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