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Al Gore's Hot Air, Iran Sends a Letter and More

The Journal Editorial Report

Paul Gigot: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report," a message from Iran. As pressure mounts on the Bush administration to engage in face-to-face talks, what does the Iranian president's recent letter tell us about the regime we're dealing with? Plus, the global warming frenzy: Media hype reaches new heights, ahead of Al Gore's film release.

Ray Nagin, mayor, New Orleans: This is the biggest crisis in the history of this country.

Gigot: But what happens to scientists who disagree with the conventional wisdom? Find out after these headlines.

Gigot: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made headlines this week with a rambling letter to President Bush that declares, among other things, the death of Western democracies. The 18-page diatribe reads, in part: "Liberalism and Western style-democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the letter as far short of a diplomatic breakthrough, but some have urged the administration to take it seriously and engaged in one-on-one negotiations with Iran. Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor Dan Henninger, editorial board member Rob Pollock, and foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens.

Bret, you read the Ahmadinejad letter. What do you think he was trying to accomplish?

Stephens: Well, it's a piece of work. I think--look, people think it's a diplomatic opening. In fact, it's a snub. There's no suggestion for negotiation. There's no moderation of Iran's position. There's no offer in the letter. It's a diatribe about, as you said, the decline in Western civilization, the rise of a kind of religious messianism, in which he believes. And I think its appeal was mainly to Iranian hard-liners and maybe Western leftists. There was a lot of talk about haves and have-nots, and so on. But what it wasn't, was a diplomatic opening of the kind that Richard Lugar and others--Democrats, Kofi Annan--have been calling for.

Gigot: Trying to appeal to Western sensibilities at all, Rob?

Pollock: Well, not just Western leftists, but Third World anti-Americanism, of which there's unfortunately a lot. The Iranian president just gave a speech to cheering crowds in Indonesia, making the point essentially that, look, why should these rich countries be allowed to have nuclear power and not us? And he's finding a lot of support in the world for that argument.

Henninger: You know, I think what's going on here is that the mullahs have been studying the old Soviet Union Cold War playbook. This is essentially equivalent to Nikita Khrushchev coming to the United Nations, banging his shoe on the table, and saying "We will bury you," from which people concluded, these people are crazy.

When they do that, you get a kind of predictable reaction from the left in this country. They say, "We have got to go in and negotiate with the Soviets to reduce their missiles. We have to go in now and negotiate with the Iranians to solve the missile crisis with them." And as they do that, the military option falls, and the negotiation option rises, exactly that way the dynamic worked in the Cold War.

Gigot: Before we get to that negotiation question, I want to show our viewers one clip from, or one excerpt from this. It's about 9/11. And here's what Ahmadinejad said.

He said, "September 11 was not a simple operation. Could it be planned and executed without coordination with intelligence and security services or their extensive infiltration? Of course, this is just an educated guess. Why have the various aspects of the attack been kept secret? Why are we not told who botched their responsibilities? And why aren't those responsible identified and put on trial?"

Bret, that didn't sound like a diplomatic overture to an American president, having suffered through that terrible day?

Stephens: No, it's bizarre. And what it, I think, underscores is that we keep telling ourselves that the Iranians, at the end of the day, are rational actors situated in a particular place in the world, and they are driving at something in a rationale way. That's not entirely clear when you're dealing with Ahmadinejad. He is a believer in a certain form of Shiite messianism. And it seems that he is driving towards a confrontation, which he thinks he will either win, or which will augur the beginning of a new religious era in Shiite history.

Gigot: But Madeleine Albright said this week, in responding to the letter that look, an American president has to discount some of these kinds of utterances. She compared it, as you did, to the Cuban missile crisis and said, you've got to ignore their craziness and you've got to accept some of the positive overtures. Is this something that the American president has to do?

Henninger: I would say the American president most certainly should do it, if Madeleine Albright and Jimmy Carter and the Europeans would sign a document saying that ultimately we are willing to use military force against Iran. They won't do that. What they want to do is push George Bush and Condoleezza Rice into a negotiation, which then puts the burden on the American presidency to solve this problem. And they'll become the source of the problem. I see no reason why George Bush should allow himself to be pulled into this trap, because they are not going to support him in crunch time.

Stephens: And the Cuban missile crisis is a bit of an inapt comparison because, remember, Kennedy put a quarantine around Cuba, and he was ready to go to war over the subject if the Russians didn't remove their missiles from Cuba. None of that is being proposed by Mrs. Albright or other members of the Clinton administration or the Europeans who are pushing negotiations. They're saying take all of these options off the table, not only military ones but Chapter VII sanctions as well.

Gigot: But Rob, the argument of the grand bargainers is, look, if you talk to them and it doesn't work, at least you'll have rallied support from the rest of the world for any hard action you need to take.

Pollock: Maybe so, but look, it's amazing if you step back and think about it that the main concern of the world right now is what we're going to do about the Iranian program, not what the Iranians are going to do.

Gigot: Ahmadinejad's strategy is working. Isn't that what it suggests?

Pollock: It is working.

Henninger: And the press and the Democrats are dignifying that strategy with a kind of credulousness that borders on dangerous naiveté.

Gigot: Boy, it's going to be hard for the president to resist, I'll tell you that. OK.

Coming up, Al Gore's new film presents global warming as settled fact. But is it? Some scientists on the other side of the debate say they're being shut out. We'll talk to one of them when we come back.

Announcer: Early this morning Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans.

Gore: Is it possible that we should prepare against other threats, besides terrorists?

Gigot: Welcome back. That was a sneak peek at Al Gore's new global warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." The 2000 Democratic presidential nominee's movie and accompanying book are set for release later this month. But my guest this week says Gore and other global-warming alarmists have created a climate of fear, intimidating dissenting scientists into silence on the subject. Richard Lindzen is a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prof. Lindzen, welcome.

Lindzen: Thank you.

Gigot: We keep hearing and reading that all scientists agree about certain things on global warming: that the world is warming; that it's man-made, the cause is man-made; and that we must act urgently about it. You're a meteorologist, what do you think scientists really agree on?

Lindzen: Well, I think they agree that we've probably warmed about a half degree centigrade in the last century. I think they agree that carbon dioxide has gone up 30%. I think we agree that carbon dioxide would tend to contribute warming. But there is no agreement that the warming we've seen is due to man. Moreover, the warming we've seen is much less than we would have expected on the basis of the models that produce alarm.

Gigot: If carbon emissions aren't the cause of global warming, what are some of the other possibilities?

Lindzen: Well, there are numerous possibilities at the level of a few tenths of the degree that we're seeing, including nothing. That is to say, the earth's climate is forever changing. It's always warming and cooling, and far more in any given locale than it is globally, and you don't need anything to cause it. If we understood it precisely, I think we'd be in much better shape, but that isn't the case.

Gigot: Some of these predictions of global warming of five, six degrees over the course of the next century--obviously we don't know that for a fact because it's ahead of us. They're based on computer models. How accurate are those models?

Lindzen: Oh, at this point, there's virtually no objective criterion that says that they work. Moreover, I mean, carbon dioxide alone wouldn't cause that. It would only cause about a degree. The predictions of a lot more come from the way the models treat clouds, and every modeler I know acknowledges that they do a disastrous job on clouds. So those predictions are based on things that we know are wrong.

Gigot: So what is behind--what I hear you saying is that there's an awful lot of uncertainty in these models, and in fact about global warming. What is behind this aggressive assertion that there is a consensus that this is happening, that we're the cause, and we must act radically to do something about it?

Lindzen: Well, it's a good question. One can only guess at it, but the statement that all scientists agree has been stated since the late '80s, and, indeed, even earlier. Sen. Gore ran hearings at which he tried to get scientists who disagreed to recant. There has been pressure from very early on to get scientists on board. But the claim that they all agree occurred before most scientists involved were even involved.

Gigot: You recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that, quote, "It's my belief that may scientists have been cowed not merely by money, but by fear." How so?

Lindzen: Well, I mean, here it differs from place to place. What I find if a scientist says he wants to actually find out if there is an impact or not or what is the sensitivity of the climate to changing CO2, he's going to have a great deal of difficulty. The pressure is not so much to get on board the alarm, but to agree that there is sufficient uncertainty that alarm is possible. After that, I find the media, the environmental groups take over and translate that into what you hear. That is rarely what the scientists themselves say. But it's also the case that if a scientist does go over the top and start making things that are unsupportable, the professional organizations tend to defend him if he is attacked. But if, for instance, as Gore did with Ted Koppel on "Nightline" and asked Ted to find out any dirt he could on scientists who disagreed with him, the professional societies stay out. So there's that bias.

Gigot: OK, Richard Lindzen, thank you very much. Interesting conversation. Thanks for coming. When we come back, warming up to Al Gore. The former vice president stays mum as his movie sparks talk of another White House run. Our panel weighs in on that, and our "Hits and Misses" of the week, when "The Journal Editorial Report" continues.

Gigot: An organization that Al Gore is helping to launch intends to spend millions of dollars convincing Americans that global warming is an imminent threat. The group, Alliance for Climate Protection, plans to use advertising and grassroots organizing to target labor groups, hunters and evangelical Christians. Can the former vice president ride this heat wave all the way to the White House? We're back with Dan Henninger and Rob Pollock. Also joining the panel, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kim Strassel, who follows global warming.

It wasn't too long ago that Al Gore's Kyoto Protocol wasn't even brought to a formal vote in the Senate because they knew it would be defeated. Suddenly, a few years later, we've got this new alarmism about global warming, terrible threat and so on, and Congress must act. Has anything changed, actually, to help explain this new rush?

Strassel: Well, two things, but neither of which actually have to do with the merits of global warming. One is politics, which is that we didn't sign Kyoto, but a lot of the rest of the world did. And they have continued the pressure for America to stop being a "bad actor" and get on board.

Gigot: Of course, China and India are still not in this.

Strassel: No. The ones who matter most are not on board either. But the other thing has to do with, this is big money. You know, there is a lot of grant money and research money out there for scientists now, who go into climatology. This has encouraged a lot of people to keep interest in this. But in addition, companies themselves have realized that there is some way to make some bucks by getting on board of some sort of climate change program, where there's credits that they can traded. And so you have the nuclear industry, for instance, and other U.S. companies, are now putting pressure on congressmen to set up some sort of system here.

Gigot: So there is a political goal here of changing the energy agenda of the United States and energy policy. Rob?

Pollock: Look, what amazes me about this debate, as Prof. Lindzen mentioned, most of the warming happened before--everyone agrees there been some warming over the past century, but most of it happened before 1940.

The other thing that's important to remember is, throughout human history, you know, there have been very large swings in climate. There have been ice ages. There was a medieval warm period where it was much warmer than it is today. I think the lessons that we have to draw from this in terms of thinking about a response are, first of all, we're very likely to survive whatever comes our way, and secondly, the most important thing to do is probably to stay adaptable, to stay rich to be able to adjust.

Gigot: Well, you know, a lot of economists say, Dan, we don't know if global warming is real or not. But if it does occur in any significant degree, it would be bad. So what's wrong with buying a little policy insurance, the kind that Kyoto might provide?

Henninger: Yeah, that's an excellent question, because, to just play a little bit of the devil's advocate here, there are a lot of conservatives that I run in to who say exactly that. Two of the most prominent ones are Gary Becker, the Nobel Prize-winning economist from the University of Chicago, and Judge Richard Posner, who's on the Chicago appellate court. Now, both of their conservative credentials are impeccable. But they have rejected what, is essentially our position, which is just say no. Becker says, over the last 15 years, he's become convinced that something is going on here and that we should institute a system of trading credits or create financial incentives for people to create technologies to mitigate CO2. Posner actually thinks we should sign onto Kyoto and impose taxes on utilities rather than let the government mandate solutions. And you've got to wonder why--what is going on in the debate that would cause a Gary Becker, for instance, to think there is some credibility here and want go a more moderate solution rather than trying to sweep it off the table.

Strassel: You know, but it's not necessarily the consensus in the economic community. I mean, many would argue that the best insurance policy is to say no. And the reason why--Copenhagen Consensus, a group of economists, got together a while ago. They did a cost-benefit analysis of things that would most help in the world. And Kyoto was down at the very bottom. Things like fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria, clean drinking water, tearing down trade barriers--these are going to create the middle-income economies that we need a hundred years from now for them to be most able to deal with the effects of global warming, if it actually happens.

Gigot: And Kyoto isn't a free lunch, Rob. I mean the estimates are all over the place. Nobody knows really what it would cost, but there's no question that they would impose significant costs. And if you are unsure about of how severe global warming is going to be, do you want to incur those costs or do you want to allow economic growth to be as fast as it can be, so that you can then adapt? You're more flexible. You have more wealth. You can adapt more to whatever the future might hold.

Pollock: Yeah, look, any kind of response to Kyoto in terms of reducing CO2 emissions involves massive amounts of drain on the economy. The reason the Europeans have done relatively well in terms of meeting the Kyoto targets is because their economies have been growing so slowly. One exception to that has been Spain, whose CO2 emissions have increased at almost exactly the same percentage as their economy has grown.

Strassel: Well in fact, 13 of the 15 European countries are not meeting their Kyoto target.

Gigot: Let me--we don't have a lot of time, Dan, but I do want to ask you about Al Gore: getting fabulous press, a lot of puff pieces on Al Gore's prescience on global warming. Is he going to ride this right back to the White House?

Henninger: I think he's going to ride it into the game, because to do that, you need money. And let me tell you, the one thing global warming does is causes huge flows of funds toward scientists and--it looks like--politicians.

Gigot: All right. Thanks, Dan. I think you're right. We have to take one more break. When we come back, our "Hits and Misses" of the week.

Gigot: Winners and losers, picks and pans, "Hits and Misses." It's our way of calling attention to the best and the worst of the week. Item one, jackpot justice is put to the test and it's politically a sticky situation. Dan?

Henninger: Yeah, you bet. The tort lawyers have finally found the ultimate thing to sue on: Teflon-coated pans, right? Millions and millions and millions of pans going back 30 years. The idea is that, if you really heat them up, little particles of cancer spray into them.

Now, in 2005--this is a potential hit, because in 2005 Congress passed a law that said these massive class-action lawsuits have to be pulled out of state court systems--jackpot justice--and sent to the federal courts. This one involves class actions from 12 states. They are going to a federal court in Iowa, where the federal judge will have to look at it and presumably impose more-stringent standards on a very sticky, slippery lawsuit.

Gigot: OK, ouch, Dan. Thanks. Next, a hit for the NHL, but not the kind the fans are used to, Rob?

Pollock: Yeah, Paul, a lot of people might remember the old movie "Slap Shot," the hockey movie, in which the coach, played by Paul Newman, takes one of his players to task for passing up an opportunity to fight to score a goal.

Well, it turns out that the stereotype of hockey fans as, you know, bloodthirsty goons might be not be true after all, because the NHL responded to years of declining popularity and last year's strike by instituting a new set of rules--and, in fact, mostly enforcing old rules to make the game much more exciting. And that means stopping players from hooking and grabbing and, you know, otherwise interfering with players who actually know how to play the game well. And the result, you know, according to the consensus pretty much, has been the most exciting hockey season in anyone's memory. So kudos to the NHL. Keep it up.

Gigot: Well, losing your network TV contract can concentrate the mind a little more with network executives. OK, thanks, Rob. Finally, John Kerry's Iraq deadline approaches. Kim, what's a senator to do?

Strassel: Yeah. Monday marks the latest example of America ignoring the advice of John Kerry. He, last month, had called for American troops to immediately withdraw from Iraq unless the Iraqis formed a government by May 15. This wasn't taken much consideration in serious quarters. Not even many Democrats signed on. And thank goodness, because while the Iraqi process has been slow, they are making progress. And something that would not have happened if we had sent this message of defeat ,and ultimately you would have had the insurgents be that much redoubled in their efforts, and we wouldn't get stability there anytime soon.

Gigot: If John Kerry were president, I'd be willing to bet that he would be saying that a deadline like that is a terrible idea. This proves that, when you're a senator, you can pretty much say anything you want and nobody really cares, and there are no consequences because nobody is going to notice it.

Strassel: Thant's right.

Gigot: All right. That's it for this week's edition of the "The Journal Editorial Report." Please email your questions and comments to jer@foxnews.com. We want to know what you think of the show. Thanks to Dan Henninger, Rob Pollock and Kim Strassel. I'm Paul Gigot. Thank you for watching. And we hope to see you all next week.


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