Let's imagine that instead of Al Gore, Katie Couric's guest this morning was a Republican presidential hopeful whose message on the environment was that we should not let alarmism push us into measures that would undermine our economy and way of life. Could you ever - ever! - imagine Katie flashing at him the 10,000 megawatt smile she has on display here for Al?
There's one more dead giveaway that Katie & Co. are getting aboard the Al Gore Enviro Train. When Today really wants to play up an issue, they brand it. Last week, flacking for the Da Vinci Code, Today sent Matt Lauer for a week "On The Road with the Code."
In introducing Gore, there to promote his global warming book and movie 'An Inconvenient Truth', Couric announced:
"This morning we are beginning a new series called 'Today's Climate Challenge, Tomorrow's Global Opportunity." You might call it: Al Gore - the Series! And 'Tomorrow's Global Opportunity' evokes memories of Gore's past campaigns in which he claimed that complying with all the new environmental regulations he'd like to impose would create lots of economic activity. Today seems to be echoing a Gore campaign theme here.
Katie introduced Gore with a bit of alarmism of her own: "With a record-setting hurricane season, the warmest April ever and rising ocean temperatures, many are saying global warming is in fact to blame. Former Vice-President Al Gore is one of them and now he's bringing his message to a theater near you."
Katie even permitted herself a gushing what-might-have been:
"I think in this movie, at different turns, you are funny, vulnerable, disarming, self-effacing and someone said after watching it, 'if only he was like this before, maybe things would have turned out differently in 2000.'"
Gore speaks in absolutely apocalyptic terms: "What we are facing is a planetary emergency. It's by far the most dangerous crisis by far that our civilization has ever confronted." Really? More dangerous, 'by far', then the Mutual Assured Destruction we faced with the Soviets for decades?
Of course even Couric had to pay some lip service to balance. Conspicuously reading from notes - perhaps subliminally making clear that these were not her thoughts but those of others she was forced to recite - she said:
"People on the other side of the debate say yes it's getting warmer but the earth's average temperature has done this before. We may have something to do with it, but it hasn't warmed that much and it's not going to have catastrophic consequences any time soon."
Gore would brook absolutely no dissent from his world view:
"There's really not a debate. The debate's over. The scientific community has reached as strong a consensus as you will ever find in science. There are a few oil companies and coal companies that spend millions of dollars a year to put these pseudo-scientists out there predending there is a debate. It's exactly the same thing that the tobacco companies did after the Surgeon General warned us about the linkage between smoking and lung cancer."
Having timidly trotted out the other side of the argument, Couric left no doubt where she stands: "Where there is disagreement among scientists is not if but when we may see drastic environmental changes across the globe. Al Gore says the clock is ticking."
She later asked: "What do you see happening in say 15 to 20 years or even 50 years if nothing changes?"
Gore: "Well, what I think is going to happen is that we're going to respond to it. But if we didn't respond, what you would find is desertification of the mid-continental areas of the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa. The melting of the polar ice cap and the beginnings of the same things in Antarctica and sea level increases of 20 feet or more worldwide. Of course Florida and Louisiana and Texas are particularly vulnerable. The San Francisco Bay area. Manila, and we have seen the impact of a couple of hundred thousand refugees from an environmental crisis [as pictures of Katrina victims flashed on the screen]. Imagine 100 million or 200 million."
Couric: "Even Manhattan would be in deep water, right?"
Gore: "Yes, the World Trade Center memorial site would be underwater."
Katie did observe: "Some people might say, oh boy, there is that tree-hugging Al Gore. He is at it again. Some people might dismiss you out of hand."
Gore: "Look, I've been trying to tell this story for 30 years. And I have a new ally in telling this story. Unfortunately mother nature is weighing in very powerfully and loudly. And people are listening. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue."
Inevitably, talk turned to Gore's presidential ambitions.
Gore: "I don't intend to be a candidate ever again."
Couric: "Never, never, never?"
Gore: "Well, look, I have no plans to be a candidate, I have no intention of being a candidate. I've said that I am not at the stage of my life where I'm going to say never in the rest of my life am I ever going to think of such a thing." Translation: he's thinking about it.
And just when you thought it might be safe to go back in the Today water, Katie closed by mentioning: "Tomorrow we will take a look at the alternative fuels that may help reduce global warming in the future. Friday, what your family can do to cut down on energy consumption from sun up to sun down."
Finkelstein, who has made recent appearances on the Lars Larson Show, lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle'. Contact him at email@example.com