Al Gore has been in the news again, and even some of his biggest admirers are upset with Gore’s decision to sell his Current TV cable network to Al Jazeera, which is owned by the oil-rich Islamic monarchy of Qatar, for $500 million.
Some of his erstwhile fans are upset at the apparent hypocrisy of the world’s best known environmentalist doing business with one of the world’s biggest polluters of the environment; others wonder why the former vice president would want to make it easier for an outfit like Al Jazeera to gain a foothold in America.
But anyone who has closely followed Gore’s career with even a slightly skeptical eye realizes that Gore is a master of reinvention, someone whose ideological shifts – on abortion, tobacco, record labeling and a dozen other issues – were so transparently opportunistic that he might as well have had the word “phony” tattooed on his forehead.
All one needs to know about Al Gore can be found in the following breathtaking account of political exploitation by the journalist Roger Simon, who during the 1988 presidential campaign accompanied candidate Gore on a visit to the neonatal intensive care unit of Brooklyn’s Interfaith Medical Center. Simon wrote about the experience in his book Road Show:
We look around and see these babies, incredibly small…almost doll-like, until you see their little hearts beating against their chests or catch the wave of a tiny arm. All sorts of tubes and lines run out of them…. Others are in specially warmed beds, hooked to respirators with tubes that snake into their mouths and down their throats….
Gore is walking now among the babies, the camera crews in front of him walking backward, shooting their pictures and, inevitably, knocking into things…. Gore picks up [a] very small boy, who is wrapped in a blue blanket, and holds him in front of the TV cameras. “This is Baby Robinson,” Gore solemnly announces to the boom mikes. “And Baby Robinson has tested positive for AIDS.”
…. Our platoon of reporters and camera crews is ushered out and the next platoon is ushered in. “This is Baby Robinson,” Gore solemnly announces to the new cameras. “And Baby Robinson has tested positive for AIDS.”
When Gore is finally, mercifully, through with his repeat performances, he gives Baby Robinson back to the nurses and heads downstairs for a news conference. In a small administrative office on the ground floor of the hospital a thin, wasted man…sits next to Gore. His name is Brian Snow. He is thirty. And he is dying of AIDS….
When the cameras are in position, Gore begins talking: “This is Brian Snow, who is an AIDS patient at this hospital.” Snow, glassy-eyed, stares straight ahead…. Gore now smiles broadly. “Some people feel they can still get AIDS by shakin’ hands or somethin’ like that,” Gore says, suddenly dropping his g’s and assumin’ his country voice. “That kind of misunderstandin’ has to be dispelled.” And Gore reaches over and shakes hands with Brian Snow, holding it, so the cameras can get it.
One year after the New York primary, I call the Interfaith Medical Center and ask what became of Baby Robinson and Brian Snow. Snow had become ill just moments after the Gore news conference and had been hospitalized. He was later released and lost contact with the hospital….
Baby Robinson was not really a baby with AIDS. He had just tested positive for the HIV virus. Half of such babies never develop AIDS. And a month after the New York primary, Baby Robinson had been discharged from the hospital and had been placed in a foster home by a child placement agency….
I had just one other question: Since the primary, had Al Gore or anyone from Al Gore’s staff ever inquired as to the health or welfare of either Brian Snow or Baby Robinson?
“Never,” I was told. “They never have.”
After reading that, can anyone look at Al Gore again without thinking of Brian Snow or Baby Robinson?