"Saint Albert" Ministers to the Environmental Heathens

Contributing writer James Traub fertilizes Al Gore's "prophetic" image.

Contributing writer James Traub went to Al Gore's Nashville mansion and talked to him by the pool for the Times' Green-centric Sunday Magazine (no mention of carbon footprints or carbon offsets) and came out with "Al Gore Has Big Plans." Sounds scary already.

But first, a little historical revisionism: "Six years after the Supreme Court declared him the loser of a presidential race that seemed his for the taking, Al Gore has attained what you can only call prophetic status; and he has done so by acting as he could not, or would not, as a candidate - saying precisely what he believes, and saying it with clarity, passion, intellectual mastery and even, sometimes, wit. Everywhere he goes, people urge him, almost beg him, to run for the presidency. He probably won't - though he might. ('It's complicated,' he told me, 'but it's not mysterious.') He says he thinks he'd be better at it this time than he was last time. And he probably would be: Gore really does know how to hold 6,000 people in a room. But sometimes one person is one person too much for him. Given his druthers, he'd really rather talk about complexity."

Bush actually won the official vote count in Florida, the Supreme Court simply declared the decision valid.

Once he delved into the science, Traub made some unscientific leaps, extrapolating current phenomena into future hazards:

"By 2005, climate science had advanced to the point where the urgency of reducing CO2 emissions had become manifest, though only to the small circle of cognoscenti. And that was the problem. Gore had talked himself blue on the subject without making much headway. In mid-2005, he began talking to members of 'the green group,' as the environmental lobby is collectively known, about marshaling a popularizing effort. Nature has a way of chipping in on climate change, and the apocalyptic images of Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans at the end of August 2005, made such a campaign seem not only more urgent but also more compelling. Gore was the obvious candidate to lead the crusade. But the Al Gore of September 2005 was not the Saint Albert of today. That Al Gore was a harsh partisan, and all too apt a symbol of the hectoring, holier-than-thou stance of the environmental movement....And Gore says he believes that once people understand the science, they'll share his sense of urgency. Thanks to Hurricane Katrina, and balmy winters, and animals evacuating their habitats, and all those terrifying pictures of melting glaciers, that sense may already be taking hold."

Traub strengthened the flattering image of Gore (who once likened Internet critics to "digital Brownshirts" and calling the internal combustion engine the greatest enemy of mankind) as a high-minded avatar of sweet reason.

"The very fact that Gore feels that this requires an explanation shows what a high-minded rationalist he is. He says he believes that ideas were given a fair hearing on their merits until television came along and induced a kind of national trance. This is a hoary line of argument, but Gore adds a novel neuropsychological twist, explaining that the brain's fear center, the amygdala - 'which as I'm sure you know comes from the Latin for 'almond' ' - receives only a trickle of electrical impulses from the neocortex, the seat of reasoning, while sending back a torrent of data in return. This explains why 'we respond to spiders and snakes and claws and fire, but we are less likely to feel urgency and alarm if the threat to our species is perceptible only by connecting a lot of dots to make up a complex pattern that has to be interpreted by the reasoning center of the brain' - well, it's quite a challenge for the explainer."

(Gore's new book is "The Assault on Reason;" much of his interview with Traub is an assault on Times Watch's patience.)

"Gore used his last dram of political capital to persuade Clinton to sign the Kyoto pact; it was never sent to the Senate, where it surely would have died an ugly death. The Clinton administration thus surrendered without firing a shot. For Gore, it was a humiliating denouement."

Traub ignored the inconvenient truth that the Senate rejected the Kyoto Protocol by a 95-0 vote.

Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard has more on the Times' going ga-ga over Gore.