Opinion

Politico’s disingenuous attack on Rick Perry

Christopher Horner Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

With Newsweek apparently unable, for some reason, to convince Rick Perry to sit for a photo shoot, Politico came up with an idea to knock him off stride. Specifically, this headline: “Rick Perry backed an already-climate-crusading Al Gore in ’88.” You see, like Tim Pawlenty — whose campaign was doomed by his past advocacy of the “climate agenda” — Perry, Politico implies, harbors a dark past as a “global warming” sympathizer. Or maybe he’s just something of a liar.

You would think that there are enough actual political controversies these days that journalists wouldn’t need to invent fake ones. Apparently not. Consider:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry may have forgotten a thing or two about the Al Gore presidential campaign he helped lead in 1988.

In an interview with an Iowa radio station on Monday, the Republican presidential contender explained his role as the Gore campaign’s Texas chairman by saying that “this was Al Gore before he invented the Internet and got to be Mr. Global Warming.”

But wait:

Gore, then a young Tennessee senator trying to break out in a crowded Democratic field, mentioned the warming planet as one of his priorities for his presidential campaign in April 1987, according to news coverage at the time.

“He laid out a broad list of national objectives, from combating AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease to curbing the ‘greenhouse effect’ — the threat to the Earth’s atmosphere from the burning of oil, gas and coal,” The Los Angeles Times reported in covering Gore’s announcement. In May 1987, according to The Washington Post, his stump speeches included a call for the nation to “confront the emerging problems of the greenhouse effect and the threat to our ozone.”

That’s your evidence for his then-extant “crusade”? He mentioned it in his A to Z. See? He was crusading. Can’t fool us, Rick. You’ve got some explaining to do!

Politico continues:

Such was his reputation for green wonkery that, in a January 1988 profile in the Christian Science Monitor, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund said of Gore: ”I think it would be safe to say that he goes to bed at night worrying about things like stratospheric ozone depletion and global warming.”

It’s odd that this is Politico’s evidence that Gore was a global-warming crusader in 1988. Are such insights really the stuff of profiles of national politicians? Imagine if Politico had written a piece on Bill Clinton that included this line: Such was his reputation for liking the ladies that, in a January 1988 profile in GQ, an Arkansas state trooper said of Clinton: ”I think it would be safe to say that he goes to bed at night wondering about what’s going on at Banana Joe’s, by the Excelsior.”

Really, Politico?

This prompted me to wonder: What about all that later talk, post-2000, seeking to explain Gore’s newfound moonbattery, including that he may have come a little unglued with his loss in the 2000 election? On “60 Minutes,” the impeccably liberal Leslie Stahl said of Gore: “His friends said they were worried about him and his state of mind, especially after he gained a lot of weight and grew a beard.”

Of course, that’s also only if you believe his then-wife, who said in 2009: “Al’s survival after his defeat in 2000 depended on his immersing himself in the climate cause.”

In fact, this is how “60 Minutes” opened its homage to the New Gore:

When Al Gore ran for president in 2000, he was often ridiculed as inauthentic and wooden. Today he is passionate and animated, a man transformed. His documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Oscar, and last year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Now he’s a certified celebrity, the popular prophet of global warming, and has helped change the way the country thinks about the issue.

And yet while 70 percent of Americans believe global warming is a big problem, they still rank it near the very bottom of their list of top 25 concerns.

And so Al Gore is about to wage a new campaign to emphasize the urgency of what he says is the greatest challenge facing our time.

But everyone except his friends, family and acquaintances knew that Gore had been Mr. Global Warming since the 1980s. That, like friends and family, Rick Perry didn’t notice Gore’s post-2000 obsession in 1988 is either quite remarkable, or else he or isn’t telling the truth — or at least that’s the message of Politico’s article.

That’s weak, Politico. You should be better than that.

Chris Horner is a senior fellow at The Competitive Enterprise Institute.