Al Gore Myths Debunked
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The Invention Of The Internet
Everyone in America knows that Gore claimed to have invented the internet. Only he never did make that claim. "Invention" suggests a solo effort in a laboratory. What Gore said was different: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the internet." Gore was indeed in the forefront of legislative initiatives to create the internet.
As a Senator in the 1980s Gore urged government agencies to consolidate what at the time were several dozen different and unconnected networks into an "Interagency Network." Working in a bi-partisan manner with officials in Ronald Reagan and George Bush's administrations, Gore secured the passage of the High Performance Computing and Communications Act in 1991. This "Gore Act" supported the National Research and Education Network (NREN) initiative that became one of the major vehicles for the spread of the Internet beyond the field of computer science.
As Vice President Gore promoted building the Internet both up and out, as well as releasing the Internet from the control of the government agencies that spawned it. He served as the major administration proponent for continued investment in advanced computing and networking and private sector initiatives such as Net Day. He was and is a strong proponent of extending access to the network to schools and libraries. Gore provided much-needed political support for the speedy privatization of the Internet when the time arrived for it to become a commercially-driven operation. Those who reported Gore as claiming invention might argue they were paraphrasing. But the media echo chamber guarantees further distortion. "Vice-President Gore tells a reporter the internet was his idea. Nice try, Al." More Info Here
The Buddhist Temple Incident
The oldest and grandest of the Gore pseudo-scandals is the Buddhist temple affair. On March 15, 1996, Vice President Gore had a 10-minute social visit in the White House with Master Hsing Yun, the head of the Taiwan-based Fo Kwang Shan Buddhist order.
The vice president has always insisted he did not consider the temple visit a fundraiser. No admission was charged for the luncheon, there were no solicitations and no campaign money changed hands at the temple. However, the day after the event and unbeknownst to Gore, Democratic fundraisers Johnny Huang and Maria Hsia collected 42 temple-related checks totaling more than $100,000, $62,000 of which was later deemed illegal.
Most of the ensuing confusion about Gore's role centered around the simple fact that Huang had scheduled two events on April 29, a formal Gore fundraiser at Harbor Village Restaurant in Monterey Park, Calif., and then a civic visit at the temple in nearby Hacienda Heights. Crunched for time, the fundraiser at the restaurant was canceled and Huang invited the attendees to the temple to meet Gore.
The press has largely ignored that crucial scheduling detail, even though it was spelled out at both Sen. Fred Thompson's hearings on campaign finance irregularities and at Hsia's subsequent trial, where she was found guilty of concealing the source of campaign donations.
In a typically overheated, Page 1 account in the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 4, Chris Mondics wrote, "One e-mail written by the vice president shows that at some point weeks before the [Hsi Lai] event, he knew he would be attending a fundraiser in Southern California on April 29, 1996." See how the details are danced around? It's no surprise the vice president sent an e-mail regarding a "Southern California" fundraiser on April 29, 1996, since one was scheduled; not at the temple, but at Harbor Village Restaurant. It was later canceled. Either Mondics, who dug through "a body of documents" for the story, didn't know the specifics of the case, or chose to fudge them. For everyday Inquirer readers, the implication was clear: Gore lied. (Perhaps the most laughable evidence that "Gore had many reasons to believe the Buddhist temple lunch was a fundraiser" was offered up by Fortune's Jeffrey Birnbaum: "[Gore] was attending fundraisers often back then.")
But hadn't Gore flip-flopped, and wasn't the press right to call him out? As New York Times columnist William Safire pointed out ominously, "At first Gore said the fund-raiser was merely 'community outreach'; months later, he amended that to knowing only it was 'finance-related.'" Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post was even more blunt: "Gore's shifting and technical responses on this question -- he first said it was 'community outreach,' then acknowledged that it was 'finance-related' or a 'donor maintenance' event -- appear only to have added to his difficulties."
Actually, the only difficulty was that reporters and columnists did not understand that the two phrases "community outreach" and "finance-related" were synonymous, and neither meant fundraiser. In televised hearings before the Thompson Committee in 1997, Democratic National Committee chairman Donald Fowler and DNC finance director Richard Sullivan both testified under oath that "community outreach" and "finance-related" events were efforts to warm up potential or past donors, a chance to greet and get to know supporters, but not to solicit money. Seems like pretty basic stuff in the world of political campaigns, which the D.C. press supposedly covers for a living.
Yet three years later, pundits were still clueless.
The Internal Combustion Engine
What is Al Gore's legacy going to be? Could it be the shockingly close vote in the Florida election? Maybe. Could it be the bitter partisan wrangling that took place for days afterward? Possibly. Could it be the political way in which the Supreme Court decided the case of Gore V. Bush? Perhaps.
But I suggest to you that Al Gore's legacy goes deeper than the 2000 Presidential election, is more important than voting rights or the makeup of the Supreme Court. Al Gore's legacy will be the death of the internal combustion engine during his lifetime, an idea much closer to fruition today then when it was first proposed in Gore's Book Earth In the Balance in 1992. And the death of the internal combustion engine is an idea whose time has come. With wars increasingly being fought in places like Kuwait and Afghanistan, where an oil pipeline is being planned, people on every side of the political spectrum are beginning to realize that we must disabuse ourselves from the excessive use petroleum burning engines.
Gore writes in Earth in the Balance earnestly and passionately about how he traveled the world, from the polar ice caps to the Amazon rain forests and how bad environmental practices have resulted in the disappearance of many animal species. He talks about how the burning of oil has led to the increase of greenhouse gasses like C02 and how this leads to a gradual warming of temperatures on earth a theory called global warming. Gore even called for a Global Marshall Plan, akin to the post W.W.II plan that rebuilt the economies of Europe, this Global Marshall Plan would help convert to cleaner burning technologies And, Gore of course called for the elimination of the internal combustion engine in his lifetime. This was the most controversial of Gore's assertions.
Republicans were quick to attack Gore and the ideas he represented. They call global warming junk science, and Republicans seized on the "death of the internal combustion engine" as they called it, as the stance of some left wing, loony, tree hugging enviro-nut. Where would the money for such a transformation come from? they asked, wouldn't such a transformation would cause an undue burden on the economy, they bellowed. These are the same Republicans who don't have any problems giving companies like Enron and IBM retroactive business tax breaks.
But history seems to be on Gore's side, the internal combustion engine seems to be going the way of the T-Rex. Honda was the first to mass produce a so-called 'hybrid car' one that uses both gas and electrical power. The car is called the Honda Insight. It uses a 1 liter VTEC gas engine, but it also uses an electric motor to supplement the torque of the engine at lower speeds. The advantages of hybrid cars are many. The combination of both gas and electric engines provide the car with more than enough speed and power to get up the steepest incline. Gas mileage is also greatly improved, Honda estimates that the Insight gets 61 miles per gallon in city diving and 70 miles per gallon on the highway.
Not to be outdone Toyota announced the mass production of it's own hybrid car, the Prius, which uses a 1.5 liter gas engine and electrical engine. At low speeds, the Prius uses solely the electrical motor for power. What's more, the Prius has an onboard generator to charge the electrical motor. Toyota's Prius is doing so well in sales that Toyota announced in December 2001, that it was going to increase production of the Prius by almost 40%.
Realizing that profits might actually increase with environmentally friendly vehicles, the Ford Motor Company is set to announce a hybrid SUV, there's a contradiction in terms if I ever heard one, but the Ford Escape a hybrid SUV is supposed to go into mass production in 2003. Maybe Ford can rehire some of the 25,000 people they just fired and reopen some of the 5 plants they just closed to produce this environmentally friendly car.
Perhaps the most shocking announcement of all was made by GM at a recent auto show in Michigan. GM announced the development of a concept car that runs entirely on hydrogen and has no combustion engine whatsoever. The concept car's name is the Autonomy, and GM says that it could mass produce this car in ten years. Imagine Al Gore's vision of eliminating the combustion engine could become a reality in as little as 10 years. Truly remarkable!
Always the last to arrive to any new idea, belatedly came Gorge W. Bush. President Bush now says he wants Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to focus on new technologies such as use of hydrogen and fuel cells. But in making the announcement, Bush also announced that he wanted to cut 1.5 billion dollars to stimulate research into more fuel efficient cars. But even the fact that the conservative Republican son of an oil man, is talking about...GASP! The death of the combustion engine, shows just how much progress is being made in this area.
Al Gore went out on a precarious limb in 1992 with his bold call to action Earth in the Balance. He has been ridiculed and lampooned by right wing opinion makers for nearly 10 years for his bold and courageous environmental views. Now how about giving Al Gore a little credit for being a visionary in calling for the elimination of combustion engines. Bold, visionary environmental ideas, that will be Al Gore's legacy, and in an era of prepackaged, blow-dried Presidential candidates, such a legacy is not a bad one to have.
The Boston Globe's Walter Robinson and Ann Scales attacked Gore's veracity: "He has also said that he and his wife, Tipper, were the models for the movie Love Story, only to be contradicted by the author, Erich Segal." Their source was Time magazine. Trouble is, Gore never made that claim and Segal never contradicted him. Chatting on the press plane about movies for a couple of hours, Gore had simply remarked to two Time magazine writers on a newspaper interview in which Segal had described Al and Tipper as his models for the movie. True. The Tennessean did so report, but it misquoted Segal, who had told the reporter he based only the male in the movie on Gore. So Segal's "contradiction" was a correction for a newspaper, not Gore. Segal noted: "Al attributed it to a newspaper. Time thought it was more piquant to leave that out." End of story? Not a bit. Heavyweight commentators seized on Love Story to lash Gore for "inflating his past", "bragging" and "prevaricating".
Visiting Concord High School in New Hampshire, Gore urged the students not to be cynical about politics. He said he had been stimulated to hold hearings on toxic waste at Toone, Tennessee, and the Love Canal, New York, by a letter from a high school student. "It all happened because one high school student got involved." The Washington Post and the the Washington Times turned that into Gore saying: "I was the one that started it all." It continues to be recycled as a "typical" Al Gore lie.
The Alpaha Man
Naomi Wolf, advisor to Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign, clarified her remarks on the dominance of alpha and beta. "I never counseled Al to project an `alpha' male image," Wolf said in a phone interview. "Al is too much of an alpha male already. Instead, I told him that `beta rules' and that he should consider more carefully the role of substitution in his campaign. Over the next few weeks, you will see him replace many of his formal advisors with actual, working ones." Unnamed sources in Gore's campaign confirm Wolf's remarks. It was not clear whether they would adopt a `strict' policy of starting the new advisors to work immediately, or a `lazy' strategy of starting them when needed. When informed of the turmoil caused by Wolf's latest pronouncements, presidential-hopeful Bill Bradley said, "It's sound advice. For years, Gore has been nibbling around the edges on policy---in effect, preferring changing names over changing substance. `Reinventing government' was just another name for `Republican slash-and-burn.' If I am elected president, I will certainly prefer beta over alpha." When asked about the possibility of extending her remarks to `eta,' Wolf only said, "No comment."
Michael Duffy's report in Time didn't say a word about "earth tones." According to Duffy, Naomi Wolf was helping Gore target female voters, as she'd done for the Clinton campaign four years before (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/03). Later reports fleshed out this point; they noted that Wolf was helping Gore's daughter on a project called GoreNeta project aimed at younger voters, especially young female voters. But although Duffy didn't cite the soon-to-be-famous tones, he did make a fleeting reference to wardrobe. According to Duffy, "since [the Gore campaign] set up shop in January, Wolf has been paid a salary of $15,000 a month in exchange for advice on everything from how to win the women's vote to shirt-and-tie combinations." This fleeting comment seemed to be sourced to an unnamed Gore "adviser." Had Wolf been advising Gore on wardrobe? It's hard to know why that would have mattered; we hate to be the ones to tell you, but politicians (and TV journalists) do take advice about wardrobe. But for the record, Wolf flatly denied advising Gore about clothes, and no one seems to have contradicted her. As the press began to rant and rave about the "mad genius" who was Gore's "secret guru," Melinda Henneberger interviewed Wolf. The report appeared in the New York Times on November 5, 1999: HENNEBERGER: Contradicting reports from within the Gore camp, [Wolf] also said she had not been telling [Gore] how to dress, either: not a single fashion tip, or even so much as a "Nice tie, Mr. Vice President." Wolf said the same thing on This Week. But guess what? In point of fact, no Gore staffer had ever "reported" that Wolf told Gore to wear earth tones. In fact, this tale was based on a single "speculation," a "speculation" which no one seems to have confirmed (details tomorrow). Did Naomi Wolf tell Gore to wear earth tones? Incredibly, this pointless claim became one of Campaign 2000's most widely-flogged and damaging spin-points. But the claim was based on the flimsiest "evidence." You heard it flogged for an obvious reason: It was a story your pundit corps liked. In fact, the brainless flogging of Al Gore's clothes hardly began with those earth tones. By the time the flap about Wolf began, the press had been flogging Gore's wardrobe for months. As early as 9/24/99, E. J. Dionne tweaked the corps for its odd behavior. "The Gore camp has reason to complain that national political commentary treats the vice president with about as much respect as the Russian economy," Dionne wrote. "If he wears a suit, he's a stiff guy in a suit. If he wears an open shirt, he's a stiff guy in a suit faking it." Ten days later, MSNBC's Brian Williams began an astonishing period in which he bitterly complained about Gore's polo shirts five separate times in an eight-day run (links below). Long before Duffy reported on Wolf, that booing, jeering, laughing press corps was trashing Gore for his troubling wardrobe. The "earth tones" flap was just the latest chapter in the press corps' strange trashing of Gore. It's hard to understand the "earth tones" flap without taking a look at this run-up. In particular, an October frenzy about Gore's boots-and-suits proved to be a revealing prequel. In this frenzy, the press corps invented bogus "facts" about Gore's clothes then used those "facts" to trash Gore's character. This bizarre behavior led the way for the "earth tones" flap yet to come. That's right, kids. Long before they flogged "earth tones" and "alphas," the corps was all over Gore's boots-and-suits. It's hard to believe that the Washington press corps covered this race in the way that it did. But the corps' bizarre conduct is a matter of record, and American citizens need to understand it. By October 1999, that booing, jeering, laughing press corps was trying to knock Al Gore from the race and the boots-and-suits scam was a grinding example. We apologize for the total trivia in this report. But your press corps' coverage of Campaign 2000 was built on trivia from start to finish. Your "press corps" feeds off such thin gruel. Boots-and-suits were just their style.
Stiff And Boring
Al Gore knows he's been getting some mighty bad press lately, that even staunch Democrats have embraced the media caricature of him as a "stiff" and "boring" automaton from the Disneyland Hall of Vice Presidents. He's trying mightily to shrug it off.
"I find the coverage stiff and boring," he told Salon News. Not that the veep is complaining. "I feel fine about it," he insists, though his calm seems more calculating political strategy than thick skin. "I would honestly not swap my position in this race for anyone else's; I'm not peaking too early," he adds, only half-kidding. "You know, in stock car races, it's usually the second car in the gun lap that wins."
Gore is referring to his current weak position in the polls compared with his likely opponent in the 2000 election, high-flying Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Gore hopes Bush has only one direction to go in the polls and that direction is down.
Thus, the vice president can insist that he's quite content, for now, being the Rodney Dangerfield of American politics.
Not surprisingly, Gore's allies blame the substance-averse, scandal-happy national media. They say that the conventional wisdom -- that his campaign is lackluster and hobbled by infighting, that he has been stumbling everywhere he goes, and that as a public speaker Gore is only slightly more animated than a corpse -- is just plain wrong.
Gore's allies might just have a point. It's hard to look at the last two years of Gore's press clips and not see a fairly intentional effort on the part of journalists to turn the veep into a stiff, self-important caricature.
Take his most infamous utterance to date: "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet," from an interview he gave to CNN a few months back.
While this was obviously an overstatement, Gore actually does deserve a substantial amount of credit for the technology through which you're reading this story. "Gore took a critical part [in launching the Internet]," says Dave Farber, a professor of telecommunication systems at the University of Pennsylvania. "He did misspeak, and everybody jumped on him, but he made a very significant contribution."
Vinton Cerf, the Stanford researcher who sketched out a design for the Internet in 1973, seconds that emotion: "It is entirely fitting that the vice president take some credit for helping to create an environment in which Internet could thrive."
Then there was the flap that ensued when Gore, during an off-the-record chat, boasted that the character of Oliver Barrett in Erich Segal's "Love Story" was based on him. Pounce went the media. "Does he think, going into 2000, that this will give him a romantic glow, or a romantic afterglow?" snarked the New York Times' Maureen Dowd.
But Time Magazine's Karen Tumulty, with whom Gore had the actual conversation, told a columnist that Dowd and others got the story wrong, that "Gore was telling us something that was basically true."
Segal himself, in fact, has confirmed that Barrett is an amalgam of both Gore and his Harvard roommate, actor Tommy Lee Jones.
Then there was the "farm boy" fracas in March, when reporters ripped Gore for an Iowa speech in which he exaggerated his own farming credentials. "In Iowa, Gore claimed that he was a farm boy who plowed steep hillsides with mules," wrote the Cincinnati Enquirer in an editorial titled "King of Gaffes: Al Gore out-Quayles Dan."
But as even conservative Gore biographer Bob Zelnick acknowledged in his fairly critical book, "Gore: A Political Life," the veep did, indeed, spend "long weekends, summers, holidays, and his entire seventh year" in Carthage, Tenn., working on the family farm. Young Gore woke before dawn, fed the livestock, cleaned out the hog parlors and cleared a field one summer "with only a small hand-axe as his tool."
The media's newest anti-Gore flap, "Floodgate," simply continues the anti-Gore trend.
On July 22, not far from Cornish, N.H., Gore, New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and a cadre of Democrats and reporters piled into canoes and started floating down the Connecticut River.
It was a fairly typical campaign photo op; Gore sat erect in his canoe, the perfect perpendicular man, as always. After finishing his 45-minute ride, Gore participated in a carefully staged press conference announcing an immense grant for the Connecticut River Joint Commission and others to implement various components of the American Heritage River Action Plan.
But then a Washington Times reporter in attendance stumbled onto a man who complained to him that environmentalists had been after the river commission to raise the water level of the river for some time to benefit the fish. The man was discouraged that it wasn't until the vice president came to the river for a photo op that the commission finally acted, releasing millions of gallons into the river simply to ensure that Gore's canoe didn't scrape the rocks.
It sounded like another mini-scandal, but there was just one key problem: No one affiliated with the Gore campaign had anything to do with the decision to raise the river's water level. The head of the river commission had come up with the idea in order to help along a photo op that was going to bring national attention to her cause. And, it should be emphasized, raising the river level was actually good for the environment.
But the curious fact that the river was flooded for the sake of a photo op -- on behalf of a politician already stereotyped as being artificial, in a campaign already labeled as faltering -- was too good to pass up.
The following day, a headline blared from the front page of the Washington Times: "New Hampshire able to float Gore's boat."
"Nearly 4 billion gallons of water were unleashed from a massive dam Thursday to raise the level of the Connecticut River in Cornish, N.H., so that Vice President Al Gore's canoe would not get stuck during an environmental photo opportunity," wrote the Times' correspondent.
"Gore in Environmental Quandary," ventured the Associated Press.
That afternoon, CNN's "Inside Politics" reported that "Vice President Al Gore is facing political heat over the fact that millions of gallons of water had to be released from an up-river dam in order to provide enough for him to take a campaign photo-op canoe trip downstream during a regional drought."
By the time the Gore motorcade reached a house party in Rochester, N.H., all the vice president's men were in a tizzy, huddling and pacing and otherwise chagrined. Other reporters -- by now under pressure from their editors -- called Gore's press secretary to get a comment on the matter.
"Critics Paddle Gore in 'Dam' Rowing Row," screamed the New York Post.
"Campaign blasted for water release," yelled the Charleston Daily Mail.
"A Canoe Trip Becomes a Political Misadventure for Gore," said the New York Times, discreet as ever.
By the time I parted company with the Gore campaign that Friday afternoon, it was clear that any hope for positive stories from his two-day visit to New Hampshire -- that his campaign skills have markedly improved, say, or that despite bad press, the Gore 2000 organization seems to be generating lots of excitement -- were drowned out by "Floodgate."
For more debunked myths, go to page 2