The man whom the people elected in 2000 to be president was in the temporary residence of the man whom the Supreme Court anointed.
President George W. Bush hosted former Vice-President Al Gore, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and five other Nobel laureates, Nov. 26. This annual handshake photo-op has been an American tradition.
The Nobel committee had cited Gore, Oct. 12 , as “probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted” to reduce global warming. Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN network of about 2,000 scientists, who have shown that global warming isn’t a liberal conspiracy theory.
Believing that it is some kind of liberal conspiracy theory are the fringe right-wing who dominate Talk Radio and Pundit TV. The day after the announcement, Steve Doocy, co-anchor of FOX’s morning show, set the tone for the rabid-dog attacks. He produced a chart of past Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including “that crazy Jimmy Carter,” and claimed the award is nothing more than an “anti-Bush” trophy. On CNN, guest commentator Marlo Lewis, who was identified as a global warming expert, called Gore’s writings manipulative, misleading, and exaggerated. Jay Richards of the National Review claimed the Peace prize is “politicized.” Rush Limbaugh, who had a front group nominate him for the Peace Prize only to learn that the Landmark Legal Foundation had no standing to nominate anyone, was furious that Gore, not he, received the honor. With the microphone of more than 600 radio stations that carry his talk show, Limbaugh claimed his lawyers—the ones at the Landmark group—“are looking into the possibility of filing an objection with the Nobel Committee over the unethical tampering for this award that Al Gore is engaging in.” He claimed, “This is clearly above and beyond the pale. I mean, this might happen in high school class president elections and so forth, but this is shameless.”
Bloggers chattered almost endlessly that not only didn’t Gore deserve the award but also that global warming is a myth. The Nobel committee, blogged William Teach of Pirate’s Cove, “has basically surrendered to hysterics, mass exaggerators, and liars.”
Also doubting global warming, and volumes of scientific evidence, is Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), former chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, and recipient of one of the largest cumulative campaign donations from the oil and gas industry. Inhofe has claimed that there is “compelling evidence” that global warming not only is a hoax, but that it is “the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the American people.”
George H.W. Bush, during his failed re-election campaign in 1992, called Gore “Ozone Man,” and claimed the vice-presidential candidate was “so far out in the environmental extreme we’ll be up to our necks in owls and outta work for every American.”
As for the current President Bush, he delegated the “congratulations” to a deputy press secretary. Tony Fratto told the media that Bush is not only “happy for Vice President Gore,” but also happy for the UN scientists who co-shared the award. “Obviously, it’s an important recognition, and we’re sure the vice president is thrilled,” said Fratto, dripping with insincerity.
The Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, one of the nation’s most conservative newspapers, claimed, “The Nobel Peace Prize is worse than a joke. It’s a fraud,” and called the prize a “useless medal.” The Wall Street Journal didn’t even mention Gore in its editorial the day the Nobel committee made its announcement, but listed several others who should be considered for the award. The Journal’s unscientific poll of its largely conservative upper middle-class and upper class readers that day revealed that 54 percent didn’t think Al Gore deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. One reader, reflecting the opinion of about 13,000 who disagreed with the award, called it “a joke and it encourages the pursuit of junk science for political gain.” Another reader believed, “The fear being installed from man made global warming is now officially a communist plot to control behavior.” However, among the 11,250 who believed the award was justified was one reader who believed that Al Gore, the former journalist, “did what the National Academy of Sciences could not do—explain the issue in a way that non-scientists can understand.”
For more than three decades, Al Gore has been one of the nation’s strongest voices for the protection of the environment. His first book, Earth in the Balance (1992), had pushed protection of the environment onto the national political agenda; as vice-president, he became the Clinton Administration’s primary advocate to protect the environment and the nation’s natural resources.
During the past seven years, Gore co-founded a major TV cable network (Current TV), which was honored with an Emmy in 2007; wrote the best-selling book about the effects of global warming, An Inconvenient Truth (2006), which was turned into a box office hit that won an Oscar for the best documentary; wrote a best-seller, The Assault on Reason (2007), which received the Quill Award for history/current events/politics; and increased his public appearances to speak out about a number of social issues, including environmental protection.
During the past seven years, George W. Bush spun a nation not only into a war that has destroyed the environment and natural resources of Iraq, but had also begun a war in America that is leading to a destruction of its environment and natural resources. President Bush consistently ignored the evidence of global warming, and suppressed the views of government scientists. He allowed Enron and other energy companies to direct the nation’s energy policy. With a cabinet that includes persons who either were employed by large oil and coal companies or were paid lobbyists against environmental protections, he reduced federal environmental rules. He believes that most of the 250 million acres under jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management should be available so private industry can strip the resources for their own economic gain. He has allowed extensive off-shore drilling, increased the incursion by mining companies, and allowed logging companies to devastate federal lands. He is a leading advocate for allowing oil companies to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, claiming it’s for “national security,” but completely oblivious to the reality that such intrusion would severely alter the balance of nature, while yielding little gas and oil for the American people. He has permitted gas-spewing recreational vehicles to tear up federal parks and permanently disturb the wildlife. He reversed himself on a campaign pledge to reduce acceptable levels of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and determined that higher levels of arsenic and other toxins in drinking water was acceptable. He reduced the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency, preferring companies to undergo “voluntary compliance,” and eliminated the tax upon the oil and chemical industries that paid for the clean up of SuperFund toxic waste sites. It’s now the taxpayers not polluters who are paying for clean-up operations.
Within months of his first inaugural, Bush withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol that called for global environmental protection by stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions. With Australia about to sign the Protocol, 173 nations will have signed the agreement; the U.S. is now the only industrialized nation not to sign.
And now, on a Monday evening after Thanksgiving, President George W. Bush was meeting with five American Nobel laureates, including Al Gore. By all accounts, a 40-minute private meeting with Mr. Gore was “cordial.” The President, after snubbing the former vice-president when the Nobel committee made its announcement, could now be cordial. He had personally called Gore to make sure the former vice-president was available, and was willing to rearrange the White House schedule to accommodate Mr. Gore. At the post-Thanksgiving ceremony, Bush could smile and backslap. After all, George W. Bush was president, and nothing that Al Gore was doing to protect the environment would ever be enough to erase this president’s political ability to alter the environment to benefit corporate interests.
[Walter M. Brasch is professor of mass communications/journalism at Bloomsburg University. His current book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available through Amazon.com. You may reach Dr. Brasch at www.walterbrasch.com].