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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We now turn to a man who's a keen observer of Washington's political theater. Dana Milbank writes the "Washington Sketch" column for The Washington Post. He was up on Capitol Hill at both the Congressional hearings, where the former Vice President and Oscar winner testified about the threat of climate change.

Good morning.

Mr. DANA MILBANK (Columnist, The Washington Post): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Well, from what we've just heard from Elizabeth, it sounds like it was a pretty good show.

Mr. MILBANK: Well, it was. And it was sort of, you know, billed in advance as sort of the Ali-Frasier of global warming. And here was Gore coming to the Hill to confront the flat-Earthers and they didn't let him down, really. Jim Inhofe, he's the prominent Republican on this committee in the Senate, has previously said that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated. So, we just couldn't wait for him to mix it up with Gore, and they didn't let us down.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. And then I gathered there was one of Gore's critics ended up reading a newspaper.

Mr. MILBANK: Well, he did. This is over on the House side, Joe Barton, a Republican on that committee, sort of he was really trying to go after Gore. But, you know, Gore, you know, it's hard to challenge him on global warming; he's got a lot of material. And he said that the consensus is greater on global warming than anything with the exception of gravity.

Then he lectured Barton and he said, you know, if the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is fire-retardant. He was getting a great laugh. And then, that's when Barton gave up the question and started hoisting the newspaper. And then Danny Hastert, there the next guy down the line to do some questioning, sort of sourly said to Gore that - called him a movie star. And Gore said, no, Rin Tin Tin's a movie star. I just have a slide show.

MONTAGNE: So, Gore sounded like he sort of has a passion that maybe he lacked in the 2000 presidential election.

Mr. MILBANK: Well, he's certainly got his focus now. As that story you just played showed, he was very emotional as he asked the questions of what future generations would bring. You know, he's also quite the wonk. I mean, he's talking how our air has gone from 300 parts per million to 383 parts per million. You know, tons of carbon in the atmosphere.

But, you know, he was a forceful figure. I mean, he's partially forceful because he is rather an imposing figure now. He's a much larger Al Gore than the one who left the political scene years ago. And he was walking around yesterday in big cowboy boots, so you didn't really want to get on his way.

MONTAGNE: So was it standing room only?

Mr. MILBANK: More than standing room only. They had an overflow room. And then the overflow room was overflowing. So they actually had two overflow rooms, and people are limited in terms of, you know, the number of people from each media organization that can get in there. People were waiting for Al Gore to walk in. Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of State, got out with her security entourage and walked right by the room and people barely looked up. They were not interested in anything but the former vice president yesterday.

MONTAGNE: So, if you had to give it a star as of performance, very briefly, how many?

Mr. MILBANK: I'm afraid I wouldn't give it a lot of stars. You know, it was supposed to come out as inconvenient truth, and it really, the whole thing played more like "Inherit the Wind."

MONTAGNE: Dana, thanks very much.

Mr. MILBANK: Sure thing.

MONTAGNE: Dana Milbank writes the "Washington Sketch" column for The Washington Post. Yesterday on this program, NPR science correspondent Richard Harris sorted through the questions that some scientists have raised about Al Gore's data and conclusions. You can that discussion at npr.org.

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