The rich and powerful at airports

Who are you? Did you run for President or are you John Basedown?

Austin, Tex. Who does Richard Gephardt, the former Speaker of the House, look like to you?

A weatherman or a congressman in a movie, Gephardt said during a lunchtime speech at the Clean Energy Venture Forum taking place in Austin, Texas this week. Two women stopped him in an airport a while ago and one thought he was a weatherman from CNN. Another thought he was either a congressman or someone that played a congressman in a movie.

R. James Woolsey, the former director of the CIA and now a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, had his own encounter with mistaken identity. On his first plane flight after taking the CIA job in the Clinton administration, Woolsey was fenced in between two burly security guards.

A stewardess later said that "he was the most polite prisoner I've ever seen" transported on the airline.

The rest of the lunchtime talk was less jovial. Gephardt said that the U.S. government has to come up with a comprehensive energy policy that puts economic and national security above low prices. Until now, low prices have ruled in national policy. He also recalled that, as a youngster, how coal dust coated his family home in St. Louis. The family had a coal burning stove inside their home.

Woolsey, meanwhile, exhorted the crowd to remember that large amounts of the petroleum consumed in the U.S. comes from the Persian Gulf, and a lot of the profits from oil exports go to fund terrorism.

The Muslim religion is not the problem. If the Middle East oil fields were located under Java, an island with a far larger Muslim population, world politics likely wouldn't be in turmoil. Instead, the oil fields are under a region known for extremism, Woolsey asserted.

"Unfortunately, it is under the Wahhabis," he said. Americans sometimes have a tough time with coming to grips with the issue because they often associate political extremism with political ideologies.

"We are not used to talking about totalitarianism that grows out of religion."

Gephardt agreed.

"There were 15 Saudis on the airplanes (involved in the 9/11 attacks.) What don't we get about this," the ex-congressman and wannabe weatherman said. \

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About the author

    Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.

     

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