Friday, July 18, 2008

Al Gore: The Pat Robertson of the Political Left?

Al Gore's recent speech proposing that the United States commit itself to generating all its electricity by "earth-friendly" means in ten years doubtless ranks as one of the most hideously absurd pieces of political speechmaking in recent memory. As a figure of the eco-socialist left, Gore is now as embarrassing to his cause as Pat Robertson is to Christianity.

We defer in large measure to the critique by James Pethoukoukis of US News and Rankings for Everything. He puts the absurdity of Gore in proper perspective, noting its technical impossibility, economic outrageousness, and even its ecological recklessness.

To Pethoukoukis's observations, we add the following:
  • The beginning of Gore's speech is at the same time the most overblown nonsense and most hackneyed, bland rhetoric we've ever seen coming from a significant public figure. To quote: "There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment." To that we say, Mr. Gore, what other moments in our nation's history are you referring to? We can't think of a one in which the entire economy of the country was "transformed" permanently by centralized command and control. Even in our most desperate wars, government control of the economy was temporary and partial. And how does your call to accept the "big changes" or "step aside" accord with your concern for civil liberties? Apparently, there is no place for dissent in the Republic of Earth in the Balance, though there's plenty of room for mealy-mouthed cliches.
  • Most of the comments on Pethoukoukis's posting seem to assume that civilization is really facing its complete demise without action as prescribed by Gore. We SWNIDishly take such attitudes to reflect the views of such a tiny, fringe element that we are unconcerned at their irrational recklessness. But we wish for the same outlook for those, like panelists on Diane Rehm's program today, who think that even though the New Yorker cover was satire, too many people in the United States won't get the joke and will think Obama a Muslim (not that there's anything wrong with being a Muslim, right?). It's time for a bit more realistic indifference to the fringes and a lot less condescension toward the ignorant masses.
  • E. J. Dionne, a liberal but normally a thoughtful one, actually liked the Gore speech, even though he admitted it was completely absurd in its premises and proposals. Dionne thinks that Gore is trying to give space to the candidates to make proposals on green energy by going out far to the left. We think that such a move is counterproductive to Gore's cause, as it makes the whole matter sound entirely silly. More for geopolitical reasons than ecological ones we think it's time to power ourselves with less oil from the Saudis, Iranians, Chavez and other petrol-totalitarians, but the cause isn't helped by silly appeals to the impossible.*
  • But Dionne is probably not alone. A few days ago, NPR's Mara Liasson, one of the last holdovers from NPR's "Radio Sandinista" era of the 1980s, was on a panel on Morning Edition to offer buzz on veep selections. Asked at the end of the segment who she thought was likely, she gushed that Al Gore was the perfect running mate for Obama (since most people think he already won the 2000 election, of course). Never mind that Gore blew the perfect political chance in 2000 (heir to a popular president in a prosperous and peaceful era with a flawed candidate as his opponent) and has repeatedly made a fool of himself since: he's still the Perfect Candidate. (All this says more about the Democratic Party's political liabilities than one cares to consider.)
  • We ask all media figures to please stop speaking of Gore as "Nobel Laureate Al Gore." The pretentiousness simply magnifies the man's already enormous pathos.
*We are reminded of a recent conversation with a friend who recounted a church board meeting. At the meeting, the board had settled on a budget that was greater in cost than the previous year's but not as much as some among them had wanted. After the meeting, one member of the group complained about the outcome, saying something on the order of, I just think God is big enough to supply $300,000 if we put our faith in him. To which my friend and I thought the best response would be, Why stop at $300,000? Let's keep adding zeros! God is big enough!

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