September 15, 2008
'Global warming' Gore attracts heat
His new houseboat is the latest target of critics' attacks
By ANNE PAINE
When Al Gore uses energy, the blogosphere lights up.
His large Nashville home, utility bills and jet travels have drawn flamethrowers over the last year and a half. Now, it's a houseboat he bought this summer.
"Here's the good news for him," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "It doesn't matter a whit. He's out of politics. He's won the Nobel Prize, the Academy Award and goodness knows what else. ... He's got the last laugh on anybody."
The latest angry anti-Gore round boiled up when radio talk show host Steve Gill, a regular Gore basher, fired up listeners over the family's new 100-foot houseboat that's docked on Center Hill Lake.
As he often does, Gill labeled Gore a hypocrite who preaches energy conservation to curb what Gill refers to as "so-called global warming," but who doesn't practice it.
A Web post by Gill on Sept. 6 had elicited as of Saturday a hefty 181 comments — the large majority in agreement with the radio host and many of them scathing. At least one was downright threatening.
The fact that the http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=DN&Dato=20080912&Kategori=GREEN&Lopenr=809120818&Ref=PH">houseboat, called Bio-Solar One, has a roof blanketed with solar panels and runs on biodiesel seemed only to annoy some of those commenting. No one was praising him for vacationing locally.
"He's put himself out there on climate change and, as he knows, in the public square, you get criticized for everything," Sabato said.
He's long been a target
Gore, who declined to be interviewed last week, has been a lightning rod for years. It started with his political career.
"He was already the Democrat you loved to hate for folks in the Republican Party," said Pat Nolan, a longtime Nashville political analyst.
Later mixing in the hot-button issues of global warming and climate change made him "an even larger and more inviting target," Nolan said.
"When you've got the kind of profile he does and political past, add it up and it's pretty much a convergence of a perfect storm."
It's also difficult "to be correct enough" when it comes to global warming and the environment, Nolan said.
"There's always something you can do better. You're kind of guilty until you can prove yourself innocent."
Mike Kopp, who worked for Gore from 1981 to 1988, chuckled as he talked of his former boss's earnestness and inability back then to catch a break on a much simpler matter: how he dressed.
"When he was in the House of Representatives and pretty much all the years in the Senate, he wore the same blue suit. We used to joke about it."
A small sewing kit with blue thread was on hand to mend the occasional holes in the fabric, Kopp said.
"He was trying to be conservative. He didn't want to waste money on fancy clothes. He thought it would make him more approachable.
"It was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. People thought he was just cheap when it came to clothes."
It 'goes with the job'
Gore's office would receive critical letters from supporters as well as those opposed, and Kopp keeps a framed copy of one on his office wall at MMA Creative, a local marketing company where he's a partner.
The handwritten message, dated May 29, 1987 — about a month into Gore's first campaign for the presidency — reads:
Dear Mr. Gore,
I am working hard for you to get elected to any office you seek, but please go to your tailor and get your pants lengthened to the top of your shoes.
One of your supporters.
When Gore tried to figure out a better way to dress and present himself, he hired an image consultant. He was criticized for that, too.
"It just kind of goes with the job," Kopp said. "It doesn't matter what you do and how dedicated you are, someone will find fault in everything you do — even supporters.
"You've got to develop a thick skin and get over it. I'm sure he's had plenty of practice."