In what may be the blockbuster hit of the political season, Al Gore is testifying to Congress tomorrow — twice. Not only is his testimony expected to influence the direction of coming legislation, but it may also reveal something of his intentions on the presidential race. One way or another, there’s sure to be drama.

First, at 9:30am, he’ll testify to [deep breath] a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment of the Committee on Science and Technology. (A live webcast here.) Also testifying at that hearing will be Bjorn Lomborg. Apparently John Dingell thinks Bjorn Lomborg is of commensurate intellectual and political status.

Pelosi has said, “His testimony will help us shape the kind of reforms we need and garner even more attention to this growing crisis.”

Next, at 2:30pm, he’ll testify to the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (the web page for Gore’s hearing is oddly covered with Inhofe propaganda — is the majority staff just not paying attention over there?), with no other witnesses. According to Drudge (for what it’s worth):

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Gore will get a 30 minute opening and then Boxer and her Republican counterpart, Sen. Inhofe, each get 15 minutes each of questioning in addition to their opening statements. Other senators will only get 5 min of Q & A.

Gore is reported to be bringing close to 300,000 post cards with him, sent in by people around the country urging strong action from Congress on climate change.

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As the gods of bureaucracy permit, our own Amanda Griscom Little will be at both hearings. As the internet gods permit, she’ll send a few dispatches. Also expected are packs of protestors, pro- and anti-Gore.

Here’s what I’ll be watching for:

  1. How bold are his policy suggestions?
    At various points in the past, Gore has suggested some politically explosive solutions, among them an immediate economy-wide “carbon freeze” and the wholesale replacement of the payroll tax with a carbon tax. Will he put those proposals before the House? If he does, I think we can say fairly definitively that he’s not running for president. He would be dooming his chances. If he doesn’t, well … hrmmm?
  2. How does he handle Inhofe?
    Sen. James Inhofe is a paranoid, belligerent, unrepentant party-hack fruit loop of the old school. He is, however, well-rehearsed. He’s firing with an intellectual BB gun, but he knows how to work that little pump-action stock like a kid on Christmas morning. He can get quite a few shots off in 15 minutes. Expect a hail of skeptical talking points. The danger is not that Inhofe scores serious hits on the substance — Gore’s firing with live ammo, and he’s got the IPCC, NAS, EPA, RG, AGU, AMS, AAS, etc. behind him — but simply that he makes Gore look as small as he is. Gore will need to get around the red herrings and half-truths with some grace, without getting dragged into the technoscientific weeds or appearing to brush Inhofe off or bully him with consensus. It will require a virtuoso performance.
  3. Who wins the award for Most Unctuous Democrat? Most Obnoxious Republican?
    Obviously, MOR will go to Inhofe by several lengths. MUD, however, is going to be a wide-open and cringe-inducing contest. My early bet goes to Lieberman, whose got a natural talent for it, is savvy about glomming on to the popularity of others, and needs some good press.
  4. Will anyone in the D.C. political press corps spontaneously orgasm when Hillary Clinton addresses Gore directly?
    I hope not.

Drudge has some leaked questions, which I’ll wager came from Marc Morano, i.e., Inhofe. Here they are:

Mr. Gore: You have said several times that we have 10 years to act to stave off global warming. Was that 10 years from the first time you said that or 10 years from now? We just wanted to get a firm date from you that we can hold you to.

Mr. Gore: How can you continue to claim that global warming on Earth is primarily caused by mankind when other planets (Mars, Jupiter and Pluto) with no confirmed life forms and certainly no man-made industrial greenhouse gas emissions also show signs of global warming? Wouldn’t it make more sense that the sun is responsible for warming since it is the common denominator?

Mr. Gore: Joseph Romm, the executive director for the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, has said we must build 700 large nuclear plants to stave off climate change. Where do you stand on the need for nuclear energy?

Mr. Gore: Do you think the earth is significantly overpopulated and that is a major contributor to your view of climate change. (If yes, what do you think is a sustainable population for the planet?)

Should be a hoot!