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Creating Political Reality
Posted by: Jon Henke on Monday, June 12, 2006

Two organizations whose work I generally respect — if not always agree with — have put up very shallow pieces on global warming. To start, Think Progress responds to a George Will column. Will argues that the "serious debate is about" the "contribution of human activity to the current episode of warming and the degree to which this or that remedial measure (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol) would make a difference commensurate with its costs." Think Progress disagrees, but without actually addressing George Will's statement at all...
1. There is no scientific debate about whether human activity is contributing to global warming.
2. Addressing the problem is not a zero sum game.
Let's address these two non sequiturs in order:
  1. George Will said there was "serious debate" over the "contribution of human activity to the current episode of warming"—that is, the degree—not over the existence of human contribution. This is indisputably true. While most scientists agree that human contribution is very significant, explaining all or even more than all of the recent acceleration in global warming, there's no concensus on the specific degree.

  2. Think Progress disagrees, but without actually addressing George Will's statement at all...George Will said the serious debate is over whether remedial measures like Kyoto would be cost-effective. Think Progress didn't challenge that at all — they simply cited people who said some measures would be cost effective. Well, of course those people exist, else there wouldn't be a 'serious debate' over the issue.

    Clearly, there is a debate over the cost-effectiveness of various remedial measures. Unfortunately, the plan to which they point may or may not be good for global warming, but the economic gains it claims seem to be attributable to the broken windows fallacy. (i.e., more work equals economic progress)


Like many of the urban legends that have grown up around Al Gore, it's not true
Next, at RealClearPolitics, Debra Saunders spins history...
Just 10 years ago, Gore told the Democratic National Convention that after his sister Nancy's needless death in 1984 from lung cancer, he committed himself "heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking." In his new film, Gore again dredges up his sister's death and how it led his once tobacco-growing family to turn away from tobacco.

After the DNC speech, reporters with memories intervened. America learned that contrary to his rhetoric, in 1988 Gore campaigned as a tobacco farmer who told his brethren that "all of my life," I hoed it, chopped it, shredded it, "put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it." The year his sister died, Gore helped the industry by fighting efforts to put the words "death" and "addiction" on cigarette-warning labels.
Which would be damning history, were it true. Like many of the urban legends that have grown up around Al Gore, it's not true.

But it makes a lovely hook on which to hang a criticism, so — like so many political narratives, including the Think Progress "rebuttal" above — it lives on, creating a 'political reality' of its own.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Uhh ... Jon, you might want to reread that Armed Liberal piece as well as the Debra Saunders article. I’m having a hard time understanding what wasn’t true, seeing as Gore did in fact say all of those things.
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://
Correction: "Armed Liberal" should be "Anonymous Liberal".

Is that actually Glenn?
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://

The short answer is this: Saunders took that Gore quote entirely out of context. Gore made that pledge, in the present tense, at the 1996 convention, 12 years after his sister died. He didn’t, as Saunders claims, tell the convention audience that he committed himself to fighting tobacco after his sister died. In fact, he candidly admitted that it took quite a while for the meaning of her death to sink in and really affect his thinking on policy. Saunders is claiming that Gore was somehow being dishonest when he wasn’t. Moreover, her facts and timeline are off in other ways that I explain in the piece and she misrepresents Gore’s role in tobacco legislation.

Jon, thanks for the link.
Written By: A.L.
And by the way, no, I’m not Glenn. Cheers.
Written By: Anonymous Liberal

I appreciate that Saunders played loosely with the context, but I didn’t read her as trying to paint Gore as a hypocrite (obviously, YMMV). Instead, I read the article to be more of a comment on Gore’s propensity to paint himself as a superman for whatever cause he’s promoting at the time. A comment that I think rings true.

IMHO, your analysis was a bit strained, although, as I mentioned above, the context issue was a fair point.

All else being equal, however, I can’t say that if someone takes potshots at someone I admire I wouldn’t read more into it than was necessarily intended. However, I still don’t think the article was dishonest.
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://
Let’s put it this way - If nothing else, Gore if full of s___ in that any belief that anything killed his sister - other than HER CHOICE to smoke cigarettes that she knew FULL WELL could kill her is a flat out, bold faced lie.

You and I and anyone with half a brain knows that Al Gore isn’t stupid and that there is no way he honestly believes big tobacco killed his sister. Gore was doing nothing more than pandering to the victim mentality among his base.

While it is certainly POSSIBLE he believes global warming is such a dangerous threat, I find it dubious that he is any more than 50-50 pandering in this case.

I also read that the human contribution to global warming is confined to CO2 emissions, of which human contributions there are estimated to be no more than 1-2% of the total. And there is no iron-clad evidence that this period of warming is, in fact, directly attributed to CO2.

Frankly, anyone that stands up and proclaims global warming to be the greatest threat to the world at this moment is a darned fool in my opinion. Worse yet is even beginning to believe that CO2 emissions are going to even SLOW DOWN. The entire world continues to advance and countries like China and India couldn’t possibly care less about CO2, let alone countries that will strive to become modernized over the next few decades.
Written By: Sherard
URL: http://
At the end of the day, what Gore did was to draw an emotional, tearjerking connection on national TV in prime time between his sister’s death and his promised anti-tobacco crusade. He clearly intended the audience to make that connection, yet he did nothing to disclose that he had been such an enthusiastic booster of tobacco in the intervening years, including as a candidate for president. He deserved every bit of mockery he got for doing that.
Written By: Crank
So, Saunder’s allegation is fake but true? True in the "larger sense"?
Written By: Jon Henke

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