Back to the studio. Skewering haughty politicos, Stossel is merciless. While introducing the opening segment about the U.N.’s climate-change summit in Copenhagen, Stossel brings out a green telephone (much like the red phone that sits on Beck’s desk) and invites former vice president Al Gore to call in. “Will we all drown from global warming?” he asks. “Al Gore says yes.” He lights up. “Gore has enough time to go on Saturday Night Live but not on this program?” he asks. Then Stossel – slate-gray suit, slate-gray hair, slate-gray ’stache — moves from the audience to the stage, where Taylor waits. Taylor, a global-warming skeptic, is greeted with a sharp question: “Are you a tool of the coal industry?” Some policy talk follows.
Next, Stossel goes to College Guy in row one, a Columbia student, and lets him challenge Taylor. Clips follow, and Stossel more than lives up to Fox’s “fair and balanced” billing. In between absurd apocalyptic snippets from Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth are shots of then-presidential nominee John McCain cheering on the “science” of global warming. “Are they just pandering for votes?” asks Stossel. The audience laps it up, but it’s less like a traditional television slugfest and more like a late Friday afternoon class with the cool prof who lets you spout off and tangle with him.
Reflecting on the audience’s questions, Stossel says afterwards that he is pleased with only “the one girl who was informed, clear, angry, and articulate.” The rest of the questioners “were a little convoluted and not very passionate. Maybe we’ll have to hire professionally angry people for next time,” he jokes.
Stossel only falls flat when he tries to be a little too kitschy, driving out in a golf cart that he bought through the Cash for Clunkers program. It’s funny, but in a little-giggle, not riotous-laughter, way. It is clear he is aiming for the feel of the spunky consumer reporting he did for years, but in a tiny studio, and with little background information, it doesn’t stick.
“Look, I’ve always been really nerdy and careful about editing things,” says Stossel. “I’m still learning how to do this live gig.”
I have a feeling he’ll figure it out. Oprah’s retiring and libertarian ideas are rising. Instead of “going Galt,” this Rand fan has decided to change stations. For now, it’s good to see a conservative who is willing to light a fire, not just wag a finger, get some airtime.
– Robert Costa is the William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at the National Review Institute. “Stossel” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the Fox Business Network. It re-airs on Fridays at 10 p.m. and Sundays at 11 p.m.