Few, if any, American politicians are more self-righteous than Vice President Al Gore. And nowhere is Mr. Gore more self-righteous than in his 1992 book, “Earth in the Balance.” This piece of politically correct propaganda blames the world’s environmental problems on capitalism, a consumer culture of a “dysfunctional civilization” and, of course, male-dominated societies.
Last Sunday, The Washington Post reproduced Mr. Gore’s Harvard transcript as well as his grades and scores at the elite St. Albans high school and later at Vanderbilt University’s divinity and law schools. In a word, the transcripts reveal that Mr. Gore’s post-secondary academic performance was rather dismal, particularly in the field of science.
Now, admittedly, education is a lifelong process, and Mr. Gore may well have learned a thing or two since he dropped out of Vanderbilt twice. It is well-worth noting, however, that throughout middle-age, Mr. Gore has shown unmistakable signs of being a slow learner still. After all, it did take him three decades to understand the health consequences of smoking, a period during which Mr. Gore received thousands of dollars in contributions from tobacco companies and the Gore family farm profitably grew tobacco as a cash crop. Still, all caveats aside, Mr. Gore’s grades do offer a tantalizing peek at his formal economic and scientific education.
Despite Mr. Gore’s image as star pupil, the kid most likely to be the first to raise his hand in class, it seems that Mr. Gore barely applied himself during his years as an undergraduate and graduate student. Indeed, his sophomore year at Harvard, The Post notes, was “the year Gore’s classmates remember him spending a notable amount of time in the Dunster House basement lounge shooting pool, watching television, eating hamburgers and occasionally smoking marijuana.” Please, take a moment to appreciate the scene painted in that one sentence.
In introductory economics, the only economics course Mr. Gore ever took, he received a C-, which goes a long way toward explaining his December remark that he would consider raising taxes should the economy fall into recession.
If the rudiments of fiscal policy proved to be too taxing for young Al, it should hardly be surprising that the self-appointed protector of the world’s ecosystems had almost as much trouble understanding the basic concept of biology. After all, Mr. Gore’s high school performance on the college board achievement tests in physics (488 out of 800 “terrible,” St. Albans retired teacher and assistant headmaster John Davis told The Post) and chemistry (519 out of 800 “He didn’t do too well in chemistry,” Mr. Davis observed) suggests that Mr. Gore would have trouble with science for the rest of his life. At Harvard and Vanderbilt, Mr. Gore continued bumbling along.
As a Harvard sophomore, scholar Al “earned” a D in Natural Sciences 6 in a course presciently named “Man’s Place in Nature.” That was the year he evidently spent more time smoking cannabis than studying its place among other plants within the ecosystem. His senior year, Mr. Gore received a C+ in Natural Sciences 118.
At Vanderbilt divinity school, Mr. Gore took a course in theology and natural science. The assigned readings included the apocalyptic, and widely discredited “Limits to Growth,” which formed much of the foundation for “Earth in the Balance.” It is said that Mr. Gore failed to hand in his book report on time. Thus, his incomplete grade turned into an F, one of five Fs Mr. Gore received at divinity school, which may well be a worldwide record.
In his highly informative biography of the vice president, “Inventing Al Gore,” Newsweek correspondent Bill Turque writes that Mr. Gore’s “moribund academic career suddenly gained new energy and direction” at the beginning of his junior year in the fall of 1967. “The English student who plodded through Chaucer and pulled a string of Cs started getting As and Bs, and his academic program began to look more like a preparation for public life.” But as Mr. Turque also notes, it was at the beginning of Mr. Gore’s junior year that “the [Vietnam] War’s shadow lengthened.”
This is when grade inflation really took off. Not only had the Johnson administration announced an end to graduate school deferments, but the U.S. military presence in Vietnam had dramatically increased, reaching nearly 500,000 troops compared to 23,000 in early 1965. Flunking out of undergraduate school meant a visit to the local draft board. Rabidly anti-war professors, who dominated political science faculties across the nation, began handing out Cs for breathing, thus ratcheting-up the entire grading scale. This surely explains part of Mr. Gore’s academic improvement.
But how smart really was Harvard Al? Mr. Turque says that Mr. Gore “aced a course in how to prepare and deliver a speech.” If so, it can only mean that Mr. Gore, who delivered some of American political history’s most idiotic blather during the height of President Clinton’s impeachment crisis, has markedly regressed.
Consider also a letter from Harvard that young Al sent to his father, the senator. “We do have inveterate antipathy for communism or paranoia, as I like to put it,” he wrote, commenting on America’s fear of communism. He went on to say that such a “psychological ailment” was a “case of national madness.” Now, as it happens, Mr. Gore’s letter was written decades after the Ukrainian famine and other Stalinist horrors, all perpetrated in the name of communism, had killed more comrades than Hitler did. His letter was written after Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward and in the midst of Communist China’s crazed Cultural Revolution. It sure sounds like this Harvard undergraduate had somehow managed to absorb the political bias of most of his lectures.
Mr. Gore’s high point of academic achievement at Harvard was his 99-page senior thesis, “The Impact of Television on the Conduct of the Presidency, 1947-1969,” which so impressed his father, then a liberal senator from Tennessee whom voters ousted from office the next year, that he sent it to the Nixon White House. As Mr. Turque notes, the prominence of his name in liberal circles allowed Mr. Gore to interview all the usual suspects: Bill Moyers, Johnson aide Jack Valenti, New York Times columnist James Reston, historian and Kennedy apologist Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and several top network news executives.
Presciently and ironically, in his thesis Mr. Gore used as his case study the evolution of the presidential news conference. Mr. Turque writes: “Gore explores the medium’s hunger for informality and its unforgiving nature toward those unable to master its demands.” Why prescient and ironic? Because Mr. Gore seems to have learned nothing from his own thesis. Recall the news conference disaster over which he presided when he attempted to legitimize his fund-raising calls from his White House office by declaring not once, but seven times that “no controlling legal authority” had barred him from making those calls. Then again, what would one expect from a law school drop-out who once achieved a D-level grade of 69 in Civil Procedure II?