An interesting political dilemma I've had lately is the Al Gore Dilemma. First off, the truth: I do not especially like Al Gore. I certainly voted for him in 2000, but felt like he ran a terrible campaign, marked by his unfortunate conservatism on key issues where I felt like he could have made a lot of inroads into George W. Bush's territory (capital punishment comes to mind). Also, personally, I think he comes off as condescending when he talks, sort of like Hillary Clinton does, only worse. Now, I think he was the rightful winner in 2000, and certainly wish he was President instead of the guy we got (we wouldn't be fighting an unwinnable war, for one), but, even when compared with John Kerry (who I also didn't much like, despite my voting for him), I'm not a fan. I thought the love for him at the Oscars was pretty over the top and silly.
However, I think Gore's done many good things since he conceded (and what a concession speech it was...), including focus the world's attention on global warming. I do wish that our times were not so polarized right now, so that his message would seem less political, and that people wouldn't, seemingly, be against any discussion of global warming simply because it is Gore who is leading the charge. Still, despite that fact, he's certainly done a lot of good with this issue, and weathered some outright silly criticism about it.
The latest issue, however, is his use of energy in his own personal home. About a week ago, an organization called The Tennessee Center for Policy Research - which a cursory glance at its home page reveals its dramatic conservative leanings, with articles citing Rush Limbaugh, the harms of a higher minimum wage, and a tribute to Alfred Friedman - released an article proclaiming that Gore's energy consumption is more than 20 times the national average. The article was compelling, and caused several bloggers to call Al Gore a hypocrite.
A closer look at the article reveals an obvious agenda to it. First of all, the article presents only one side of Al Gore, and it quotes the President of the Tennessee Project for Policy Research himself. It's like The Baltimore Sun running an article, then quoting its own editor as a source. In fact, the snarky title - "Al Gore's Energy Use His Own 'Inconvenient Truth'" - immediately reveals a smear campaign.
However, even with all this, it's hard not to still be disappointed in Mr. Gore for the energy usage. His defense is that he buys carbon offsets (which I don't quite think matters much at all) and uses plenty of solar energy (which does make sense) and greenpower (renewable sources). But, still, the questions remain: why the increase in energy usage from 2005 to 2006? Why can't he be a bit more energy-conscious?
But, after reflection, the criticism seems strange to me, because almost none of it is context. Of course, Gore's energy usage is 20 times the national average, but his house is a mansion! He's got a full-time security staff and a full-time staff living there! It's almost as if Gore's critics want him to be living in a duplex somewhere. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but isn't one of the right wing's tenants that if you have money, you should be able to hang onto it? I mean, that's the issue here, the fact that Gore has a mansion, right? His energy use for a mansion is pretty good. Wanna know Dick Cheney's energy bill in 2006? $186,000. Gore's was about $12,000. He has 20 rooms, a guesthouse, and voluntarily pays $4 more for every 150 kW to use renewable sources, which increased his overall bill by $5,893. But does the Tennessee Center for Policy Research mention this? No. It would get in the way of the smear.
Part of me, I guess, does wish that Al Gore lived in a small house somewhere, like a regular person, and that he used all solar energy and was a model for how everyone can live. But am I going to criticize Al Gore for living in a mansion? For having full-time security and staff that need 20 rooms to get around in? No. Frankly, I think Al Gore earned the right to live in a mansion.
It's not unusual for today's right wing to, when they can't talk about the actual issue, they try to cloud it over with attacks like this. The Democrats do it too (please, can we stop talking about Giuliani marrying his 3rd cousin or Romney being a Mormon?), but with the modern Republican, this creation of doubt and distraction (the swiftboating of Kerry, the criticisms of Obama's church on Foxnews, even the fake throwing of Oreo cookies at Steele story here in Maryland) seems an integral part of the gameplan.
I wonder when the left is going to stop tolerating it. I admit that even I was distracted by this issue this week. "Hmmmm," I thought. "Is Al Gore really a hypocrite? Guess so" and let it be. Sometimes, I don't need to blindly accept the worst of our leaders. And sometimes, a dilemma isn't really a dilemma at all.
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