Like Al Pacino in "The Godfather Part III," just when eco warrior Al Gore thinks he's pulled himself free of Washington, D.C.'s partisan politics, he gets pulled right back into the muck.
Former Democratic Vice President Gore, one of the organizers behind the July 7 global-climate-crisis-awareness concert Live Earth (see "Snoop, Pharrell, Peas, Chili Peppers To Perform At Gore's Live Earth Gigs"), has run into opposition from Senate Republicans over his plans to have one of the eight worldwide shows take place in D.C. And, depending on who you believe, the objection to the concert is either a matter of simple parliamentary procedure or just politics as usual.
Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe, who staunchly believes that climate change is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," has vowed to block Gore from having the show on the Capitol's West Front lawn. The pair sparred recently when Gore went to the Hill to give testimony about the dire need for immediate action on global climate change, and Inhofe is now threatening to indefinitely block a resolution that would allow Gore to use the steps of the Capitol for the U.S. leg of the concert.
On Wednesday, Inhofe said, "There has never been a partisan political event at the Capitol, and this is a partisan political event. ... There's no compromise. Either we change the rules or we don't." His comments came a week after Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid tried to pass a measure authorizing the Live Earth show to take place on the Capitol steps. That measure, however, hit a speed bump when Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell objected to the resolution, asking for more time to review it.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said the objection was mostly based on parliamentary-procedure grounds but hinted that politics could also be playing a small part. Mostly, though, he said the Senate Committee on Rules & Administration was asked to pass the resolution without seeing it first.
"They weren't given a copy of the bill first and [Senator McConnell] asked to wait on a vote until the rules committee could see it," said Stewart, adding that the Capitol steps have historically been used for presidential inaugurations but not concerts. "The other objection that was raised is that if they authorize this event by a nonpartisan group, which is what [Live Earth] say they are, they you have to open that space up to all nonpartisan groups. So then you might have the [National Rifle Association], the [American Civil Liberties Union] or National Right to Life trying to have concerts there every day. How do we say yes to this group and then say no to the NRA? You can't."
Asked if there is also a partisan skirmish behind the battle as well, Stewart said it's "possible," but that wasn't the main issue.
Gore and the concert's organizers had hoped to use the picturesque National Mall for the concert, an iconic stretch of green space that runs from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol. It has been the site of a number of historic events, from the 1963 march on Washington in which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech to a massive anti-Vietnam War rally in 1969 and an anti-Iraq war protest in January of this year.
After being told the Mall was already booked for July 7 by the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Democratic Senators Harry Reid and Republican Olympia Snowe suggested the free event move to the West Front lawn area of the Capitol.
"On July 7, 2007, Live Earth will unite over 2 billion people across all seven continents, and while it's unfortunate for the American people that we are being blocked from staging the U.S. concert in our nation's capital, the show must go on," the event's senior advisor, Chad Griffin, said in a statement. "Like music, the issue of global warming transcends all boundaries, even American political parties."
Organizers reportedly wanted to use the Capitol as a backdrop to help spur some of the expected 2 billion worldwide viewers of the event to take action to combat global warming. In addition to wherever the U.S. show lands, the concerts are slated to take place in Shanghai, China; Sydney, Australia; Johannesburg, South Africa; London; and to-be-determined cities in Brazil, Antarctica and Japan.
Among the artists slated to take part in the shows are: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kelly Clarkson, Foo Fighters, Pharrell, Snoop Dogg, Bon Jovi, Lenny Kravitz, Sheryl Crow, AFI, John Mayer, Bloc Party, John Legend, Black Eyed Peas, Akon, Fall Out Boy and Korn.
With Congress on Easter break next week, Stewart said it's likely that a vote on the concert will not be held for at least two weeks.