The Parrot and the Igloo Notes


279   a title you picture: Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, Houghton Mifflin, 1992.


279   a thought balloon of the West Wing: For example, this from a Newsweek ten months into the term: “Environmentalists should be happy these days. After 12 years of acting like ‘barbarians at the gate,’ as Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt called them, they are finally on the inside, with friends as high as Vice President Al Gore.”

Daniel Glick, “Barbarians Inside the Gate,” Newsweek, November 1, 1993.


279   A giant folding graph: Howard Fineman and Karen Breslau, “Gore Feels the Heat,” Newsweek, October 27, 1997.


279   “Just in case you missed it”: William J. Clinton, “Remarks to Television Weather Forecasters,” The American Presidency Project, October 1, 1997.

Accessed 6-29-22.


279   the world’s most exclusive classroom: Howard Fineman and Karen Breslau, “Gore Feels The Heat,” Newsweek, October 27, 1997.


As Revelle educated Gore, Gore educated Clinton. One day in early 1993, the new veep marched into lunch with the president carrying a huge folding chart—his now familiar graph that predicts frightening increases in atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels.


279   “I was convinced that he was convinced”: Howard Fineman and Karen Breslau, “Gore Feels The Heat,” Newsweek, October 27, 1997.


280   “What started out like a love affair”: Daniel Glick, “Barbarians Inside the Gate,” Newsweek, November 1, 1993.


280      “like a football team”: Daniel Glick, “Barbarians Inside the Gate,” Newsweek, November 1, 1993.


280      “Clinton had come to rely”: Bob Woodward, The Choice, Simon & Schuster 1996. 13.

An interesting setup. It’s the first paragraph of Woodward’s book. “President Bill Clinton insisted that one item on his weekly schedule remain inviolate. His private lunch with his vice president, Al Gore, could not be dropped unless there was a crisis or one of them was out of town. Though there was no doubt about who was the senior partner in the relationship, Clinton had come to rely on Gore as his indispensable chief adviser. Just as Clinton had mastered campaigning over the course of his lifetime in politics, Gore had mastered government, bureaucracy and even Washington.”

280      “now pass Al Gore’s climate test”: William J. Clinton, “Remarks to Television Weather Forecasters,” The American Presidency Project, October 1, 1997.

Accessed 6-29-22.


280      “specific targets and timetables”: Howard Fineman and Karen Breslau, “Gore Feels The Heat,” Newsweek, October 27, 1997.


280      go ahead and build Jurassic Park already: Joan Didion, “The Teachings of Speaker Gingrich,” New York Review of Books, August 10, 1996.


280      “Imagine weightlessness and its effects”: Newt Gingrich, To Renew America, HarperCollins 1995. 192.

In which he says a lot of other stupid stuff. Like, “One of the major reasons the spirit of adventure has gone out of space exploration is that we have allowed bureaucracies to dominate too many of our scientific adventures. Look at the difference between the movies The Right Stuff and Star Wars and you will see what I mean.” But of course the Star Wars universe is a titanic bureaucracy—what’s the Death Star, minus cannon, but a bleak floating office park? You can feel the paperwork. And of course the Empire is a world of hierarchies: of boardrooms and planning sessions. (When we see the Jedi Council in later pictures, it’s the same late-afternoon-meeting feel.) Whereas The Right Stuff—the Mercury program and the moon shot—is a triumph of courageous bureaucracy. A union of desks and calculators allows seven intrepid specialists to travel outside Earth’s atmosphere. Of the bravery of manning a workstation and a cockpit. That both films were the result of bureaucracies—teams of the dedicated and expert—goes without saying. All Gingrich would have to do is watch the ten-minute credits.

On the other hand, he writes, in the same vicinity, “A generation that learns its magic from Tom Swift and Jules Verne has a much more optimistic outlook than one that is constantly being told that the planet is dying and that everything humanity is doing is wrong.” Which is not entirely unsmart.


280      He fully expected: David Osborne, “The Swinging Days of Newt Gingrich,” Mother Jones, November, 1984.


280      “He thought there’d probably be”: Miss one and he’d dock your pay. “After the first term, Gingrich began to insist that his every public utterance be taped. If posterity was slighted because a staffer failed to record him, Gingrich would dock that person’s pay up to $200 and ‘blast you unmercifully.’”

David Beers, “Newt Gingrich: Master of Disaster,” Mother Jones, September 1989.


281      “They’re extinct”: Michael Satchell, Betsy Carpenter, Kenan Pollack, “A new day for Earth lovers,” U.S. News & World Report, April 24, 1995.


281      “scientific nonsense”: Andrew Lawler, “NASA Mission Gets Down to Earth,” Science, September 1, 1995.


281      dinosaur farts: Aaron Rupar, “Rep. Rohrabacher: Global Warming May Have Been Caused By ‘Dinosaur Flatulence’,” Think Progress, February 10, 2007.

Accessed 6-22-22.


281      liberal claptrap: Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science, 62.

House of Representatives, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Authorization Act of 1995, August 4, 1995, House Report 104-237, U.S. Government Publishing Office, 1995. 61, 340.

Rohrbacher’s views held; he dug in. This is from the Times, half a year later.


In recent interviews, he [Rohrabacher] said that after reading and hearing more about global warming, “I’m now even more inclined to think it’s liberal claptrap,” adding that “far too many people in the Government and media are far too willing to listen to and amplify any claim of doom by someone who’s wearing a white coat.”

For his part, Mr. Gore said of the effort to reduce emissions that nobody “is under any illusions about how tough this is going to be.”

“It’s at the outer boundary of what is possible in our world,” he added, “but it is possible.”


This voter really admired Al Gore. For stuff like that.

William K. Stevens, “The Air in 2000,” The New York Times, November 28, 1995.


281      they invited Nobel laureates: Baltimore Sun, “Clinton Pushes for Containment of Global Warming; Nobel Laureates Fear for Awareness Campaign,” July 25, 1997.


281      the weather was solid weathermen: Ken Ringle, “The White House Effect; Weathercasters Showered With Global Warming Data,” Washington Post, October 02, 1997.

James Bennet, “Clinton Nudges TV Forecasters On Warming,” The New York Times, October 2, 1997.


The Times ran on page one. I like the Post calling on-air personalities “the well-coiffed legions”:


Armed with climatological factoids rained on them by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and cheered on by pep talks from President Clinton and Vice President Gore, the well-coiffed legions then deployed to bombard their home stations with the latest data on greenhouse gases and glacial melt.

So vast were their numbers that camera crews completely overpopulated the West Lawn. Eighteen were forced to broadcast their evening stand-ups from a more distant White House overlook atop the Hay-Adams Hotel.


The Times catches the sunlight and comedy:


“I don’t ask for you to advocate or do anything outside of whatever your own convictions are,” Mr. Clinton said this afternoon, as the skies cleared and the East Room brightened. “But I do think it’s very important, since you have more influence than anybody does on how the American people think about this, that at least you know what you believe and how you think we should proceed.”

As the 5 o’clock broadcasts rolled around, dozens of weathermen milled about in the mellowing sunlight on the north lawn of the White House, straightening their hair, consulting notes, muttering lines. While others waited their turns, about six stood bathed in white lights before cameras, speaking to the folks back home or standing, faces blank and microphones at the ready, as they listened for their cues in the distant chatter among the anchors.

As they talked about the chill in Buffalo or the pleasant weather here, the forecasters also described the concerns of the President. “He wants all of us to think about what is happening to our climate,” said Chuck Gaidica Jr. of WDIV in Detroit.


282      “If we don’t cut our emission”: He went on, “In fact, most scientists say this process has already begun. I might add that I had nothing to do with scheduling this conference on the day which is predicted to be the hottest October 6th that we have ever had in Washington, DC.” It was as if the weather were still being as cooperative as it’d been for Jim Hansen in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on the third day of summer, 1988.


282      “They were simply awestruck”: William J. Clinton, “Opening Remarks at the White House Conference on Climate Change,” October 6, 1997.

Accessed 7-1-22.


282      “So I ask you to think about that”: If you’d like to watch, the speech is here:

“Global Climate Change,” C-Span, October 6, 1997.

Accessed 7-1-22.

The president begins his speech around 45:00. (The first twenty minutes are a find-your-seats, a cappella concert.) It’s a very good speech; crushing that in the flash of an eye since, in the 26 years after, there’s been so little done. A quarter century. We looked at the request the scientists and the presidents made that day and answered, “No.”

The first few times I watched the C-Span I resented the a cappella intrusion. The band is The Georgetown Gracenotes. They do a 1982 synth-pop classic called “Only You.” (Once ubiquitous at Solo Cup parties.) Then a lovely cover of Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.” They close with 10,000 Maniac’s “These Are Days.” Now when I rewatch I stay for the concert part, and wonder where those Georgetown grads are now, and appreciate the student concert for the beautiful piece of stagecraft, of speechcraft and statecraft, it is. They are the subject of Clinton’s speech. The ones for whom all those decades have since passed in the flash of an eye.

The Parrot and the Igloo by David Lipsky