RUSH: In 1992, Nightline, Ted Koppel says to Algore, ‘Joining us is Senator Al Gore, whose new book is [Earth in the Lurch] Earth in the Balance. Rush Limbaugh, whose syndicated radio show is heard across the country. There is, Senator Gore, a growing feeling — and I don’t want to say it represents anything representing a majority yet, but a growing feeling — that sometimes the environmentalists are putting the spotted owl and the snail darter ahead of human beings.’
ALGORE: We now face a global ecological crisis that is more serious than anything human civilization has ever faced, and there’s a problem of scale here. To discuss, uh, the friction in the passage and implementation of some of the laws on the local environment — and to weigh at the same time that against this unprecedented global crisis — I think presents a — a problem of scale. When you talk about military matters, you talk about local conflicts, regional theaters of action, and strategic conflicts, same with the environment. You’ve got local environmental problems; regional problems, like acid rain. Now we’ve got a whole new category of global or strategic problems, which include the hole in the ozone layer — which now could appear above the United States — global climate change, the destruction of the rain forests at a rate that means they’ll be totally gone in another few decades unless we stop, the pollution of the oceans and the atmosphere, and the like. These represent brand-new challenges that call for a new kind of response.
RUSH: Now, remember, this is 16 years ago: 1992. Koppel then said to me, ‘Rush, I’ve listened to you many afternoons, as you know. You tend to — I don’t want to say you dismiss all these issues, but at least you dismiss them as having been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.’
RUSH 1992: There is no ozone hole above the United States and if we want to get into a detailed discussion of ozone depletion we can, but I think, Ted, that there is not a crisis. See, this is the problem I have. I don’t think the earth is fragile. I don’t think the ecology is fragilely balanced and I think that the doomsday industry that is typified by members of the Hollywood acting community who say, ‘We’ve only got ten years left to save our planet, we’ve gotta act now,’ there’s no way, if what these people say is true, that we could solve these problems in ten years anyway. It’s budget time in Washington; NASA is being cut, and I think that this fright and doom scenario is designed to frighten people. Everything in this country today seems to be crisis. I can’t do anything without having to face it as a crisis. We don’t have any time to think about it. There are as many scientists, maybe even more on the opposite side of all of these doomsday predictions, and I think that —
ALGORE: That’s not true.
RUSH 1992: Oh, yes, there are!
RUSH: (laughing) It’s not true. Yes, it is. Here Gore then continues.
ALGORE: Rush did identify, I think, the key point of disagreement early in his first response, and that is the question of whether or not the earth is fragile. Are we as human beings now capable of doing serious damage to the global environment? That’s really the key difference between the —
RUSH 1992: Do you think we are?
ALGORE: Yes, I think so. I think for three reasons, Rush. I think three things have changed — in our lifetimes, incidentally. Number one: The population explosion now adds the entire population of China every ten years. Number two: We’ve got new technologies we never had before like chlorofluorocarbons, which magnify our impact on the earth. Just as nuclear weapons transformed warfare, these thousands of new technologies that magnify our ability to exploit the earth, change our relationship to the earth.
RUSH: Next, Koppel said, ‘Rush Limbaugh, we’ve both run into politicians during our careers who know how to fake it on an issue. I don’t know anybody on Capitol Hill who is more knowledgeable on the subject of environment than Algore. You have to take seriously what he says.’
RUSH 1992: The environmental movement as fueled by the militants who lead it, I think, is the new home of socialism. I think it is. They’ve adopted a constituency here which can’t speak — that is trees and rocks and so forth — and can’t reject the so-called help and concern that the advocates are giving it, and gives them a stage from which to constantly launch attacks at capitalism. If you listen to what Senator Gore said, it is manmade products which are causing the ozone completion. Yet Mt. Pinatubo has put 570 times the amount of chlorine into the atmospheric in one eruption than all of manmade chlorofluorocarbons in one year; and the ultraviolet radiation measured on this country’s surface since 1974 has shown no increase whatsoever. And if there’s ozone depletion going on, you’re going to have UV radiation levels going way up, and they simply aren’t. The sun makes ozone, and there’s an ozone hole in the Antarctic Circle and the Arctic Circle simply because the sun is below the horizon for a portion of the year.
RUSH: Koppel finally says, ‘I’ll tell you what, gentlemen, we’re down to our last 45 seconds. So a closing thought from you, Senator Gore. We just heard from Rush Limbaugh.’
ALGORE: Well, there’s a classic experiment in science, Ted, about a frog that’s dropped in a pot of boiling water and jumps right out. When the same frog is put in a pot of lukewarm water that’s slowly brought to a boil it just sits there until it’s rescued. A frog’s nervous system needs a sudden jolt to get the connection. We’re like that frog! We’re getting the signals of ecological devastation around the world, but we’re still dead in the water. The ozone hole is threatening to open up above North America —
RUSH: Never did.
ALGORE: — above Kennebunkport —
RUSH: It never did!
ALGORE: — and still we’re not reacting.
ALGORE: The American people want to see us take this problem seriously and do something about it.
KOPPEL: All right, Senator Gore. I thank you very much, Rush, you’ll have three hours —
RUSH 1992: There’s no ozone depletion, there’s no crisis. Thanks, Ted.
RUSH: That was 1992, February 4th of 1992 on ABC’s Nightline, a debate of the environmental crisis. I think I was in Buffalo. That’s right. I had to do this from Buffalo, you’re right, because I was up there on a Rush to Excellence Tour, yeah. You’re right, you know? The setup wasn’t the best, but nevertheless, the thing to take from this is, it’s 16 years ago and the ozone hole was going to break out over America. It has not done so. The ozone hole has been shrinking. Sixteen years ago, this was the same arguments, and they talked then about ten years. ‘If we don’t do anything, we’ve got ten years.’ Well, we haven’t been doing much because they keep bellyaching that we’re not doing much. We haven’t done anything, actually, and they’re still bellyaching. So I remember when this aired, I went home whenever I finished. I went back to the room.
My dad, who could not listen to the radio because of a hearing problem, it just irritated him, but he was able to watch television with closed-captioning. You gotta remember, my dad — as I’ve mentioned over the years — for the longest time… I mean, up until… Let’s just say 1991. Well, sooner. Say 1987. So when I’m 37, he still considers himself to be a failure as a father ’cause he couldn’t convince me to go to college. I’m the only member of my family that didn’t graduate. Hell, I barely made it out of (interruption). Well, I didn’t make it out of ballroom dance, I quit because I had to go to it. It was taught by a drill sergeant in WACs. I said, ‘This is not for me, this place.’ I knew what I wanted to do. I was passionate about radio. Hell, folks, I even flunked speech. Not because he didn’t do the speeches, because I didn’t outline them, already had a technique for doing speeches, but they should have called the course Outline 101.
So my dad, even though my radio career finally broke out, success was happening in Sacramento and I had moved to New York in 1988, and he was aware even though he couldn’t listen much to the radio ’cause it irritated him. My mom reported to him. So when he saw this program on Nightline, my mother called and told me the story. He’s watching, he got to the first commercial break, and my dad took off his glasses and looked at my mother (her name was Millie) and she said he just had the most dumbfounded look on his face. He looked at her and said, ‘Millie, where in hell did he learn all this?’ And my mother looked back at him and said, ‘From you, silly.’ He had thought that he was a giant failure throughout his life ’cause I didn’t go to college. You know, he’d come out of Great Depression, World War II, and the key to surviving something like that was a college education. That’s what you needed to get a job, and I didn’t have that, so he finally realized that this was gonna pay off and work out. I went back and I was expecting all kinds of accolades from people, great performance. I heard from more conservative environmental types that I was the wrong guy to have been on this show. They should have had an official environmentalist debate Gore, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. (laughs)
RUSH: By the way, audio sound bite number 24, Algore. This is probably year-and-a-half after the Nightline debate. This is November 9th of 1993, Larry King Alive, the Algore debate with Ross Perot on NAFTA. This is what Algore said.
ALGORE: Let me just finish this one point: And distinguished Americans from Colin Powell to Tip O’Neill to Rush Limbaugh…
RUSH: He was talking about people who support NAFTA. So back then, I mean this is Vice President Gore saying this in the first year of the Clinton administration, I was a distinguished American.