On PBS, Charlie Rose Asks Al Gore Why Bush Resists 'Enlightened Conversation'

June 21st, 2006 12:31 PM

Back from a break for heart surgery, PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose devoted his entire hour-long show Monday night to Al Gore, promoting his doom-documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." Rose pressed Gore comfortably from the left: if the president has an "intellectually dishonest" position ignoring the facts, and why no one is having an "enlightened conversation" with President Bush on global warming. Once Rose shifted to Iraq, he laughed at Gore when they discussed whether Bush knew he would invade Iraq as he campaigned in 2000: "I don’t think Dick Cheney had told him yet that he was going to invade Iraq.” This, after Gore said he was trying to convey a "textured and subtle" foreign policy mindset.

MRC intern Eugene Gibilaro found and transcribed this section of the interview, about 25 minutes in:

Al Gore: "I had one Republican CEO in one of the largest businesses in America say to me privately, off the record, he said ‘Al, look’, and a big supporter of Bush, he said ‘Al, lets be honest, 15 minutes after George Bush leaves the Oval Office, regardless of whose elected, America is going to have a different global warming policy, we know that’. And I think Exxon-Mobil knows it."

Charlie Rose: "Why do you think the Bush Administration, or the President himself, or Dick Cheney, are opposed to this? Is it because they’re natural allies of the people who would suffer if there are either taxes or standards against the burning of fossil fuel? Is that the principal reason you think they don’t want to buy into it? Which is an intellectually dishonest point, position, i.e., you’re doing it for reasons having nothing to do with the facts, you’re doing it because of whose ox is gored."

Al Gore: "When people make decisions like that, sometimes they don’t let themselves become aware of how craven the position is and they convince themselves that there is some legitimate doubt about what the truth really is. In the book and in the movie I quote Upton Sinclair who wrote 100 years ago, ‘it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon him not understanding’. And I think that in a sense, Bush and Cheney are manifestations of a first cousin of that phenomenon."

Charlie Rose: "But they’re never going to run for political office again."

Al Gore: "Well, they’re part of a group that has attained control over the public policy process and the dialogue in America, temporarily."

Charlie Rose: "But do you know anybody who has temporarily tried to have a conversation with the president about this in a way which you would consider an enlightened conversation? Who has the capacity to sit with the president and say you ought to know about this. You ought to see this in a different light and someone who the president would be responsive to, who would listen."

Al Gore: "Yeah, but it hasn’t…"

Charlie Rose: "And they get the same, ‘I hear you, I believe it’s a problem, but I don’t think it’s caused by the factors you suggest. And it’s not as urgent as you say’.

Al Gore: "I can’t quote him even indirectly because it wasn’t, I didn’t get. He isn’t, he appears to be an incurious person."

Charlie Rose: "Incurious by nature."

Al Gore: "Yeah, I think he’s very smart, I don’t go with those who say he’s not smart, I think he’s very smart. But, there is a surprising lack of curiosity about things that most people think would be important if you’re someone in office."

Charlie Rose: "And you think this is also true about the decision to go to war?"

Al Gore: "Yeah."

Charlie Rose: "Not curious about the consequences? Not curious about the implications? Not curious about what happens after you topple Saddam?"

Al Gore: "I think in a way, and first of all I think the decision to invade Iraq was the worst strategic mistake in American history."

Charlie Rose: "The worst strategic decision in American history."

Al Gore: "Yeah, General William Odom, a respected former head of one of the intelligence agencies said that also, others have. But I think it came out of a kind of perfect storm of several temptations. Karl Rove saw it as a political opportunity. I think the ideological…"

Charlie Rose: "They went to war because it was a political opportunity?"

Al Gore: "I’m not saying that there was a direct. I’m saying there was a perfect storm where there were several elements that combined."

Charlie Rose: "This is post-9/11?"

Al Gore: "Yeah, I think it started before then."

Charlie Rose: "The idea to look for a reason to invade Iraq?"

Al Gore: "Well, look, I don’t want to be heard as oversimplifying this. I’m trying to convey a more textured and subtle…"

Charlie Rose: "Mindset about a foreign policy."

Right, if you have a commander in chief who doesn’t ask hard questions, and who largely accepts the recommendations of influential advisors, like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove. If the three of them than have different reasons for wanting to do something, but they agree on a recommended policy, then the probing that might uncover the internal inconsistencies doesn’t take place."

Charlie Rose: "So do you think the president had an opinion on this when he ran for the presidency?"

Al Gore: "On Iraq? No, I don’t think Dick Cheney had told him yet that he was going to invade Iraq." (Don't miss the shot of Charlie laughing.)