Friday October 5, 2012

PITTSFIELD

I’m glad the 4th Berkshire District debate for state representative is finally settled. I was going to offer to allow Smitty Pignatelli and Scott Laugenour to debate in my apartment, but there isn’t a lot of room there.

This planned afternoon-evening format is nothing new at Monument Mountain, by the way. When Monument hosted the Dowmell Lecture Series a few years ago, that was the regular schedule: A school forum in the afternoon and a lecture in the evening.

In addition, the Dowmell folks would have a brief news conference in between for the local media to present questions. I used to go to this regularly because it was a way to ensure that any questions I had for the speakers would be addressed.

That had been an issue for me. Initially, I had just submitted questions along with everyone else, and the moderator would read as many as he could at the end of the lecture. The problem was that sometimes the lecture ran late, and I had to file a story. So I sometimes left before the Q-and-A session.

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The exception was the night of My War With Al Gore.

It wasn’t a war, really; more of a minor tiff. But it was a little weird.

The lecture was sometime after Gore had lost the presidential race to George Bush in 2000. That sticks out in my mind because a lot of the "questions" to him that night at Monument Mountain were these softball tosses, mostly sympathizing with his defeat.

As I said, usually there were only a handful of journalists at these press conferences. That night there were a lot of broadcast media especially, including a couple television stations from Albany, N.Y.

Anyway, my turn came, and, recalling that my editor wanted him to comment on the "global warming" issue, I asked what I assumed was a fairly standard question:

"Mr. Vice President, how do you respond to the allegations that global warming is ‘junk science’ and that there is no scientific basis for it?" I asked.

I figured he’d probably answered the question, conservatively speaking, about 3,000 times. But maybe not. To my surprise, he got a little snide.

"Well," he said, "do you know there are still about 15 percent of the American population who still don’t think we landed on the moon?"

"Yeah," I said, still thinking he was making a joke. "I saw that movie ["Capricorn One"]. O.J. [Simpson] was in it."

"Yeah," he said sarcastically. "Well, once a month, those people get together and party with the junk science people, usually on a Saturday night."

Huh? I realized at that point that Gore was pretty annoyed. But at that point, frankly, so was I.

"Sorry," I said, also sarcastically, "I thought it was a reasonable question."

Look, said Gore, there is a lot of science behind this, not junk science. He went on to delineate several scientists and studies to support his point. Which was fine. That was all I wanted.

"Thank you, Mr. Vice President," I said. And that was that. But I still think it was odd that he acted that way. Probably it was my use of the term "junk science," which had set him off. But I had heard the term from several of Gore’s critics. It was not something I made up.

But the outcome of this little give-and-take was that I was so annoyed, I didn’t have a chance to ask my clever follow-up question. To wit, "Since you’re from Tennessee, sir, were you surprised that Bernard King had a better NBA career than Ernie Grunfeld?"

That probably would have broken the ice.