al Jazeera’s climate coverage is frequently praised as the best in the world by folks other than Gore, and has been for years).

        Taking sponsorship money from oil interests seems to be the common denominator…

        You apparently misunderstand what a “common denominator” means, logically. In math, you look for common denominators to be able to easily add or subtract fractions, but just because two fractions have a common denominator doesn’t make them identical. 1/5 is not equal to 4/5, even though they have a common denominator.

        So yes, ABC and Al Jazeera have a common denominator (oil interests), but they also have a significant difference (quality of climate change coverage). It’s not hypocritical of Gore to prefer Al Jazeera over ABC based on Al Jazeera’s superior climate change coverage.

        And yes, I take Gore at his word that quality of climate change coverage is important to his assessment of a TV network. That seems to generally fit in with what Gore has been saying for many years.

        (Your conspiracy theory about Al Jazeera’s secret evil agenda is of no interest at all to me, or to any thoughtful person, unless you can back it up with real evidence.)

        • I think the motivation I cited is pretty much standard across the world for any nation that advocates the US unilaterally crippling itself while the major polluters keep polluting. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t the motivation for similar advocates here. I’d also like to see what the criteria for “best climate coverage” is. I assume it means “agreeing with Al Gore” or “accepting current climate change projections lock, stock and barrel.” I just heard Al state as FACT (on MSNBC, which acted as if he were the Prophet, and whose “reporters” didn’t challenge anything he said) that Suoerstorm Sandy was caused by global warming, something he simply cannot responsibly say. If that’s his idea of responsible reporting, who cares what his assessment of Al Jareeza’s climate change reporting is? He’s either a liar, a huckster, or a dolt.

          So, in brief, you think Al wouldn’t have sold his struggling, money losing entity to CNN, ABC, or any non illegal enterprise that offered him 100 million for it, and that this wasn’t just a convenient rationalization/cover story? I’ve got a bridge you might be interested in buying.

          • Jack, your argument was originally based on a dishonest reading of Gore’s actual words. In fact, Gore clearly referred to not wanting to sell to a network that is sponsored by oil money and “with messages designed to soothe and reassure the audience that everything is fine, the global environment is not threatened.” Nothing in that statement makes it hypocritical of Gore to sell to a network that has climate change coverage that Gore approves of.

            Since you can’t make a plausible hypocrisy argument based on Gore’s words, you’ve now shifted to making a hypocrisy argument based on that you apparently believe that you have magical mind-reading abilities that let you know Gore’s motivation, and what he would have done in hypothetical alternative situations, and declare him a hypocrite based on this magical knowledge of yours.

            I base my arguments on logic and facts. I do not accept that you have magical knowledge of either another person’s hidden motives, nor what they would have done in a hypothetical alternative situation,

            There are two ways American political discourse can go. First, we could follow a general rule of giving other people reasonable benefit of the doubt, which must certainly include taking their word for their motivations, unless there’s actual evidence (not just magical mind-reading) to the contrary. In this world, we treat even people we disagree with in a respectful manner, and don’t always assume that they have hidden evil motives and are plotting to destroy America.

            In the second future, we could always assume the worse of whoever we disagree with, and speculate that people who disagree with us aren’t acting out of a genuine disagreement about what is best, but are instead evil or greedy or actually trying to cause the country to collapse.

            I think the first future is preferable, and try to act in ways that will push us towards that future. In this thread, unfortunately, you’ve acted in ways that will push us towards that second future (even if that’s not your intent),

            No reasonable political discourse is possible where people are unwilling to give opponents a reasonable benefit of the doubt.

            I’d also like to see what the criteria for “best climate coverage” is. I assume it means “agreeing with Al Gore” or “accepting current climate change projections lock, stock and barrel.”

            This is logically irrelevant. Al Gore is ethically obligated to act based on his own good-faith understanding of which networks have good or bad coverage; and Al Jazeera has what Gore genuinely believes to be good coverage, then he’s not a hypocrite. That you and Gore probably disagree about what good coverage is doesn’t make Gore a hypocrite.

            • Talk about selective editing: Gore’s criticism quoted by Lauer “Virtually every news and political commentary program on television is sponsored in part by oil, coal, and gas companies” applies, in all likelihood, even more to Al Jareeza than it does to the others. Nor did I ever call Gore hypocritical; that was Lauer’s characterization. I objected to Gore’s spin. He sold because of the money. As I have direct evidence froim prior dealings, plus ample observation from Al’s career, that this is not a guy bursting with integrity but a skilled opportunist, it hardly requires “magical abilities” to guess that he, live almost everyone else, would find $100,000,000 buck for a dud TV station reason enough to accept the deal. Your ridicule of such a reasonable and fair conclusion, not to mention obvious, is uncalled for. $100,000,000 for a lousy TV network is plenty of evidence. Your lecture is a cheap shot that obscures the issue.

              I can’t attribute good faith to Al Gore. His documentary was stuffed with manipulated facts and outright misrepresentation. He goes on TV as a supposed expert and intentionally spouts impressive science fiction as fact. It is not “good faith” to state as fact what scientists agree can be speculation only—Superstorm Sandy might have been caused by climate changes, or it might not. Gore knows this.

              Meanwhile, you base your whole argument on something I didn’t say. I have said Al Gore is an opportunist, a fraud, a huckster, that he lacks integrity (which is self-evident over the span of his career), that he postures, is happy to abandon principle for personal gain, and that he will also abandon his principles for cold cash. These are pretty undeniable. I certainly could make the case that he’s a hypocrite, as others have: Al has flown around in jets to condemn other for using SUV’s, and his mansion had the carbon footprint of Satchquatch, with no verifiable energy-saving elements at all, in marked contrast to, say, George W. Bush’s ranch. But that wasn’t the message of the post. Al goes where the money is, and always has. If you want to prove that a $100 million sale was motivated by principle rather than cash, the burden of proof is on you, and in this case “benefit of the doubt” won’t cut it.

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