I'm not sure which ad put out by Al Gore's new global warming ad campaign is worse -- the one featuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich on a love seat, or the spots with the Revs. Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson noting their agreement on the issue.
I don't think Pelosi does herself any favors posing with that sultan of smarm, Gingrich -- even for an issue so dear to the left. Gingrich's role confirms the suspicion of many Republicans that the Newter will say any trendy thing to get his face in the limelight. Also, my first thought when I see Robertson and Sharpton on the same side is this: that any cause that can put them on the same side, well, it can't be good. And it's sure to involve cameras and professional lighting.
Over and again, Gore has argued that an overwhelming consensus of scientists believes that global warming is man-made and likely to have catastrophic consequences including a sea-level rise of some 20 feet. So who does his new three-year $300 million public advocacy campaign get to hype the cause? Two politicians' politicians. Robertson, a man who has warned that widespread homosexuality can result in "earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor." And Sharpton, who became famous during a 1987 race-tinged controversy involving a 15-year-old girl's unsubstantiated accusation that six white men raped her and smeared her with feces. The ads told me: Forget science; forget the steak. Savor the sizzle.
Gore's new climate-change campaign calls itself "We," as in "wecansolveit.org." But its focus is not on how We can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now. No, it focuses on how We can tell others how They should think about global warming. We's focus is not on what We can do to reduce emissions, but what We can do to get Them to walk and talk in lockstep with the crowd.
So when you click on "We are Succeeding," you don't read about how entire towns have begun to carpool or that Hollywood biggies are giving up private jets to save the planet. No. For the most part, success is tallied by a convert count. As in: "Thousands Urge the Press to Ask Questions on Global Warming," "Stunning Response to Calls for a Global Treaty," "State Department Feels Public Pressure in Run-Up to Climate Conference."
Then again, the global warming movement always has been more about symbols and professing belief than results. Our betters in Europe have spent the last seven years scolding George W. Bush for scorning the Kyoto global warming treaty, which Bill Clinton never asked the U.S. Senate to approve. It was enough that Clinton said he supported Kyoto; true believers ignored the fact that under Clinton/Gore, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions grew.
Or as The New York Times columnist Gail Collins recently wrote, "The Europeans have a perfect right to look down on the United States since they've set much more ambitious targets for reducing global warming. While they do not appear to be likely to meet any of them, it's the thought that counts."
Collins summed it up: In We-ville, it is the thought that counts. Support new technologies, and you're a global warming goodie. Say you believe, buy an eco-friendly light bulb, and you've begun to do your part. Denounce non-believers for standing in the way of progress, and you don't have to make progress. If you're rich, you can buy carbon offsets. If you're not, grouse about the price of gasoline (which is prompting Americans to cut back on their driving) and demand that Washington spend more to develop new technologies later.
Once again, I have to wonder whether Gore really believes that global warming is the imminent threat he says it is. After all, his Palo Alto-based Alliance for Climate Protection could spend its many millions hectoring people for driving to work alone or not unplugging their electronics -- and urge each individual to cut his or her energy by, say, 10 percent today. Or Gore could show some leadership by pushing the affluent -- who by definition use more energy -- to not fly in private planes, to live in smaller and fewer homes, and to find bigger ways to save energy than token gestures like limiting their use of toilet paper, as rocker Sheryl Crow famously suggested. It's called leading by example.
Instead, it seems, ads with Pelosi, Gingrich, Robertson and Sharpton -- designed to ask Americans to push Washington for innovations that may help in the future -- are what global warming gurus see as the best use of an expected $300 million. Apparently, We are in no hurry.