THE GORE BACKLASH. Only a matter of time until it started in earnest, right? First up is Jonah Goldberg with an attempt to reactivate the Gore-as-exaggerator storyline. Turns out Arianna Huffington, swooning over her new crush at Cannes, reported Gore saying "'This is my second visit to Cannes. The first was when I was fifteen years old and came here for the summer to study the existentialists � Sartre, Camus... We were not allowed to speak anything but French!' Which may explain his pitch-perfect French accent." Goldberg grabs this and, under the title "There He Goes Again," compares it with reports that Gore was working on his family farm at age 15. More damning, Gore got C's in French at St. Albans, which spurs Goldberg to snort that "presumably somebody who can ribbit fluently about Camus, should be able to get a B � even at St. Alban's."
Sometimes it's tough to know where to start. Goldberg didn't seem to notice that the quotation marks ended before the line about Gore's fluency. That was Huffington's compliment, not Gore's boast. Goldberg implies the opposite -- all the better to smear with, I guess. As for which summer Gore spent in France, think about Goldberg's critique here: He's not arguing that Gore didn't take that trip, but that he's misremembering the year. This is the strike against Al Gore; that a trip he took almost 45 years ago might have happened at 14, or 16, rather than 15. Given our mind's learned tendency to drift towards multiples of five, this is pretty weak sauce. Goldberg, a bright guy, isn't actually making this critique � it's more of a meta-critique, trying to dredge up old doubts about Gore and his tendency to embellish.
Elsewhere, Gregg Easterbrook is nattering in embarrassingly churlish fashion over Gore's film. As Kevin Drum summarizes, Easterbrook thinks, in order, that An Inconvenient Truth is boring, annoying, contrived, unimaginative, alarmist, too detailed, conspiratorial, hypocritical, and morally careless. And yet, he's "glad" Gore made it. Well then! What's at stake here is Easterbrook's own reputation. Back when he remained a global warming skeptic, Gore was a believer. Easterbrook can't admit his mistake, so he can't admit Gore's accuracy.
It reminds me of Gore's class at Columbia. While writing my article on Gore's post-2000 activities, I tracked down some of the students in the course he created for their journalism course. The class was deeply critical of contemporary journalistic conventions -- particularly the false idol of "objectivity," namely as it translates into mindless stenography of unequal viewpoints. The students rebelled against Gore's critique, turning almost instantly hostile. Josh Bearman, who took the course, remembers that �He knew more than everyone in the room. So the class basically turned against him because he was smarter than they were, and they didn�t like that. We witnessed exactly what had happened on the campaign plane in the year prior.� And make no mistake -- we'll see it again. It's one thing for global warming to top the agenda. For Gore to put it there, however, implicitly indicts all those who mocked or sought to stymie his crusade in the past. His success is their failure, and they'll do their damndest to stop it.