ABC and Al Gore: A Global Warming Love Story?

June 8, 1998 • Commentary

Recently, Vice President Gore got a whole hour on ABC with Peter Jennings. The chemistry was impressive, with the ga‐​ga Jennings hanging on every word from the master. Only a few softballs were thrown at the veep, the most notable being “Your critics say you exaggerate.”

Had Jennings been pitching hardball instead of tossing batting practice, he could have thrown some pretty good chin music. He could have set the veep up, for example, with a lazy curve about Love Story. Gore told the boys in the coach section of the press plane that his Harvard romance with Tipper was the basis for Erich Segal’s tearjerker. The airborne scribes expressed some disbelief (inasmuch as the morose brunette Ali MacGraw died in the movie, but the blond and vivacious Tipper is quite alive!), and the veep eventually ‘fessed up that he had fabricated a bit, but reminded them that he had, after all, dated Tipper at Harvard.

Then Jennings could have thrown him a fastball, high and tight. “Mr. Gore, you wrote that rescuing the planet from the evils of global warming, ozone depletion and population must become ‘the central organizing principle for civilization.’ Further, anything less than an ‘all‐​out effort to use every policy and program, every law and institution, every treaty and alliance’ in that crusade is cowardly ‘appeasement, designed to satisfy the public’s desire to believe that sacrifice, struggle, and a wrenching transformation of society will not be necessary.’ You said that those who don’t agree with you are the same as Nazi appeasers. Isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration?”

Count, 2–0. Time for a fastball down the middle to see if the veep is as quick as he is reputed to be. Jennings’s program showed Gore in front of Grinnell Glacier last September. Gore chose to visit then because that’s when glaciers reach their lowest ebb annually — at the end of summer and before the first snows. If the glacier hadn’t been melting, we’d be in the depths of an ice age and Chicago would be 5,000 feet below the surface. In the footage, Gore tells the assembled reporters that the glacier is melting because of human‐​induced global warming. “Mr. Gore,” Jennings could have asked, “Isn’t it true that the summer daytime temperatures out at Grinnell Glacier haven’t warmed a bit in the last 100 years, and that they must warm up to accelerate glacial melting. Aren’t you exaggerating again?”

Gore would have whiffed on that one. Count, 2–1. Next, a slider. Last spring the administration attempted to conflate the horrible flood in Grand Forks with global warming. The flood was caused by the melting of record heavy snowcover. “Mr. Gore, you said that the Grand Forks flood was an example of what will happen with global warming. Didn’t your federal scientists tell you that the warmer the winter is in the Red River Valley, the less it snows. Aren’t you exaggerating again?”

Count, 2–2. Finally, the high hard one. Gore told Jennings that the reason he is obsessed with global warming is because, back at Harvard (again), he took a course from Professor Roger Revelle, who, in Gore’s words, “was the very first person in the world to start analyzing this problem.”

“Mr. Gore,” Jennings could have said, “Everyone who has studied this knows that the problem was originally analyzed in the 19th century by Svante Arrhenius, and that he calculated that the planet should warm 5 degrees centigrade for doubling carbon dioxide. You must know this, so why did you exaggerate your importance by claiming you learned from the person who invented the problem?”

Outside, too technical. Full count. The fans stand. Jennings winds.

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