The Gore haters

Why does Al Gore evoke so much irrational hatred?

Jason Stahl

Former Vice President Al Gore appeared before committees in the House and the Senate this past week to testify on the topic of climate change. These appearances came on the heels of Gore’s Academy Award-winning film on the same subject. Following these events, and right on cue, the haters came out of the woodwork to denounce this “contemptible” man.

This is nothing new. Since 1998, no politician has evoked more irrational hatred among elite opinion makers and politicians than Al Gore. Gore’s haters include everyone from Republican politicians to right-wing propagandists to “news” reporters and editorialists in supposedly liberal publications like The New York Times. I say that their denunciations are irrational because, for these people, it does not seem to be enough to merely disagree with Gore’s positions; these haters seem to have to take their disagreement a step further and misrepresent Gore’s positions and/or personally attack him.

There are many recent examples of these attacks to choose from, but undoubtedly Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., provides one of the best in his questioning of Gore during the Senate hearing. While Inhofe refrained from calling Gore “fat” (the most recent obligatory personal attack when Gore is referenced), he nevertheless did all he could to misrepresent Gore and his work. Like the media zombies before him, he touched all the misleading bases – namely, Gore is a hypocrite because he personally consumes lots of energy, and Gore’s a liar because there is no scientific consensus on the causes of global warming. The former is untrue – Gore’s family and businesses are carbon neutral – and the latter is untrue as well. To take one example, the recent report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded “with near certainty – more than 90 percent confidence – that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities have been the main causes of warming since 1950.” None of this, however, stopped Inhofe from trying to mislead (in breathtakingly embarrassing ways) on both counts.

But what really struck me as I watched Inhofe’s questioning of Gore was not only that he disagreed with Gore and was willing to lie to make his case, but that he also clearly holds Gore in absolute contempt. Inhofe was like a petulant child throughout most of his questioning. Every time Gore tried to respond with something other than a “yes” or “no,” Inhofe would try to cut him off. At one point Inhofe said, “I don’t want you to talk anymore,” and suggested that Gore respond in writing to his questions so Inhofe would not have to hear him speak at all.

This most recent round of Gore-hating has made me wonder what it is about the man that incites so much vitriol among so many. I don’t normally like discussing motives, but I think it is worthwhile in this case given that the emotional reaction to Gore within Washington is so over the top.

It can’t be ideology given that Gore is hardly a radical. He’s part of a generation of so-called “New Democrats” who, in the 1990s, moved his party to the right on a whole host of issues. He’s moved a bit leftward since he’s left office, but given that the hatred began in 1998, this ideological shift cannot alone explain the hate.

Instead, I think the answer for the hatred is two-fold. First, I don’t think there can be any question that Gore took the fall for Clinton’s sexcapades. Official Washington never felt that Clinton paid a high enough price for his adultery, so Gore became an easy target to take out this frustration.

However, at a more fundamental level, I think the Gore haters always hated Gore because he takes his job seriously – something most politicians and political reporters do not. Beginning in the 1990s especially, official Washington wanted politics and political reporting to be entertaining above all else. Gore, throughout his career, has largely rejected this view. He has devoted his life to public service, and to service which has focused on in-depth research into key problems in public policy such as global warming. In other words, Gore is a living example of the type of person most Washingtonians will never be. He shows them how small they really are, and this is ultimately why their hatred knows no bounds.

Jason Stahl welcomes comments at [email protected]