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TOM BROKAW’S OLD HABIT! Brokaw’s remark about Gore’s film recalled some key Howler History: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2006

TOM BROKAW’S OLD HABIT: Mordant chuckles were heard in our halls when we read the AP report on Tom Brokaw. Brokaw was hosting a two-hour special on the subject of global warming. So the subject of Al Gore came up when he spoke with AP’s David Bauder:
BAUDER (7/7/06): Tom Brokaw is giving Al Gore some company in the effort to raise awareness of global warming.

The former NBC anchorman is host of "Global Warming: What You Need to Know," which doubles as an explainer and call to action for average Americans. It premieres [July 16] at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.

Brokaw said he has seen and was impressed by "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore's documentary on the subject.

"It's the same science that we are drawing upon and it's irrefutable," he said. "I thought there was too much of Gore, but that's not my call. I thought it was very effectively done. To give credit to him, he's been on this issue for a long period of time.”

Gee thanks! After grousing about “too much of Gore” (in a film about Gore’s slide show on warming), Brokaw managed to dish out some credit. “[H]e's been on this issue for a long period of time,” the former NBC anchor mumbled.

Yes, we chuckled a bit at Brokaw’s complaint—and at his grudging compliment. Indeed, old habits can be hard to break—both for a nation which runs on oil, and for an NBC anchor who once loved to cheap-shot Al Gore! Even today, Brokaw can’t seem to compliment Gore without rolling his eyes a bit first. But then, it’s been that way with Tom for some time. For example, here’s the first thing the newsman said when Bush and Gore finished their first debate, back in October 2000:

BROKAW (10/3/00): The conclusion of the first debate. The election is just five weeks from today. It ran over about five minutes altogether. There were some very spirited exchanges. The two candidates stuck to their fundamental positions. You did have a feeling that if you'd asked Vice President Gore what he had for breakfast today he would have said, “Two eggs over easy, coffee and a waiter who was complaining about the tax cut of the Texas governor.”
Good God! Instantly, Brokaw mocked the principal Gore position. And then, at the end of the second debate, he pretty much did the same thing:
BROKAW (10/11/00): Well, about 95 minutes. Once again, it's the second presidential debate. Tipper Gore and Karenna, his daughter, are quick onto the stage. The vice president is, tonight, changing his style. Not just his necktie, but his whole demeanor. And Laura Bush is there as well. I'm joined by NBC's Tim Russert, moderator of Meet The Press and our Washington bureau chief. Tim, the vice president tonight obviously took his anti-sigh pills. He had his behavior under control.
But then, why should this have been surprising? After Gore’s August 2000 convention speech, Brokaw’s performance bordered on comic, as he managed to tick his way through a long string of anti-Gore spin-points. (As David Broder would do in his column; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/26/03.) One example: To the multimillionaire Brokaw, Gore had trafficked in that ol debbil, “class warfare.” (Brokaw: “It is a daring proposal on the part of the Democrats to concentrate on working-class families and to suggest that there is real class warfare going on, because that's a tactic, though it looks great on paper, often backfires during the course of the campaign.”) But his most comical moment came at sign-off, as he took a final throw from Claire Shipman:
SHIPMAN (8/17/00): Well, Tom, I'm not sure if you can hear me, because I can barely hear you, but one of the things I was struck by in this speech was (unintelligible), the knowledge that he may be too serious, he may not be the most exciting politician. As you'll remember, he spent the last year trying to prove that he is an exciting politician. A lot of his aides believe he needed to just embrace who he was and I think the speech was striking, at least at the very end, for that. Tom.

BROKAW: Thank you very much, NBC's Claire Shipman. No Naomi Wolf tonight—no talk about the Alpha Male.

Shipman’s statement was odd enough—but how about that remark by her anchor? Actually, there was some “talk about the alpha male” that night. It came to us straight from Brokaw. (Finally, by Bush and Gore’s third debate, Brokaw was able to impose a bit of self-discipline. See the transcript below.)

At any rate, chatting with the AP this month, Brokaw couldn’t seem to break an old habit. He just couldn’t praise that troubling class warrior until he’d offered one more snide remark! But then, such remarks had long been a trait of his class—and they’d helped send George Bush you-know-where.

BROKAW—AND GE—COME AROUND: For the record, Brokaw’s Discovery special was quite good; we’ll suggest that you watch it when it re-airs. We will note that Brokaw took a pass on this topic during Campaign 2000, when it might even have mattered.

How strongly he feels about climate change now! Back then, though, Candidate Gore was being ridiculed for his long-time good judgment on warming. For example, the Bush campaign was running ads in Pennsylvania and Michigan, suggesting that Gore wanted to get rid of “the car”—an embarrassingly bogus but punishing spin-point. (Example: “Al Gore may see the car as our enemy, but in Michigan, it's our jobs," Lee Iacocca said in a series of 30-second spots.) It could have been a teaching moment—a chance to review Gore’s work on this matter, to examine what those rube-running Bush ads were saying. Funny, though—Brokaw took a pass. That teaching moment never occurred—not on NBC, or on other big networks.

Why is Brokaw speaking up now? We had to chuckle when the Chicago’s Tribune’s John Crook interviewed the fiery ozone ace about his climate change special:

CROOK (7/16/06): There's so much to be gleaned here, in fact, that Brokaw himself, a longtime environmental activist in his personal life, admits to being surprised by some of the information.

"Two things surprised me," he says. "One was the rapidly expanding consensus about the science (of global warming). The scientific community and even oil company presidents, manufacturers such as GE, are now all on board with the idea that it's real.

"The other (surprising) fact is the pace of the change...”

Of course, Gore was right about this all along—which explains why there’s “so much of Gore” in that film. But now, even GE has at last come on board! And let’s be unfair, because he’s earned it: So has Jack Welch’s pal Brokaw!

STILL FLIRTING WITH THE TOP TEN: Brokaw admits to being surprised! (Funny. That was our feeling when we watched his string of snide comments during Campaign 2000!) But then, we too were surprised by some of the science in the Gore film—and in Brokaw’s special. If you haven’t seen Gore’s film, we strongly advise you to go out and do so. Gore was mocked for his work on this subject for years. He deserves your support now. (For ourselves, we got much more from the film on repeat viewings.)

For the record, An Inconvenient Truth is straining to become the third biggest documentary film of all time. Here are the all-time standings. And if you click around on that site just a bit, you can even follow the film’s day-by-day earnings. Nine weeks in, Gore’s film is still flirting with Top Ten status. It was the nation’s tenth-biggest film last Saturday night, finishing twelfth for the weekend.

Indeed, this film is so big that even Brokaw felt that he had to say something nice—after a snide remark, of course. But then, as Gore explains several times in his film, it’s hard to break out of old habits.

THE TRIUMPH OF THE WILL: By Debate 3, he finally did it! Somehow, Brokaw managed to come back on the air without instantly dissing Vile Gore:

BROKAW (10/17/00): The families come on the stage now in St. Louis after 90 minutes of this town hall format. It is not going to replace the WWF. But as a political exchange, it was the most muscular yet. No body slams. Both candidates are still in the ring and still standing.

To mix my sports metaphors for a moment, if it takes seven games to solve—to resolve the World Series, it is a shame that we can't go on for four more debates, because they both seemed to have both found their feet tonight in this debate.

In the first seven questions that he answered, Texas Governor George W. Bush invoked the people and trusting them. Vice President Al Gore, as advertised, did try to draw the line very carefully between his experience and the record of the last eight years and the promises of the Texas governor, which he says are fiscally unrealistic.

NBC's Tim Russert, our Washington bureau chief and moderator of Meet the Press, is in St. Louis. And he has been watching all of this as well. Tim?

At long last, Brokaw played it straight. With an impressive show of will, he turned his back on a bad habit.