In politics, timing is everything, Howard Dean being a wonderful example. So is Al Gore, who chose to give a completely paranoid speech about global warming in New York two weeks ago, on a day when the temperature was 22 below normal. In a remarkably Dean-like rant to the Democratic organization MoveOn, he said that the reason Americans reject his vision of climate-Armageddon has more to do with what he called "a massive and well-organized campaign of disinformation" on the part of me and my few friends, than it does with the thermometer.
When it comes to disinformation about climate change, Al's got competition in the principal beneficiary of Howard Dean's rhetorical largesse, John Kerry, who looks to me like a cinch for the Democratic nomination. On May 17, 2000, Kerry said:
"In Massachusetts, we always looked forward to fall because the ponds froze over and we could play hockey. Today, you are lucky if the ponds freeze in northern New Hampshire. Up there ... I do not wear a coat until after November now."
I'm offering a night of free beer to the first journalist who can come up with a picture of John Kerry wearing a coat in November (and expect to have to pay off within one minute of this column's publication). But what about that whopper about northern New Hampshire's ponds?
One lesson in climate hype that Gore never learned (and which may have cost him the presidency) is that people can look up facts pretty quickly now. Gore lost normally Democratic West Virginia because of his hype on global warming and his resultant vitriol against the coal industry. Miners, who he would have put on unemployment, stayed home or voted for Bush. Now Gore's venting about planetary heating in howling blizzards.
So should Kerry beware. There's lots of data on the Internet, including a study by the U.S. Geological Survey of "ice-out" dates on lakes in northern New Hampshire. That's the day of the year when you can no longer play hockey.
John Kerry is 60 years old, so it's safe to say he was playing hockey in northern New Hampshire, his home, from the ages of 7 to 17, or 1950 through 1959, near First Connecticut Lake. The average date of ice-out for that period was May 1. From 1991-2000, when, according to Kerry, "you are lucky if the ponds freeze," the average ice-out date is later, on May 5.
A year later, on May 1, 2001, Kerry said, "This summer the North Pole was water for the first time in recorded history," a story that was originally carried by the New York Times in September 2000. It was retracted three weeks later as a barrage of scientists protested that open water is common at or near the pole at the end of summer. Further, it's common knowledge in the scientific community that there has been no net change in Arctic temperatures in the last 70 years.
He went on: "In 1995, after a period of unusual warming, a 48 by 22 mile chunk of the Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica collapsed." Disregarding that ice shelves don't "collapse," the fact, as accessible as the nearest Nature magazine, is that Antarctica shows a slight cooling trend in recent decades.
Voters need to stay tuned to Kerry on global warming for the Arizona primary on Feb. 3. John McCain, who will do anything to defeat George Bush, has been on a merciless campaign of badgering the president about climate change, including shepherding the first Senate vote to restrict energy use because of global warming, which only failed by eight votes last fall. You can bet Kerry is going to feed off of McCain's Arizona popularity. He may even entreat him into the Veep slot, claiming to be the ultra-centrist and spelling sure defeat for President Bush.
Anyway, now that he's the front-runner, he's going to have to watch what he says. Or what he wears. Again, free beer for that picture of him wearing a coat in November.
If Kerry doesn't check his facts better, he'll soon be sharing the platform with Al and Howard, trapped in the living hell of the formerly relevant.