With all the serious talk now about Climate Change following the hurricane devastation in the Gulf Coast and the disaster flooding in the northeast -- not to mention the crushing wildfires across the West, it would be really appropriate if all the news networks had AL GORE on – and not just on once, but as a regular guest. But even just once would be a step in the right direction.
I mean, seriously, folks, He only won a Nobel Prize for his work on Climate Change. And made a documentary, An Inconvenient Truth about Climate Change that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. And lectures on the subject. And written books on it. And, y'know, is also a former Vice President of the United States.
I admit to being biased about this. But it’s the reason I’m biased that supports fully why I’m right. But then, this is a no-brainer, anyway.
However, back in 2008, I was hired to be the writer on a proposed radio series that Al Gore would do about the environment. It would be 90-second features each day on a national radio syndicate put together by Westwood One (the organization that, among other things, distributes NFL football.)
I interviewed with him in a hotel room and was told bluntly by an aide that this would be 15 minutes. It ended up going so well, we spoke for 15 minutes. I gave him several articles I’d written for the Huffington Post, but the most nerve-wracking part was when I handed over the material, I saw that the piece on top was an article on why Al Gore should be president. That wasn’t the nerve-wracking part – it’s that when I so a piece like that, my style is to bring up the negatives first, knock them down and then make the case. And among the “negatives” were that Al Gore had the reputation of being wooden and boring, that he supposedly claimed to invent the Internet, and that he was a loser (despite winning the popular vote) and that his talk about Climate Change meant he was crazy. I’d meant to bury the article among the others, but there it was on top. And when he took the pile, he couldn’t help see it – and so, as I thought was likely, he decided to read it right there, in front of me. As I waited and sweated. As he got to the end of the first page, where I wrote about Bill O’Reilly calling him crazy, I held my breath – and then saw him laugh and under his breath quote the passage, “the craziest speech I’ve heard in my life” and then laugh again. I thought there was a good chance then that I was safe. And then, after reading the last paragraph where I wrapped the thesis up with why Al Gore would make a great president, he looked over and very quietly said, “Thank you.”
My favorite part of the experience was as we were preparing for the recording session to make the demos, I was sending him material of what I was working on. And one day, the phone rang, and I heard, “Hi, Bob, this is Al Gore.” I immediately replied in a sort of weary voice, “Do you know how many times a day someone says that to me??” Fortunately, he burst into a laugh. But what most impressed me was that he hadn’t had an assistant call and say, “Are you in for Al Gore? Please hold.” He just picked up the phone himself. What I also remember was having to restrain myself from laughing during the call because of the ludicrous reality of talking with Al Gore about this project we were working on, while eating a bowl of cereal for lunch.
Our small group flew from Los Angeles down to Nashville to meet, go over the project and then record the demos. We got together for lunch at the Gore home (which was delicious), but it’s the conversation in the backyard that was most memorable. That’s because of two things, keeping in mind that it took place during the primary season before the Democratic Convention when Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton were running against one another:
One was when someone asked if he had any interest in helping broker the convention, which was being proposed by some at the time. He had absolutely none, and had no interest in running again in case the party couldn’t decide on a candidate. So, from that point on when I’d hear expert TV analysts wondering if Al Gore might be a dark horse candidate, it felt really good knowing more than them and shouting at the TV, “No! He isn’t going to run! I know. He told me.”
The other was when an aide that there was an important call for him. He apologized to the group, took the phone and walked off – when we heard, “Hi, Barack.” They spoke for a long time – we even started lunch without him and could see him walking back-and-forth in his front yard. Eventually, he rejoined us, and nothing was said for about a half-minute until finally someone said, “Soooooo???!!!!!” He said it wasn’t a big deal, just some questions about campaigning, and he said that he made himself available to both sides, that he talked with Hilary as much as Barack. But the best part came many months later. That’s when one of the big papers broke a major scoop that the now-nominee Barack Obama had spoken with Al Gore before the convention. It was very nice to have had that scoop first, months before, when it happened.
The recording session went well. He’d previously told me a range of issues that interested him, I would then put together a list I’d researched, he approved the ones he liked, I’d research them further to fill in the details, we talked about them, then I wrote the scripts. At the recording session, he went over the script, making the changes he felt it needed and rephrasing the material to fit him. He recorded six of the scripts, though rejected one – not because he didn’t like it but he said he didn’t know that area well enough yet, and didn’t want to put his name to something he wasn’t fully informed on. I was sitting in the back, next to his communications director, a very nice lady named Kaylee Kreider – she could see I was still disappointed at having the script dropped, so she leaned over to him. “Don’t feel bad,” she said. “The last person we tried, he rejected al the scripts. He’s approved six of yours.”
There was only one bad memory from the trip. At the time we were in Nashville, there was a big country music convention or event of some sort. (I’d taken an afternoon off to walk around the city and went to Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ol’ Opry.) That night, our group went to a big bar where it turned out Trisha Yearwood was brought in to perform. After a while, the others decided to leave and go somewhere else for dinner – though I wanted to stay. My point was that I wondered if it was possible that her new husband Garth Brooks might join Yearwood later. But I was overruled on such a thin theory, and we left. The next morning, I found out that, yes, Garth Brooks did show up later. I still sigh about it periodically…
In the end, it was a great experience, but came to nothing. They actually got 200 radio stations to sign up and raised what struck me as a lot of money. But at that point, most anything would strike me as a lot of money. And as much as it was, it wasn’t enough for what Westwood One and Al Gore needed for the time and expenses it would take to pull off such a project in an ongoing basis. So…This Nearly Was Mine, as the song goes. But it was a wonderful project to do. even if didn’t come to fruition. And Al Gore was a good enough guy – behind the scenes, away from cameras – and warm and funny, to make me admire him even more than I had when I wrote the article on why he should be president.
Though the radio series never made it on the air, I do have the 5-minute promotional track that was put together, which includes three of the scripts I wrote that Al recorded. I didn’t write the promo, but my material starts around the one-minute mark.
Which bring us back to the original point – that every television network should have Al Gore on as a Nobel Prize-winning expert guest on Climate Change. That his film won an Oscar and he’s a former Vice-President of the United States – who ran for president and actually got the most votes, but it took a strange “one-time only” Supreme Court decision that offered no precedent to keep him from taking office – is just a bonus.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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