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May 22, 2006

Not a review
Posted by Patrick at 03:24 PM *

An Inconvenient Truth is a feature-length documentary, opening in theaters on Wednesday, built around the global-warming presentation that Al Gore has been giving to audiences all over the world for the last three years.

We saw a screening in New York last month. It’s fantastic. Gore is funny, smart, engaging, passionate, deeply likable, and entirely on target. The post-2000 Gore has the sense of groundedness and self-possession that comes from knowing what you’re supposed to be doing in this world and doing it. As for the planet, first Gore scares you to death—not hard to do with the facts—and then he drops the real bomb: we can fix this. Without Reforming Society, or Becoming Better People, or anything utopian; just by stitching together a bunch of achievable goals reachable through normal political means. As Gore points out, we’ve already confronted one environmental crisis with coordinated planetary action, and as a result, the Antarctic ozone hole may be gone by midcentury.

This isn’t a real review. I kept meaning to write one and it kept eluding me, and now the movie is opening this week. I’m just saying: See it. Not out of any sense of grim obligation, but because it’s entertaining, and interesting, and leaves you with that most surprising takeaway: hope.

(Find a showing near you, here.)

Comments on Not a review:
#1 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 03:42 PM:

I am greatly looking forward to seeing it.

The "hope takeaway"... Back in 1999, when I decided to commit to Gore, I went and read his book Earth in the Balance. I was, thereafter, annoyed and astonished at the way Gore was portrayed in the press, etc. Grim? No way. Moonbat? No way.

That book was full of hope and practical solutions way back then. I'm psyched They've Now Made A Movie (though not of that book, as I understand it), and that he's seven years (or more) smarter and that much more in his own skin.

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 03:54 PM:

What Michael Weholt said.

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Well, the whole "Al Gore is a wooden robot" thing never had much credibility with me in the first place. As I think I've remarked before, I saw him in the 1992 campaign, warming up the crowd at a rally for Floyd Abrams, who was trying to unseat then-Senator Al D'Amato. Abrams was a normal gladhanding politician, but Gore was a rock star. And this is back when Gore was officially dull.

#4 ::: kvenlander ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 04:25 PM:

So the "wooden Gore" meme was just another brilliant case of Rovian "attack their strenght / our weakness". They were shielding their candidate who cannot function in large gatherings without being extensively scripted (apparently Bush is adept enough in small groups and one-on-one schmoozing to charm even Nancy Pelosi's daughter).

#5 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 04:28 PM:

Gore always knew how to get maximum mileage out of his "Al Gore is completely wooden" image. Someone without a sense of humor about himself, and/or without a good sense of comic timing, can't do that.

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 04:41 PM:

Lis, I remember that as well. I was at a Clinton-Gore rally at the Meadowlands in 1992. Remember the Macarena? It was this very silly dance done to a bouncy little tune that was also popular at the time (the words were really tragic and gory (npi), but you had to know Spanish to get that, so la).

Al Gore got up and said "I'd just like to show you the Al Gore version of the Macarena." A pause. "Want to see it again?"

#7 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 04:49 PM:

Well, it wasn't just people on the right who thought Gore was wooden; being able to make fun of yourself doesn't imply that you aren't ( and vice versa).

Wavy Gravy's 70th birthday party was Sat. night, and he kept going on how exciting Gore was now that someone removed the stick from his butt.

#8 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 04:53 PM:

I have to wait until June 9 to see it in Portland. OTOH, I'm visiting New York next week. Good excuse to visit Manhattan, maybe?

You know, there are still folks who think the Ozone Hole is a hysterical environmentalist myth; in some permutations, it was whipped up by the makers of Freon because they wanted to increase sales on the pricey substitute.

There's something creepy and sad about people mouthing (well, typing) talking points from the F.U.D. campaign RE ozone.

#9 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 05:02 PM:

I want to see that film. I also need to say that my support of Nader in 2000 was petulant childishness and I have been and will continue to make ammends by supporting the DNC until I die.

I hope Gore runs in 2008. Everybody loves him now that we've seen what dumb shits we were and how serious a mistake like GWB can have consequences far beyond imagining.

#10 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 05:10 PM:

*sigh*, it doesn't show up near me until June 2nd. (Cambridge,MA)

Is it possible that this could bolster the Draft Gore effort? (Actually, does Gore even want to be drafted at this point?)

As for the meme about his supposed woodeness,it's always seemed to me that the media had had it out for Gore from the start. The lies attributed to Gore that I know about, as near as I know, did not originate with Gore but with the press taking him out of context. (e.g., he didn't say that he discovered Love Canal. He said that he laid the groundwork which made finding Love Canal possible. He didn't say that he invented the internet. He said that he supported the legislation which enabled the research which created the internet.)

I suspect that he's now much better at dealing with the press in a way such that they don't consistently misinterpret his words.

#11 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 05:15 PM:

Xopher, from the "Macarena" joke, I would guess that the rally you attended was in 1996, not 1992.

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 05:20 PM:

Um...could be. If so, I'm conflating two events. The one at the Meadowlands was in '92, because they sang "One Day More," with the point being that it was the day before the election and George Bush Senior was being served notice that he wouldn't be in office much longer.

But if the Macarena was in 1996, I must have gotten two events mixed up. I'm sure I went to a Clinton/Gore rally in 1996 too!

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 05:21 PM:

Back during the 2000 race, I think Tommy Lee Jones did some campaigning on behalf of Al. Hell, they'd been college room-mates. Apparently they'd work their butts off with their studies, but there was one hour a week that was a sacrosanct break from it all: watching Star Trek. And one would pretend to be Kirk, the other would be Spock.

That sounds to me like someone who is serious about things and who can poke fun at himself.

#14 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 05:23 PM:

Serge...not hard to guess who was who.

The word 'slash' just rose unbidden to the oily surface of my mind. Fear not; I used my corroded barge pole to shove it to the bottom, where it will be eaten by the poisoned catfish that live there.

#15 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 05:57 PM:

The movie won't be here until mid-June (and even then it will be showing an hour's drive away), but my husband and I are planning to go.

I think Gore's niche (he's wooden! he's boring! he's a wonk!) is an indicator of larger society attitudes toward people who care passionately about things, passionately enough to educate themselves and speak out and try to educate others. The country seems to value passion only when it is unthinking (like Colbert's jibes to the Prez about going from the gut); passionate thinkers are elitist / boring / obsessive (choose your combination, or select all three!).

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 06:22 PM:

Darice, the People don't really want smart people in charge, even though that's what we need.

"Illogical, Captain."

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 06:24 PM:

I don't know, Xopher. Tommy Lee Jones would have made one hell of a Vulcan. Okay, a very cranky Vulcan.

#18 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 06:33 PM:

But then you'd have to cast Gore as Kirk. I'm sorry, even if he's a better actor than I think he could be, he can't play that stupid and hormone-driven. Just wouldn't WORK.

#19 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 06:33 PM:

I heart Tommy Lee Jones. Tommy Lee Jones can be anything he wants to be.

Patrick, thank you for the not review. I will go see the movie, I was planning to anyway.

Vote for Al Gore? You bet. He cares about the environment, he's smart, and he's not George Bush.

#20 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 07:05 PM:

Serge, you're right; smart is seen as dangerous.

(And why can't it be the sexy kind of dangerous? Perhaps that's the reframing we need...)

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 07:28 PM:

Al Gore is smart, concerned about more than just the next election, has decent impulses, and compassion. He is, in short, the kind of person everybody says should be in office, and who scares a lot of people because:

(1) they want those in power to reflect their fears, not their hopes;

(2) they don't want a more decent world, they want one where they can feel powerful;


(3) they hate people who are intellectually and morally better.

That is to say by the same people who applaud that immoral ignoranus currently wielding the power of the American state.

#22 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 07:33 PM:

The movie shows up here in Seattle on 6/2 as well, and it looks like I can either go downtown to see it or wait until it's showing at the shiny-new-near work theater on 6/19. That list of theaters gets longer every time I look at it.

Go Al Gore!

I was a much more enthusiastic supporter of Al Gore than I ever was of Kerry (shoulda been Dean...) and I am really thrilled to see the Veep back in the public eye in such a positive way. I don't think the GOP slime machine has figured out how to attack yet, since the pre-release success of An Inconvenient Truth really came out of nowhere, and that's given Gore and the studio a chance to position themselves before the GOP/Mass Media combine did it for them.

My favorite Gore moment was his appearance on Futurama, when he proclaimed "I'm a tenth level Vice President!" Right after he saved history, of course.

#23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 07:41 PM:

Darice... It's like the whole thing where 'they' used to say that Dubya was the kind of guy they'd feel comfortable having a beer with. 'Comfortable'. 'Beer'. I'm all for comfortable. And for a cold beer, especially when I've been clearing brush. But none of these things are what I'm looking for in a President.

Last week, a few of us locals were talking politics and saying that Nixon was so much better than Dubya. When you almost find yourself for the Return of Dick, you know things suck.

(Hmm... That's an interesting choice of words.)

#24 ::: Jamais Cascio ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 07:52 PM:

I had the pleasure of meeting Al Gore in late February, when he and I both spoke at the TED conference. At the beginning of the conference, all of the speakers got together for a raucous dinner. Working up the courage to go over to him, I introduced myself.

Now one thing not a lot of people know is that his daughter Kristin was a writer on Futurama, the science fiction cartoon from the Simpsons folks. Because of this connection, Al Gore appeareed (in cartoon form) twice; in the second appearance, he shows up as a disembodied head-in-a-jar, and is introduced as the "First Emperor of the Moon."

After exchanging the usual pleasantries, I say to him, "by the way, it's a real honor to meet the first emperor of the Moon."

Gore looks at me, leans back, and says -- in the exact voice he used on the show -- "I have ridden the mighty Moon Worm!"

Stewart Brand, who was sitting with Gore, looked a bit confused, so Gore said "I appeared a couple of times on a cartoon show called 'Futurama.' It has a bit of a... cult following."

[Fortunately, Gore really liked my talk, which opened the segment in which he spoke, so I wasn't as much of a goon in his eyes by the end of the conference.]

#25 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 08:00 PM:

Al Gore, First Emperor of the Moon... I have this vision of a mighty-thewed Burroughs (Edgar Rice, not William) hero, swinging down from a rope, wielding his sword like Death Incarnate...

#26 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 08:25 PM:

To wax a bit pan-thread for a moment:

How can nativists and associated anti-immigration cranks get away with paranoid rants about Mexifornia and a scaaaaary multi-cultural future, while publically worrying about the environment gets you blasted for being a gloom-and-doom Chicken Little?

Heck, there are plenty of conservative If This Goes On stories:

* Legal abortion will lead to a culture of death where old people and handicapped kids are casually euthanized.

* Teaching Evolution will result in nihilistic youth running wild in the streets, undeterred by the threat of hellfire to keep them in line.

* Legalize gay marriage, and before you know it men will be french-kissing their Leonbergers in Las Vegas wedding chapels.

But suggest that adding CO2 to the atmosphere might cause things to warm up, and you're a humanity-hating luddite junk-science doomsayer.

#27 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 08:42 PM:

Ah, I made Jamais post his Al Gore story, my day is complete.

I love Al Gore. I project onto him my favoured outlook for the future, which is an optimist-realist approach that says we have some hard problems that we must solve, but that solving them is possible and won't bankrupt us, we just have to pay attention & put our priorities in the right place. Bush is perhaps optimist-idealist, the Pangloss approach that says the problems aren't really problems and everything is going to turn out okay, so, uh, keep shopping & driving that Chevy Tahoe around town!

A lot of environmentalists used to be pessimist-realists who said we have all these serious problems we can't possibly solve without [killing half the population/reverting to a stone-age existence/starting over after a nuclear apocalypse], although thankfully that's gone out of fashion somewhat. (It was amusing but sometimes painful to me that in my Environmental Management degree program, the professors were largely optimist-realist types but the well-meaning but naive students were mostly pessimist-realists, so in class you'd constantly have people suggesting that we needed to return to the fields, give up cars & plastics & processed food, let half the world die of AIDS, etc etc to the exasperation of the teachers.)

(I guess PMDs of the Left Behind variety would be pessimist-idealists, who think we're all doomed but it'll be rains of blood & trumpets & weird beasts with the head of a sheep or whatever. Funny bunch, really.)

Anyway, the optimist-realist approach is one that I think can be appreciated by most Americans if they really get a chance to listen to it. The mainstream media's faux-balance & frankly their unwillingness to present unpleasant truths has kept people from really knowing what's going on, as the media have failed to make a distinction between facts or at least concerted scientific opinion on the one hand, and deliberate, bought & paid-for disinformation on the other.

The blogs do something to help counter-balance that, I hope, and I sure hope this movie does too.

#28 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 09:02 PM:

we can fix this. Without Reforming Society, or Becoming Better People, or anything utopian; just by stitching together a bunch of achievable goals reachable through normal political means.

which would fix the environment, and may end up producing better people and a reformed society anyway.

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 09:03 PM:

About Drudge's bullsh*t, here's what Digby's site had to say today:

They're running the sad old Gore playbook, and some of the media is playing along like good little robots. But it won't work like it did before. You want to know why? Because there is a counter force to that little weasel Drudge and his fellow character assassins this time --- us. Lefty bloggers will be all over the mainstream media if they do this again. We will ensure they get a snootfull of our vaunted liberal anger if they decide that "it's just fun" to destroy Democrats on behalf of Republican thugs.

One does wonder what History would be like if blogs had had as great a presence in the last years of the 20th Century. Not to overstate any influence, but it is now easier and quicker to catch them in the act of BSing.

#30 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 09:25 PM:

I finished watching Keith Olberman a few minutes ago; he smacked Drudge roundly for his little rumor-mongering excercise, and mentioned that Gore & Co. walked to the New York premier.

Three cheers for the First Emperor of the Moon!

#31 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 09:33 PM:

"All Hail Al!"

#32 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 10:17 PM:

So the "wooden Gore" meme was just another brilliant case of Rovian "attack their strenght / our weakness".

I've been thinking this about the "Gore doesn't tell the truth" meme. Bush and Rove attacked Gore for "lying" and gee, look who turns out to have a very casual relationship with the truth. Man, those guys are scumbags.

#33 ::: LauraT ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 10:34 PM:

I have some questions..

what do you guys think Bush thinks about this?

and, did you see Al Gore on SNL? it was really funny.

and... Who do you think will run in 2008?.. I wonder if they will be able to fix all of the new lienient laws regaurding power plants and pollution that Bush so kindly came up with... 2 steps back...

I hope the new guy or girl has really big feet for that one step forward...

#34 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 11:38 PM:

JC, Gore didn't "support" the legislation that made development of the Internet possible; he wrote it.

Serge, the public does want smart people in charge, they just want to be able to think of them as "normal" smart rather than "bookish" smart. They like people who they feel are smart and learned from the school of life.

Larry Brennan, please don't call him "the Veep". Call him by the title he earned: "Mr. President."

#35 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2006, 11:58 PM:

Laura T, I don't give a rat's ass what Mr. Bush thinks, and I'm absoutely positive from his continued behavior that he doesn't give a rat's ass about what anyone, including his close cabal of servants, think of him. He has told people directly that he does not care what they think of them, to their face when he has been asked. Talk about denial in government.

He's "The Decider" and what he decides is good enough for all of because he's the farking Emperor. All Hail Chimpy! (NOT)

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 12:09 AM:

I dont know, Avedon. It sounds like the smarts you say the voters want are the kind they too could possess if they really applied themselves to the task of learning with some effort. But do they want someone who's so smart that he can learn things effortlessly, someone against whom they just can't compete?

Then again I may have misinterpreted what you meant.

#37 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 02:48 AM:

I've decided that Gore is one of the great rhetoricians of our time. It's impressive for him to tell people there's a lot to hope for and get them to believe it; I was never able to manage that. Considering the scale of the project, even moreso; this is going to be a lot more work than dealing with the ozone hole.

#38 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 04:23 AM:

So here are three slogans for Gore in 2008, closely related but different enough that testing should reveal a preference:

1. We can fix this
2. We can do this
3. We can


#39 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 04:44 AM:

Here's that Gore SNL spot.

#40 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 04:56 AM:

"Darice, the People don't really want smart people in charge, even though that's what we need."

Well, the cinemagoing public seems to be OK with smart heroes; Obi-Wan Kenobi, Professor X, Gandalf...oh. Just spotted the common factor.

Maybe Gore would do better with a Royal Shakespeare Company accent...

#41 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 05:52 AM:

ajay: Well, the cinemagoing public seems to be OK with smart heroes; Obi-Wan Kenobi, Professor X, Gandalf...

Except I think those smart heroes exhibit the kind of smarts Avedon was talking about: smarts by way of the school of (intragalactic, mutant, wizardly) hard knocks. I'm struggling to think of a Gore cinema hero analog... the first cup of coffee has not entered my system yet... there must be one out there... maybe somebody else can think of one...

#42 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 06:23 AM:

Sherlock Holmes, Hermione, Encyclopedia Brown.

#43 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 07:27 AM:

...oh my god. They finally got it RIGHT.

Explanation: The environmental group perspective on raising public awareness has long been to either (a) scare the hell out of people with potential consequences, or (b) focus on NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) issues. The advantage of B is that people generally are much more motivated to take action, and given the smaller scale, more likely to have the power to make a change and see positive results. (The disadvantage is that NIMBY projects can then get dumped on people who don't have the political or monetary wherewithal to fight them, but that's another topic.)

The advantage of A is -- well, there isn't one. Big problems can't be presented as NIMBY issues, so a lot of the problems that fall in here -- particulate matter, CO2, etc -- don't have easy answers. As such, the approach scares people without giving them an option for improving things. It can sometimes work, by scaring people so badly they take action -- eg, the acid rain in Western Europe in the 80s and 90s, which has been significantly improved and is one of the poster children for positive environmental action. But much more often, the combination of fright and a situation where no clear solutions or courses of action are presented means people turn off their awareness. It's scary. Nobody wants to think about it. And if there aren't any options, it makes the block-the-issue response a hell of a lot worse.

Presenting the problem and then proposing solutions is absolutely key. It's why (for example) anti-smoking campaigns are much more successful when they include some form of action, some positive step, that people can take. Scare people, and you're just giving them a reason to ignore the problem. Scare people and give them something to do -- and you might get somewhere.

Thank the blessed deities. Someone finally got it right.

#44 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 07:40 AM:

Yes, ajay, there is Professor X, but he is in an SF setting, and people interested in SF usually value intelligence more. I think. And this probably sounds elitist.

#45 ::: Glazius ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 08:09 AM:

It's good to know the ozone hole is recovering. But like global warming there's more at work here than just human influence, unless these guys have it all wrong.

This isn't to say we should all be running back to freon with open arms, but there will still probably be depleted ozone layers at the poles even if humanity collectively emigrates to Mars tomorrow.


I resent the ozone layer for discouraging the development of life that might be able to be exposed to the cosmos without improbably thick radiation shielding, he said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

#46 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 08:47 AM:

You need to be a subscriber to "Nature" magazine to read the article Glazius points to. Which I am cuz I'm ultra-cool and everything.

Here is another article about it, fer free.

#47 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 09:07 AM:

Before we all start popping the champagne to celebrating saving the Earth from global warming (too late anyway), I might remind us all that Al Gore probably won’t run. I would also remind us all that the problem is more widespread than the current President of the US (count the number of SUVs and pickup trucks on your way home with only one person inside and not hauling anything). This is also the political atmosphere where Michael Crichton is invited to testify before Congress and have a sleepover at the Whitehouse for writing “State of Fear”.

And frankly, while I agree that Global Warming is a Big Issue(tm), I hope that a new administration would begin their tenure with a host of other social initiatives, such as restoring full-funding for family planning programs worldwide, re-enforcing current environmental laws, and getting us back on track for the elimination of terrorist groups, engaging Iran and North Korea in disarmament talks, and dealing rationally with a rising China and deteriorating Russia.

#48 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 09:29 AM:

Steve Buchheit: Before we all start popping the champagne to celebrating saving the Earth from global warming (too late anyway), I might remind us all that Al Gore probably won’t run.

Who's popping open champagne celebrating the Earth being saved from global warming? To the degree anybody is celebrating anything, I think they're celebrating the emergence of a spokeman (by way of film) who might serve to counter some of the B.S. of the "Oh, it's just a patch of warm weather" crowd.

I also doubt very much Gore will run, btw. I don't think it's so bad if he doesn't. He may be able to do more good work outside of 1600 Penn. Ave. than inside. I'd like to see him run, but I doubt he will and I don't think it's a tragedy if he doesn't.

#49 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 09:53 AM:

Book-smart = effeminate, lost, soulless. The only thing it's okay for a man to be passionate about is sports. Sports nut = winner. Americans want a winner. As long as he's (and it has to be a he) a testosterone-driven competitor, they don't mind his being "better." But "smarter," no way.

To be clear, I am trying to channel the zeitgeist, not advocating any of this. In fact, I hope I am very wrong, because this is a nightmare. It makes me feel like Cassandra, or an alien, among all these deluded people.

#50 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 10:04 AM:

Gore didn't "support" the legislation that made development of the Internet possible; he wrote it.

Oops. My mistake. Still, I don't recall him claiming that he invented the internet. That still seems to me to be the creation of media which couldn't tell the different between writing enabling legislation and engineering.

Like the commenters before me, I too doubt that Gore will run. (He does get serious points for having survived the traditional Democratic circular firing squad though.)

I agree with Avedon, it's not that the American public does not want a smart President. It's that the American public doesn't want a President who shows off his intelligence. This is not to say that we don't value excellence. We love seeing people, for example, run faster than we had ever thought possible, but we resent seeing people solve problems that we can't solve ourselves.

Part of why Bill Clinton did so well was because although he is undoubtedly one of the most intelligent Presidents in US history, he was also quite charismatic and could portray himself as the Common Man. (e.g., that town hall style debate when he could successfully answer the question about the cost of various groceries.) It's pretty clear that there were people who voted for W because he was someone they felt they could have a beer with.

As the examples of Bill Clinton and W show, intelligence is a non-factor when it comes to winning the Presidency. It's the ability to project the image of just being one of the guys.
(This is, of course, a generalization. There are people, like me, who supported Clinton and Gore because of their wonkishness.)

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 10:15 AM:


Back in the halcyon days of 2000, when the Presidential Race was raging on, some journalists compared the Gore vs Bush as the bookworm vs the sports jock. I'm not sure that being a cheerleader really qualifies one as a jock, but we're supposed to think of Chimpy as a jock...

Also, within the first two years of Chimpy's Reign, I think it was Jon Carroll who made te observation that Bill Clinton liked surrounding with smart people, as long as they were not quite as smart as him. Luckily, that person said, Bush didn't take the same approach otherwise we'd be without a functional govt.


#52 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 10:15 AM:

Michael Weholt, it seemed to me there was a sense of "Weeha, got 'em on the run," going on. I could be wrong. I agree that it's great having a strong voice on our side, but lets be honest, nobody from the “other side” is going to see the movie as anything but propaganda.

I would much rather have Al lobbying and stumping, which this movie would be a good start to that program or a fund-raising effort for it. However, I’m a bit of a pessimist and I think he likes being a college professor.

Most people in this country aren’t science minded enough to understand what global warming actually means. Some get to the point of accepting melting ice caps, glaciers, snow cover, rising sea-levels, and increasing El Nino and La Nina events. But how many truly grok that the world will change, global winds will shift, water currents change, basic food cycles will be altered, and that where our cities are and where our food production is will be the wrong places.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 10:16 AM:


I'm not popping any champagne yet. True, Gore hasn't said he was running, but he hasn't said he was NOT running either. For one thing, if he does announce his candidacy right now, the GOP artillery will immediately turn on him and he won't have any resources left to actually run by the time of the Race. Also... Maybe he's waiting to see if people will get behind him on the Democratic side.

#54 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 10:24 AM:

Back in the halcyon days of 2000, when the Presidential Race was raging on, some journalists compared the Gore vs Bush as the bookworm vs the sports jock.

Yeah, and they had to lie to do it. It was Al Gore, not George Bush, who had been the captain of his team.

#55 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 10:26 AM:

Serge: True, Gore hasn't said he was running, but he hasn't said he was NOT running either.

I think he actually has said that. Just the other day, as a matter of fact. Hmm... gotta go right now, but will see if I can find the cite later today...

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 10:28 AM:

That, Avedon, is where we say "What liberal media?"

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 10:33 AM:

Hmm... So maybe Gore did say he was NOT running. But, considering his position and considering the bastards who run the GOP, that may be the smart thing to do. Also, one way for him to find if people will stand with him in his fight is to play hard to get.

#58 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 12:27 PM:

Gore has said he is not currently running for any public office and has no plans to do so, and describes himself as a "recovering politician", not yet fully recovered. Still, he has not said that he will definitely never run for office again. He's smart enough so that if that's what he meant to say he would have said it.

#59 ::: Jamais Cascio ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 12:42 PM:

Frankly, I think Gore would have a better chance in 2012 or 2016. It's still too close to the 2000 election, and many of the same voices that worked to disparage Gore last time around are still in place. By 2012, however, the cultural churn will have been sufficient to limit the effectiveness of rehashing the same talking points, and -- much more importantly -- the effects of global warming-induced climate disruption will be all the more visible. Gore is one of the very few national figures with any real credibility on the subject, and would be well-positioned to come in as a proverbial white knight.

In short, it will probably take a few more Katrinas before people are begging him to run.

#60 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 06:30 PM:

Back in the halcyon days of 2000, when the Presidential Race was raging on, some journalists compared the Gore vs Bush as the bookworm vs the sports jock.

Yeah, and they had to lie to do it. It was Al Gore, not George Bush, who had been the captain of his team.

The media constructed personas of Bush and Gore in 2000 had very little connection with the facts of their personal histories: Bush was, equally with Gore, a child of privilege, and more than Gore, a member of the old power elite. Gore was the athlete, the person who actually served in the military, and the person who'd spent some of his time, in his youth, doing physical labor and associating with working people.

The Gore campaign missed a trick; they could have gotten some of the votes which went to Bush on the mistaken impression that he was a regular guy if they'd showed Gore backing up a farm tractor with a nice hefty piece of equipment behind it.

#61 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 06:43 PM:

Jamais Cascio: I agree. But that leaves me with the problem of which Democratic candidate to support in 2008. I will vote for the generic not-Republican, but not happily. And some of the possibilities make me distinctly uneasy.

PS, my copy of How Would A Patriot Act? arrived today...

#62 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 06:49 PM:

What's Wes Clark up to these days?

#63 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 06:49 PM:

Lizzy L: Well, someone could try to draft Dennis Kucinich....

#64 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 10:21 PM:

You know, there are still folks who think the Ozone Hole is a hysterical environmentalist myth;

The idea popped up in the early 1990s, long after the science was settled, as a result of a sort of game of Telephone that began with some crank in the Lyndon LaRouche organization and passed through Dixy Lee Ray and Rush Limbaugh, and from there to the rest of the conservative noise machine.

I remember thinking the prevalence of this claim was very convenient, because in arguments about the environment you could use it to quickly identify a large class of complete ignoramuses.

#65 ::: FMguru ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2006, 03:14 AM:

The Gore campaign missed a trick; they could have gotten some of the votes which went to Bush on the mistaken impression that he was a regular guy if they'd showed Gore backing up a farm tractor with a nice hefty piece of equipment behind it.

Wouldn't have helped - the media would have sprained its eyes rolling them at Gore's 'desperate and obviously insincere' effort to try and paint himself as something other than an unlikeable robot. The pundit class would have giggled themselves silly at this latest evidence that Gore 'doesn't know who he is' and 'is flailing around trying to find something, anything that will connect him to the average voter'. Then they would go on about the simple, folksy charm and winning personality of George W. Bush.

There really was nothing Gore could do in 2000 to break out of the box the media put him in. I remember watching the third debate, and before it started, the pundits had already placed him a no-win position - if he toned his act down, he'd be stiff and boring and robotic, but if he was engaged (like he was in the first debate), he'd be knocked as wild-eyed and unlikable and angry.

(And with all that, he still won the popular vote, and it took the combined efforts of the Florida secretary of state, a pre-arranged riot by bussed-in Republican hacks, and a corrupt majority on the Supreme Court to deny him his victory)

Of all the toxic trends that cause damage to our body politic, the rise of psychobiography and amateur drama criticism as the primary method of political writing and analysis (as opposed to careful consideration of policy, experience, and previous behavior, or even just letting the candidates speak for themselves) has got to be among the worst.

#66 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2006, 10:31 AM:

Y'all might be interested in this profile of Al Gore that ran recently in New York magazine:

#67 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2006, 11:41 AM:

Here in Arizona, the slime machines are already in full operation as Jim Peterson battles the entrenched Jon Kyl for a senatorial seat. Both have ads that tout their own folksiness and "family values," and other ads that literally paint their opponent and/or his "cronies" an evil pale green -- Kyl has one emphasizing Peterson's "liberal agenda" with zomboid photos of Hilary, Dean, Kerry etc. (which always makes me exclaim, "The good guys!"). The Republicans have the more effectively nasty slogan ("liberal agenda -- zero experience"), and I'm not particularly sanguine about a newcomer's chances, but at least it was good to hear that the polls give Kyl's current approval rating at 47% (way below McCain's).

I still hate almost all political ads, of whatever persuasion. Slime and insincerity!

#68 ::: Glazius ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2006, 11:45 AM:

Agh, sorry about the Nature thing. I dropped BugMeNot into Firefox a while back and I don't even know what it's silently granting me access to.

Gregg Easterbrook, who in a massive act of dramatic irony (considering the thread progression) first ingrained himself into my psyche as a football/popculture commentator, published the linked paper summarizing the current state of affairs re: global warming. Um, I'm hoping everybody can get to that one. Anyway, the most relevant parts are:

a) Smog. Initially in the 1970s, when Congress said "k guys no more with the smoke or u cant sell cars", engineers said smog reduction would add $10,000 in modern dollars per car, and whaddaya know, they were right, if by "car" you mean "massive trailer hauling 100 cars".

b) Acid rain. Congress instituted a system of acid rain credits, where a plant below emissions quota could sell its extra capacity to plants having trouble coping, with the value of each credit declining slightly per year. Originally estimated to cost $2000 per ton, acid rain credits have been devalued below mandated limits and are being sold for a profit at $200 per ton.

c) Methane, though a bit worrying. Apparently Bush is sitting _right now_ on top of the draft of a bill to introduce an acid rain-style system for methane emissions, which like acid rain are an unwanted byproduct rather than a primary component of oxidizing carbon-based fuel sources. Methane is also a greenhouse gas, and it's more longevous than CO2 since it can't dissolve into the ocean. Worrying maybe because he could take the wind out of Gore's sails with it, or because he could be parked there as a result of current sentiment being against reductions in global warming. As, y'know, caving into the globalist regime of the UN, even though almost nobody who actually signed up for Kyoto is doing it either, and Kyoto wouldn't work anyway.

CO2 is not a conventional pollutant gas. If you oxidize carbon it's the best result you could hope for, since most of the alternatives would kill you dead. And it's been a byproduct of man-made energy sources since some guy hauled a burning branch into his cavemouth. But promising solutions already exist, and the sooner we can stop pretending they aren't worth anything the sooner they'll start to hit the market.


#69 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2006, 12:28 AM:

"Last night's 'Wired Town Hall on the Climate Crisis' was a forum with Al Gore, global warming scientist James Hansen, and film producers Laurie David and Laurence Bender, moderated by John Hockenberry of Wired magazine, all introduced by Wired Editor Chris Anderson."

Read the rest.

#70 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2006, 10:13 AM:

I'm struggling to think of a Gore cinema hero analog... the first cup of coffee has not entered my system yet... there must be one out there... maybe somebody else can think of one...

Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October (although he went downhill in the subsequent books/films).

And when I was watching the 2000 elections from Britain, I got the impression that they were between a liar and an idiot exactly as the media portrayed. The idiot, however, was chiefly one had the political savvy of a rock - and the trust fund baby liar managed to get the presidency.

#71 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2006, 01:50 AM:

I saw An Inconvenient Truth after work today. (I waited for it to pop up at the snazzy new theater not too far from my office.)

All I can say is that I walked away with an equal dose of hope and anger. Hope because we can do something if we have the will to do it. Anger because that man on the screen was elected unlike the appointed hate-and-fearmonger we've been suffering under for the last six years.

When do we wake up and discover that it was all a bad dream?

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