What Al Gore Means; The Gremlins Attack


Jonah Goldberg

Most settled cultural facts run counter to the received wisdom of contemporary conservatism (yes, I know the notion of a “cultural fact” is a frightening tip of the hat to the social constructionists and other post-moderns, but you know what I mean. And if not you can think of it as an old fashioned “liberal myth” and, here come some examples right after this parenthesis thingy) Affirmative action equals compassion, Dan Quayle is an idiot, Ken Starr is a deviant, that’s Joe Biden’s real hair, gun control reduces gun crime, and a thousand other untrue things are cultural facts, alas.

But one of the few going the other way is that the Left made a deal with the Devil when they elected Bill Clinton in 1992. No Republican could ever so totally eviscerate the liberal project as well as Bill Clinton did. Bill Clinton threw off welfare activists, gays, feminists, the truth, decency, his pants, whenever the mood suited him (see Norman Podhoretz’s piece in the current issue of NR). That Bill Clinton was politically transpicuous was as obvious as the word “transpicuous” is pretentious.

Al Gore is different. He’s the guy policy geeks and it’s-okay-to-wear-the-same-pants-everyday journalists think is like them. Gore enjoys ideas and he takes himself very seriously. Supporting Al Gore is the sensible, rather than passionate, thing to do. But, as we all know, he’s the doesn’t-run-with-scissors candidate, and therefore dull as tar (and I don’t mean the exciting pour-it-on-the-peasants kind of tar. I mean the sit-there-on-the-roof-and-collect-bird-kah-kah variety). Even some very impressive intellectuals, most notably New Republic publisher Martin Peretz, have tried to make Gore’s dullness an asset (if you would like to read the finest crafted bit of pro-Gore oddness written so far in 1999 see the excerpt of Peretz’s “Cape Cod Diarist” in our new feature, “Clip Job“[Link defunct] (yes, that was a clever bit of site-promotion — but whadyawant? I’m workin’ here). But the truth is that Al Gore’s dullness was always more of an asset for Bill Clinton than it ever was for Al Gore.

What’s interesting about all of this is that a big chunk of Gore’s image is a cultural fact, or if you prefer, a myth. The truth is that there is far less “paladin of intellectual honesty” and far more craven political panderer in Gore’s character than the press lets on. Witness his latest hem and haw about the Kansas School Board decision. At first he declined to criticize the decision. The he said that the schools should teach creationism along with science. Then he said creationism should be taught in religion classes. Finally, or rather as of this moment, he has said that he opposes the decision, calling it a “mistake.”

Now, as a matter of federalism I think the schools should be allowed to teach whatever they want. But as a matter of principle, I think it is silly to teach creationism as science, or rather to teach it as a replacement of evolutionary theory. I think evolutionary theory has some serious flaws. But I don’t think one can extrapolate from those flaws that men lived alongside dinosaurs, unless you count The Flintstones (if you would like to see a good examination of some of those flaws you should read Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box or read his articles (2/9/98 and 3/9/98 in National Review).

But, I am a religiously befuddled dabbler in the arcana of evolution and theology. Al Gore fancies himself a level 20 neuromancer when it comes to science. Al Gore destroyed careers and sullied the name of his Harvard mentor-guru Roger Revelle in an effort to stifle debate about global warming. Revelle, a revered scientist, had the temerity to write an article saying global warming was an unconfirmed phenomenon, and even if it were happening, the damage of waiting another couple of decades while we studied it was definitely worth the risk. Unfortunately, the article, which became widely discussed only after Revelle’s death, conflicted with Gore’s global warming hearings. So he encouraged a whisper campaign against Revelle, saying he was duped on his death bed into signing his name to something he never would have been associated with if he had had his wits.

Other scientists who disagreed with Gore did not get the benefit of a whisper campaign. He just called them evil tools of industry. In his book, Earth in the Balance, he suggests that people who don’t share his views about the environment are akin to abettors of the Nazi holocaust.

Of course, it’s not just science. For example, he once compared opponents of affirmative action to the men who dragged James Byrd to his death.

But science is his schtick. And I am sure he would privately concede that there is far more evidence bolstering evolution than global warming. But, as one Gore advisor said after the Littleton massacre, Gore can’t afford to give up the God issue. So he pandered.

It’s one thing to switch gears on something like ethanol or the mohair subsidy. That’s just politics. But pandering on your first principles or on high moral issues like abortion or the death penalty is disgusting. A pro-choicer who falls at the ballot box for his position is more honorable than someone who looks at polls to decide when a “medical procedure” is murder, or vice versa. For Al Gore, the purity of science has been like abortion for, say, Henry Hyde. For him to run for the political quibble or dodge is a sign that he’d be willing to do it about anything.

Then again, it would not be the first such sign on Al Gore’s road to the White House. This is the man, after all, who devoted his life to fighting tobacco because of his sister’s death from lung cancer, but kept selling the stuff for years. Oh, yeah, he’s also the guy who called Bill Clinton the greatest president of the 20th century.

First, some good news. It appears that the worrisome and sudden traffic drop-off was really a worrisome reporting error from the gnomes who run the machines in Kuala Lampur. It turns out one of the child laborers we hired got his UNICEF Halloween collection box caught in the gears again and not even his tiny little hands could get in there and get it out (we’ve since put him on a diet). As a result, the web stats were frozen at around 2:00 PM on Wednesday. So there has been no sudden decline. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that my solicitation for suggestions as to what could account for the false drop-off opened the flood gates of various festering resentments and complaints (there were also many very helpful suggestions, thanks very much).

If I were a dictator, er, I mean a strong leader, after listening to this collection of gripes, I would order the crowds dispersed with tear gas and Dobermans (i.e., the arsenal of democracy). One of the leading complaints was that the Goldberg File isn’t timely enough. There’s nothing I can, or will, do about that. It’s a daily column — I don’t hear you people complaining to George Will et al. for appearing only twice a week. If the column comes out late in the day, it’s usually because our webmaster couldn’t get a bail hearing until the afternoon docket. Don’t blame me.

Another complaint was that the bells and whistles of the site were too clunky for easy downloading — why this would result in a sudden drop in readership on a Wednesday, I do not know. But clearly many of you are persnickity about that too. We are remedying the situation, although I ask for your patience seeing that the Chinese have stolen all the good technology. Our new policy is that we make the webmaster look at the picture of Bill and Hillary hugging each other in their bathing suits for precisely the amount of time it takes to download the NR homepage. This has encouraged him to investigate all sorts of new time-saving features (if there’s no marked improvement in a month we move to having him listen to the collected speeches of Maxine Waters).

There is one complaint I can do something about though. A number of people feel the G-File is no longer “timely” enough. I should spend less time talking about gay bathhouses in San Francisco or Buridan’s Ass (fighting…urge to make…rude…joke. Must…resist.) and more time talking about the venal Janet Reno or Waco or school choice or the presidential race. This seems pretty fair. My only excuse — other than the crack, hookers, and mopery (in what film(s) did the word “mopery” appear?) — is that I’ve been trying to figure out how to make this web thing go.

Anyway, I wrote about Gore above. Consider that a down payment.