Is Al Gore a hypocrite?
February 1, 2013By Dick Polman
Al Gore is not a hypocrite, says Al Gore. But his self-vetting is not necessarily persuasive.
What a week this was for the ex-veep.
He launched a book tour to tout his latest futurist tome, to promote anew his big-think sensibility, but he wound up playing defense four times on national TV. And no wonder. It was surely inevitable that the global warming guru would be compelled to explain why he swung a deal that put $100 million into his pocket - having been enriched by fossil-fuel interests who contribute to global warming.
Matt Lauer, David Letterman, Andrea Mitchell and Jon Stewart all wanted to know how he could possibly reconcile his ideological convictions with his December decision to sell his cable network (Current TV) to an international network (Al Jazeera) that's owned a Middle Eastern country (Qatar) where petroleum is king. Gore's response was, shall we say, very disciplined. It had a number of components.
1. For starters, Current TV was a financial burden. He told Lauer, "We found it difficult to compete in an age of conglomerates." He told Letterman, "It turns out to be very tough for an independent netwrk to compete in an age of conglomerates." He told Stewart that Current TV "was competing in a conglomerate world."
2. He sold to a worthy network. He told Lauer, "Al Jazeera has, obviously, long since established itself....It has established itself." He told Letterman, "They have a great reputation." He told Stewart, "It's an award-winning network that has established its reputation."
3. The worthy network is owned by a worthy country. He told Letterman that Qatar wants to develop renewable energy sources, that it has "a visionary plan." He told Stewart that Qatar has "a commitment to renewable energy...a visionary plan."
4. He just has a difference of opinion with anyone who accuses him of hypocrisy. He told Lauer, "I certainly understand that criticism. I disagree with it" and "I get the criticism. I just disagree with it." He told Letterman, "I understand what you're getting at, but I disagree with it." He told Mitchell, "I completely understand the criticism...The point you're making is one that I understand very clearly. I do disagree with it."
Mitchell's point was that Gore's sale to oil interests was "inherently hypocritical." Stewart didn't use the h-word, but he was even more aggressive. He told Gore, "You had an opportunity to make a statement about your principles," by finding a buyer in sync with those principles. Stewart continued, "I thought (the sale) was an odd move, because it was backed by fossil fuel money." To which Gore replied that even though he made "a good choice...I completely get the criticism."
Can Gore stay on message, or what? That we have known for many years. Back in 1997, when, as vice president, he was under a cloud for alleged campaign finance irregularities, he defended himself at a press conference by invoking the same phrase at least half a dozen times. He had been caught dialing for campaign dollars while in the White House, which is a no-no. His robo-spin: "There is no controlling legal authority."
Well, there was certainly no controlling legal authority preventing him from pocketing $100 million in oil money, even while continuing to assail oil as a major contributor to what he calls our "open sewer" in the sky. Business is business, I suppose. Money and morality do not always cohere.
But what this episode really demonstrates is the distance that separates (in Stewart's words) "activist Gore" from "mogul Gore." I would add "politico Gore." It was politico Gore who drew on his insider connections to twist arms and persuade cable industry leaders to carry Current TV in the first place. He got the tiny network into 60 million U. S. households because of who he was. And it was the prospect of 60 million households that attracted Al Jazeera. Having tapped an oil gusher, politico Gore has made mogul Gore richer than Mitt Romney.
And for fans of activist Gore, that is surely an inconvenient truth.
Speaking of money:
I love the spin offered by aides to Senator Robert Menendez, seeking to explain why the New Jersey Democrat failed to reimburse a fat cat pal who twice flew him on a private jet to the Dominican Republic for personal vacations in 2010. The tab was roughly 60 grand. Menendez failed to report those trips as gifts, or to reimburse the donor - as legally required. Menendez finally wrote a check to the donor's company last month - but only after his travels were outed on a conservative website.
How come he didn't reimburse the donor back in 2010, as required by the controlling legal authority? His aides have reportedly blamed it on "sloppy paperwork."
The average credit card debt, per American household carrying debt, is $16,000. I think the average Joe who fails to reimburse the card companies should try the Menendez Defense. See how far he gets.
Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1