This commercial, with Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi, was put out eight months ago by Al Gore's 'We Campaign' on climate change. It was a perplexing choice, because Gingrich was one of the most ardent opponents of climate change action for most of his career in politics, and featuring him as a good guy on the issue would give him credibility he might misuse. Sure enough, two months ago, Newt Gingrich, backed by coal companies and billionaires, started the Drill Here Drill Now campaign, and the talking point about taking care of the environment was a key part of the message that 'environmental moderate' Newt Gingrich delivered (Gore has bitterly referred to the Drill Here Drill Now campaign as 'drinking the hair of the dog that bit you').
Gore's rationale for including Newt Gingrich was that the movement on climate change must be bipartisan, so he must feature people like Newt Gingrich in his campaign or else it will fail. I was curious if there was a larger strategy here, or if Gore had accidentally greenwashed Gingrich, who is now referred to as an 'environmental moderate'. It looks to me like it wasn't an accident, that Gore has continued to hire Beltway hacks that sabotage his aims and spew out a conventional wisdom that is harmful to the movement to change our climate policies. Here's an email the group's CEO, Cathy Zoi, sent out on Friday, the day Congress went on recess.
But when it comes to action, there's not much to report.
Last week, the U.S. Congress left Washington without addressing the energy crisis. They didn't deal with gas prices. They didn't move on solutions to climate change. What's worse, their inability to renew the clean energy tax credits means that government incentive programs to support the solar and wind industries will expire at the end of this year. Jobs will be lost as a result of their inaction.
These letters are important. They get read by millions of people each day. They inform what talk show hosts cover on TV. Your comments could fuel a debate on the evening news.
And they are an easy way to reach Members of Congress -- who are all home for the summer and read the opinion pages of the paper each day.
America can generate 100% of our electricity from clean sources -- and we can do it within ten years. We can make the shift to renewable energy sources -- rebuilding our economy and cutting fuel costs. In a year when 'change' has become a refrain, let's make sure they know what real change looks like.
Letters to the editor in support of the oil industry are showing up all across the country -- a clear sign of an orchestrated campaign to maintain the status quo. We need to respond -- to make sure the media stops focusing on simplistic and misleading proposals that will worsen our economy.
This is really bad stuff. The very first policy complaint was that Congress had not 'dealt' with gas prices, which of course implies drilling. The ask for the email was that Congress stay in session, a particularly nasty request considering that a key part of Pelosi's strategy to hold off on more drilling is to refuse to allow it a vote in Congress.
I'm not sure what's going on, but it's clear that Gore's staff is not capable of executing their campaign while doing even minimal coordination with the rest of the progressive energy space, House leaders, or anyone else who is going to push to implement Gore's remarkable energy plan. The We Campaign staff is listed here. The grassroots and alliance director is Donnie Fowler, the son of long-time South Carolina party elder Don Fowler. Fowler worked for a conservative tech-oriented PAC in the 1990s, moved to the Gore campaign, and eventually wound up as campaign manager for Wes Clark's campaign in 2004 (he was fired after a day, and immediately and angrily went to the press with complaints). He then moved on to the Kerry campaign in Michigan, where he was so incompetent that he lost something like $3 million dollars of donor money, with entire fleets of vans going missing. In 2005, Fowler ran and lost the DNC Chair race to Howard Dean, despite a power play orchestrated by his father through the executive committee of the state chair assocation. More recently, he has spent his time mocking liberal bloggers as a 'pajama mafia' that is being ritually humiliated by Obama.
Now, I bring this up because Fowler is the one in charge of alliances and grassroots, so it's no surprise that there is no coordination with progressive allies. This was actually a pretty big complaint in Gore's 2000 race, where Donnie Fowler was, yup, the National Field Director. I don't really understand why Gore would hire the same people that screwed up his Presidential race to run his climate group, but it's worth nothing that consultant driven caution is pretty pervasive, and it never works in any context, Presidential or issue-based.
I've had discussions with multiple people in the energy/green space (from competent groups), and they are furious at the repeated political lapses in judgment from Gore's climate groups. While spectacularly good on the technology and policy side, Gore's people simply refuses to cooperate or lead on the politics, preferring to sketch out big picture visions, refusing to set up infrastructure to actualize them, and then undermining attempts to organize around his vision by empowering people like Newt Gingrich and the House GOP caucus whining 'Don't Go Home'.
If we could just get elite validators like Al Gore pointed in the right direction instead of training his fire on people in the progressive energy space, we'd be a lot more successful in avoiding catastrophe. Now, a few months ago, I tried asking Gore about this, putting the question to his spokesperson, Kalee Kreider, of why he validated Newt Gingrich. She won't respond to my queries. While Netroots Nation moderators wouldn't let me ask Gore a question, I did manage to get Gore on tape by posing two questions at the receiving line [update: I should note that this was not some sort of conspiracy, more that there were lots of questions and not enough Gore to go around]. I asked him about his praise of John McCain and his validation of Newt Gingrich. Here's what he said.
Embracing the same kind of conventional wisdom that lost him the Presidential race and keeps a real solution to the energy crisis from being adopted is a problem. Gore (and the rest of us) won't be able to deal with climate change if we can't get out of the fossil fuel driven top-down politics we've known our whole life. Gore has been asking society for a huge change in the way we live our lives, a change that will improve society and bring us unimagined prosperity and a much more socially just framework. The problem is, he's not willing to make the same change in the way that he sees politics. He's running his 2000 campaign again. If he really wanted to do something about climate change, he could start by showing that he is ready to make some changes himself in how he sees the public.