Following his blockbuster speech on Thursday and his appearance at Netroots Nation yesterday, Al Gore was on Meet the Press today to talk about his new proposal. It was … painful.

First off, Tom Brokaw’s questions were, almost without exception, awful. Just awful. They reflected the most brain dead, ill-informed D.C. conventional wisdom you can imagine. The first three or four were basically the same: Won’t solving global warming with a plan like yours cost big and create pain and devastate Main Street and raise prices and also cost big? Oy.

Brokaw had the … gall? idiocy? … to ask why the Democratic Congress had not passed any sweeping energy proposals. Gore pointed out that if you can’t get 60 votes, you can’t overcome a filibuster in the Senate and nothing gets done. Brokaw responded with this: "But you can put it on the agenda and try to move the country."

Could you scream? There were probably a dozen agenda-setting, country-moving bills that floated around Congress this year to establish a carbon cap, removed oil subsidies, fund renewables, increase efficiency standards, etc. etc. etc. Republicans killed them. Does Tom Brokaw really not understand that?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Then he pestered Gore to condemn Hillary Clinton — who’s no longer in the race — for proposing a gas tax holiday, without so much as mentioning that John McCain — who’s still in the race — is still supporting one. [Rips hair out.]

Then, and I’m not even making this up, he asks Gore about his house, because it’s “on the blogs.” As bad as Russert was, was he ever worse than this?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

But honestly, and this is a little more sad to say, Gore is just not the best spokesperson for this stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy, respect him enormously, but having just watched Van Jones set the house on fire this morning, listening to Gore is a let down. After all Brokaw’s questions about cost and pain, Gore never forthrightly and confidently asserted that this is an economic win. He nibbles around the margin about it, diverts into a counterproductive riff on CCS, hand waves at engineers and declining renewable costs, but never grabs the bull by the horns.

I’m glad Gore’s using his profile to do what he’s doing, but we need an army of Van Joneses behind him, who haven’t been trained by a life in the D.C. glare to deal with the press from a defensive crouch. Americans need to see someone confidently telling them that this is what’s going to save us, economically and environmentally. This is not pain they have to endure. It’s a lifeboat off a sinking ship.