Although you might never suspect it from his glowing press coverage (Newsweek magazine put him on its cover for the fifth time in the outfit’s first six issues of 2009), newly minted President Barack Obama was not the only Energizer Bunny in the news this week. Familiar faces Al Gore and Rod Blagojevich ricocheted around the landscape while banging the drum in search of headlines, as well.
On one side of the split-screen television format was Gore, the former vice president, down in Washington preaching to an audience of the confirmed his doomsday gospel of global warming as promoted in his Academy Award-winning documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
On the other side of the screen was a shot of a more immediate inconvenient truth: Ice-laden trees and snapped power lines caused by one of the winter’s worst ice and snowstorms raising havoc from Arkansas to Maine and beyond.
Poor Al, I’m thinking. He can’t help his rotten luck — he was born with a black cloud hanging over his head. First, he gets aced out of the presidency by a cascade of bizarre hanging chads and a shaky election process in Florida. Then he wins the Nobel Peace Prize, but many of his countrymen seem not to notice. And now, on the very day he takes his global-warming shtick to Washington for another shot of high-profile media coverage, Mother Nature conspires to cast doubt on his theories by concocting a brew of miserable weather that is anything but warm, with promises of more to follow.
As I watched a film clip of Gore testifying before his Washington audience I thought about a great commentary on his oratorical style that I recently discovered while purging a file of yellowed news clippings.
In the Wall Street Journal of Nov. 30, 1999 when Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley seemed to be the two leading candidates for the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination, WSJ editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote of Gore, “To follow the winding thickets of his thought is, frequently, to abandon all hope of emerging into daylight, but what he lacks in coherence, Mr. Gore makes up for in energy.”
In that regard, Rabinowitz wrote, Gore “is more than a match for his challenger, Mr. Bradley, whose resonance-free voice and low energy level can occasionally pass for that of someone soon to be given the last rites…”
The same cannot be said for the oratory of Blagojevich, the disgraced ex-governor of Illinois, who got kicked out of office Thursday by the Illinois State Senate for abuse of power despite his impassioned eleventh-hour plea before the Senate to be kept on the job.
There was no Bradleyesque low energy level slowing this guy as he bounced around the national television talk-show circuit to take his case directly to the court of public opinion, although, as with Rabinowitz’s Gore, to follow the winding thickets of the man’s thought was, frequently, to abandon all hope of emerging into day-light.
Blagojevich may be the unsavory character that his detractors claim, and the evidence would seem to indicate as much. But the former Congressman is well-spoken and shrewd. And a damn sight more interesting than most politicians you see on television.
I get the impression that if the man is dumb, he’s dumb like a fox. He made that impression when he outwitted sanctimonious U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid by successfully appointing Roland Burris to Obama’s old Senate seat, despite Reid’s boast that the appointment would not stand.
Now, by making the talk-show circuit and following up with his well-publicized speech before the Illinois Senate when he well knew the vote against him would be the 59-0 that it turned out to be, he may have outfoxed his pursuers again.
By going into public full-court press mode without having to be cross-examined under oath, Blagojevich presumably has laid out his side of the story to potential jurors in an anticipated federal criminal case against him that waits in the wings. Unless those jurors include members of the Illinois Legislature, they may cut the ex-governor some slack when the going gets really tough.
Ask not why this Energizer Bunny bangs the drum loudly. Ask instead whether it can thwart the hounds that are nipping at his heels.
BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.