Sometimes I run across a bit of writing which makes me slow down and pay close attention–not just to the content, but to the way in which the content all hangs together and becomes more than the sum of its parts. Such was my response to a series of articles by Walter Russell Mead on the topic of Al Gore. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
In this extensive analysis of and reflection on the man and his mission, Meade seeks to understand not only what motivates Mr. Gore, but also what does not motivate him–or, to put it more clearly, what makes no sense to him and may thereby be dismissed from consideration.
I shall provide you with a few selections from these articles, but would encourage you to take the time–and it will take some time–to study them in their entirety.
On Gore’s negative abilities:
Gore has the Midas touch in reverse; objects of great value (Nobel prizes, Oscars) turn dull and leaden at his touch. Few celebrity cause leaders have had more or better publicity than Gore has had for his climate advocacy. Hailed by the world press, lionized by the entertainment community and the Global Assemblage of the Great and the Good as incarnated in the Nobel Peace Prize committee, he has nevertheless seen the movement he led flounder from one inglorious defeat to the next. The most recent, failed global climate meeting passed almost unnoticed last week in Bonn; the world has turned its eyes away from the expiring anguish of the Copenhagen agenda.
On his obvious double-standards:
You can be a leading environmentalist and fail to pay all of your taxes. You can be a leading environmentalist and be unkind to your aged mother. You can be a leading environmentalist and squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle, park in the handicapped spots at the mall or scribble angry marginal notes in library books.
But you cannot be a leading environmentalist who hopes to lead the general public into a long and difficult struggle for sacrifice and fundamental change if your own conduct is so flagrantly inconsistent with the green gospel you profess. If the heart of your message is that the peril of climate change is so imminent and so overwhelming that the entire political and social system of the world must change, now, you cannot fly on private jets. You cannot own multiple mansions. You cannot even become enormously rich investing in companies that will profit if the policies you advocate are put into place.
On why the movement which he leads has failed so extensively:
Gore’s failures are not just about leadership. The strategic vision he crafted for the global green movement has comprehensively failed. That is no accident; the entire green policy vision was so poorly conceived, so carelessly constructed, so unbalanced and so rife with contradictions that it could only thrive among activists and enthusiasts. Once the political power of the climate movement, aided by an indulgent and largely unquestioning press, had pushed the climate agenda into the realm of serious politics, failure was inevitable. The only question was whether the comprehensive green meltdown would occur before or after the movement achieved its core political goal of a comprehensive and binding global agreement on greenhouse gasses.
That question has now been answered; the movement failed before it got its treaty, and while the media and the establishment have still generally failed to analyze these developments and draw the consequences, the global climate movement has become the kind of embarrassment intellectuals like to ignore. Like the Club of Rome, Y2K, the Iraq Study Group and President Obama’s management of the Middle East peace process it is something polite people try not to think about. This is why Al Gore is less visible than he used to be, and his views are less eagerly sought: the polite world and its ready handmaid the press know Gore has failed but does not want to think or write about why.
On the fatal flaws in Gore’s logic in presenting the end of the world:
Al Gore’s logic is exactly like the genealogy of the man who boasted that his line of descent went all the way back to Julius Caesar — with only two gaps. Gore’s ironclad argument has only two gaps: he presents no evidence that the GGCT is either feasible (that it would be efficacious if put into practice and that it can in fact be put into practice in a reasonable time frame) or economical (that it is the cheapest and most effective means of reaching the goal, and that the cost of the fix is less than the cost of the problem).
This is the method of the global green movement as shaped by Al Gore: an ever-crescendoing invocation of blizzards, droughts, locusts and floods aims to stampede the populace into embracing one of the most dubious and unworkable policy prescriptions ever presented to the public eye.
On Gore’s education and how it shaped him for politics:
Al Gore junior was as perfectly primed for the life of a gentry progressive as it is possible to be. The son of a senator, he was educated at St. Albans and Harvard. When, after working as a journalist investigating corruption (an honest referee in a dirty game), he learned that his father’s old House seat had become vacant, Al Gore ran and was elected. Atticus Finch, reporting for duty.
Unfortunately, Gore’s life has coincided with declining public interest in the kind of elite liberal leadership he was trained to provide. The shift of the white South away from the Democratic Party is sometimes portrayed as simple white flight from a Democratic Party that was embracing Black voters. This is a part of what happened; what also happened was that as Southern whites were gradually becoming better educated and more urban, they were no longer interested in the two types of leadership the Democrats traditionally offered: Atticus Finch and George Wallace. Neither the gentry progressive nor the race-baiting demagogue spoke to the white South very clearly anymore and the rise of the Republican Party in the South brought new kinds of discourse and new kinds of politics to a South that had less and less room for the Gores.
Please do go and read them all. At the very least, doing so should help you place one of the great debates of our time into a useful and well-defined context.