Since the climate alarmists are gathering in Copenhagen - many arriving via private jets, which really cuts down on "carbon footprints" - to flap their gums about supposed "global warming," it seemed a good time to share my up-close-and-personal experience with the fledgling climate change movement, way back in 1990.
In 1988, a year or so after I had become Press Secretary to Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, Rudy got interested in the then-relatively unknown subject of man-made global warming. For a fellow who grew up just outside of New York City, Rudy always had a pretty keen interest in environmental issues, in part because he made his fortune selling lumber (he founded Plywood Minnesota - now called Home Valu - a chain of home improvement stores) which helped him realize the importance of responsible resource management.
That summer President Reagan appointed Rudy as a congressional representative to the United Nations, and so for a six-month period we would occasionally hop the shuttle up to New York, where Rudy would speak at the UN on various topics. He decided he wanted to speak on global warming, and addressed the UN on that subject that summer.
As one of the people in charge of helping shape Rudy's image, I have to admit that I loved the topic, but for very cynical reasons. First of all, it helped shore up Rudy's environmental credibility, which was important to voters in Minnesota. Secondly, no one was really sure it was a problem - and there was no way to prove that it was. Finally, if it was a problem, it was waaaaay off in the distance, and we wouldn't have to step on anyone's toes to deal with it. From a PR standpoint, it was ideal: A vague problem with no concrete solution that allowed Rudy to highlight his legitimate environmental interests without ticking off anyone important.
(Let me emphasize that that was MY position on the issue, not Rudy's. He was the statesman; I was the cynical political hack. At the time he genuinely believed there was a threat, although he has since moved 180 degrees on the issue and has become a big supporter of the Hudson Institute's debunking of the global warming scare. For more on the Hudson Institute's important work, click here.)
Rudy's interest in the issue caught the attention of the junior senator from Tennessee, one Albert Gore. And in early 1990, a relatively new group called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held one of its first meetings in Washington D.C. To add a little credibility, they decided to round up some senators to be listed as "hosts" for the event. Gore jumped to the head of the line, and easily signed up a couple other Democrats (I forget who, but I think Bill Bradley was one of them), but he needed a Republican to create the appearance of balance, and he approached Rudy, who agreed to be a host.
And so, for three days, Rudy went down to the J.W. Marriott on Pennsylvania Ave. for the conference, and listened to the doomsayers talk about all of the evils that were about to fall upon the world if we didn't stop eating meat, driving cars, etc., etc. By the third day, I think Rudy was beginning to understand that this group wasn't interested in real science, it was just a bunch of environmental wackos who were shoving all of their socialist, Walden Pond dreams into a vessel called "global warming."
Whenever a senator had to go to a meeting away from Capitol Hill, it was normal procedure to have a staff person drive them there and pick them up. Washington is crowded, there's limited parking, and it was just a more efficient way of doing things. For staffers, it was a chance to have some "face time" with the senator, and I often had the duty of driving and picking up Rudy for a couple of reasons. First, I could bring along any work that I wanted him to review, and he could make his comments while I was driving.
Secondly, Rudy had a perverse sort of affinity for my car, which was a badly beat-up 1970 Mustang convertible. Dents, scratches, faded paint, ratty interior...this car had it all. Rudy liked to ride in it because, in his words, "Anyone who sees this car knows that Republicans aren't all rich fat cats." A little Jewish humor at my expense.
On the final day of the conference, I drove down to the Marriott to pick up Rudy. My car, as usual, was a mess. On a normal day, the back seat would have my golf clubs, my dirty softball pants and gear, a pile of empty fast-food wrappers, maybe a change of clothes or two and who knows what else. It didn't really matter, because seldom did anyone ever ride in the back seat because it was so tiny. And if someone did, it was probably some intern who would just shove the mess to one side and make room. Suffice it to say that Rudy was used to it.
I rolled down Pennsylvania Ave. and pulled up in front of the Marriott, and there was Rudy, standing next to Al Gore. Rudy opened the door and said, "Al's ride hasn't shown up, could we take him back with us?"
"Not a problem," I said, "But he'll have to make a little room."
So Rudy flipped the front seat forward, making way for Al to climb into the back seat. I'll never forget the look on his face as he peered into the tiny, cramped seat and realized he was going to have to sit on what was basically a pile of dirty laundry, sporting goods and trash.
I reached back and started frantically pulling the pile over to one side, trying to create some space, while Al was trying to stretch his 6-foot-1 frame into the car, slide behind the front seat and find a perch amidst the rubble.
He finally got in. Rudy climbed in front and right away said to Al, "I'll move this seat up and give you some room."
To which I answered, "I'm sorry, the seat is stuck in that position."
"That's okay," Al said, with his knees almost up to his chin. "Where's the seat belt?"
Again, I had to apologize. "There aren't any. But don't worry, I'm a careful driver."
Al didn't look too reassured, and he seemed even less so when I pulled a quick u-turn across Pennsylvania Ave. to get us headed back up to the Capitol.
"So, how was the conference?" I asked.
"It was excellent," Al said. "You know, Rudy, we should look at co-sponsoring a bill on some of this."
As I said, I was already pretty cynical about the whole idea, but I wanted to be polite, so I said something like, "Yeah, things could be a lot different a few hundred years from now."
Al didn't like that at all, and said something along the lines of "Oh, no, the problem is right now. We have to stop this now before it's too late."
Which led to a kind of uncomfortable silence. As I said, Rudy was beginning to have his doubts, and I was only paying attention because of the potential political benefits, so I decided on a quick change of subject.
"Senator, I'd really like to get down to see that University of Tennessee football stadium sometime. It must be great to hear all those people sing 'Rocky Top.' "
Which got Al off of the subject of global warming, and on to the subject of the University of Tennessee, which occupied the couple of minutes it took to drive back to the Capitol. Rudy got out, flipped the seat up and extended a hand to help lift Al out of his tiny, filthy compartment. "Thanks for the lift," Al said, and I answered, "Anytime, Senator."
It certainly wasn't a monumental moment at the time. Al was just the junior senator from Tennessee, only in office about three years, but soon he was ready to hit the big time. Just over two years later, Bill Clinton would tap him as a running mate, and suddenly the guy from my back seat was Vice-President of the United States. Then he published Earth in the Balance, and pretty soon he was the world's biggest global warming scold.
After losing the 2000 election, he figured out how to get rich off of environmental doomsaying and flies around the world in a private jet so he could tell people how to reduce their "carbon footprint."
The world is quickly catching on to the junk science and beginning to see that "global warming" is little more than a fraud and a hoax, as evidenced by the recently released e-mails from a British university, in which the "scientists" talk about manipulating and suppressing climate data that didn't fit their pre-supposed notions, and how they can't explain why the world hasn't been warming up at all for the past decade or so.
A while ago I mentioned that afternoon to Rudy, and said, "If I had known Al was going to become such a nut, I wouldn't have given him a ride back from the conference."
Ruefully, Rudy said, "Al took that conference very seriously."
What still strikes me about that day was the absolute certainty Al had about the problem. That was almost 20 years ago, and today there is no proven science that demonstrates the problem even exists, but in 1990 Al was already prepared to sacrifice the global economy and sentence millions of third world people into permanent poverty on the basis of junk science. I still find that a little frightening. (See the November 19 blog post here to learn more about my thoughts on Al.)
As for the Mustang, it didn't last much longer. I junked it, replaced it with a beat-up Volkswagen Cabriolet, and by the time that car was finished, two senators and a governor had ridden in it. The Smithsonian has not asked for permission to display either vehicle.
(UPDATE: A picture of the Mustang in question has been unearthed. See it here.)