The following is another excerpt from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.” It deals with our brief meeting with Vice President Al Gore.
In late 1999 our good friend Pat O’Dwyer arraigned for Eve, my brother and I to meet with Vice President (and presidential candidate) Gore at LaGuardia Airport. Now, I thought we had a friend in Gore because a few months earlier I had done him a solid favor. You see, Paul Harvey, in an October broadcast, reported that the Vice President at a White House ceremony, while presenting a national award to a Colorado FFA member, was told by this FFA member he one day planned a career in production agriculture. The Vice President, according to Harvey, then told this FFA member that there was no future for them in that career path, for production agriculture is being shifted out of the U.S. to the third world, thanks in no small part to a Vice President-assisted U.N. initiative known as Agenda 2000.
When I first heard this story my initial reaction was “urban legend.”
So, I started researching it and kept calling various publications and organizations that were supposed to be the source of this story. Bottom line, no one could verify it. It turned out to be an unsubstantiated and unverified tall tale.
I called the Vice President’s office in the afternoon of October 22, 1999 to ask about this story and if the Vice President had any comment about it. After 5:30 p.m. a woman from the Vice President’s staff called me back. She said Gore denied the story to the Iowa media on Wednesday and then faxed me a little press release concerning his denial of this really weird tale.
On October 27, 1999 I called Paul Harvey’s staff. I told them why I was calling, concerning that Gore story. Right away his staffer put the blame on Agri-News, identifying them as the source. I told her that yes, I contacted Agri-News, and then their source, the Wyoming Wool Growers, and bottom line, neither could provide any credible evidence or substantiation for that story. I pointed out that not even a date for the event can be provided. I asked her if she realized that the story prompted a denial on the part of the Vice President. She said that the Vice President’s office in fact did call them (SURPRISE SURPRISE) to deny the story and was supposed to send them something but never got back to them. I told her they got back to me and asked her if she would like a copy of what they sent me. She said she would. I told her how this story circulated like wildfire, thanks in no small part to Mr. Harvey, and I know some people that actually called their Congressional representatives and Senators in outrage over it, who now look a bit like idiots. She kept saying what a shame it was.
When I sent the fax I wrote, in part, the following: “To Paul Harvey’s staff person, Here is what I received from the VP’s office on Friday. I’m sure if you call Ms. Ratcliff she could provide further details. I look forward to hearing Mr. Harvey’s retraction and apology to the VP for reading that story.”
Surprisingly, during his October 29, 1999 broadcast Paul Harvey commented that the Gore comments to the FFA students that was reported in AgriNews was denied by the Vice President. The Vice President thinks there is bright future for people in agriculture. Harvey took no responsibility for broadcasting misinformation. He only reported that Gore denies the comments as was reported. This still leaves folks with the opinion that Harvey’s report may have been factual and the Vice President was merely changing his story. But, it was the closest that Harvey would come and I later heard the Vice President’s team was very pleased with the work I had done with regard to this. I also published all of the details regarding this incident on a number of farmer related websites and discussion groups.
So, I thought we had a friend in Gore. When we met him at LaGuardia I actually got some press to cover it, including RNN news
The Vice President’s advance team were floored that the press was there. We had a whole bunch of information for Gore, including ways in which to fix the crop insurance program and legislative language for our disaster aid. We also gave him information how the Administration could give us our aid directly via discretionary money available in the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). We had maybe 2 or 3 minutes with him. I still remember how soft his hands were, like butter. And Eve and I both noticed how “fresh” he smelled. Quite fresh. My brother Brian used a joke I gave him when he reached to shake his hand. My brother said:
“It’s an honor and privilege to finally meet the man … that was once Tommy Lee Jones’ roommate (actor Jones and Gore were roommates at the University of Tennessee).
It caught Gore off guard for a second, then he burst out laughing and said it was his “claim to fame.” I wanted to say how the years have been far kinder to him than they have to Jones, but thought better of it and bit my tongue. When I started to go into our problems and what help we specifically needed he put his hand up to cut me off and said something to the effect that we would discuss it another time and implied he would get back to us.
We never heard from Gore again. But, we did get some awesome pictures out of the meeting.