Gordon Crovitz has a really wonderful Wall Street Journal article about Al Jazeera, the television network to which Al Gore chose to sell Current TV. The sale provides Mr. Gore with a reported $100 million (his partners got another $400 million), and it provides Al Jazeera with something it had long sought, which is access to American cable viewers. My favorite paragraph of Mr. Crovitz's article is this one:
In 2008, Al Jazeera threw an on-air party for Samir Kuntar when he was released from an Israeli prison. Kuntar led a Palestine Liberation Front terrorist team that kidnapped an Israeli family in 1979. He shot the father and killed the 4-year-old daughter by smashing her head against rocks along the beach. In footage available on YouTube, Al Jazeera's Beirut bureau chief hands Kuntar a scimitar to cut the celebratory cake and says: "This is the sword of the Arabs, Samir."
The one point Mr. Crovitz did not make but could have is this one — whatever the flaws of the Al Jazeera - Current deal, at least Al Jazeera had to pay $500 million to gain access to the American market. That's $500 million less that the emir of Qatar will now have available to donate to Hamas, or to Columbia University. That's a better outcome than the alternative that had been proposed by the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, who, in a March 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek article, called on the Federal Communications Commission to force American cable companies to carry Al Jazeera, access to which he called "critically valuable" to "our democracy" and to "America's understanding of the world."
If Mr. Bollinger had his way, Al Jazeera would have gotten for free what it just had to pay $500 million for. A lot of people are criticizing Mr. Gore for taking the $500 million. But Mr. Gore at least drove a hard bargain on price relative to what Mr. Bollinger wanted to use the force of government to give away for free. It's easy to see what Mr. Gore gets out of the deal — $100 million. The more intriguing question is what Mr. Bollinger hoped to get for Columbia in return for his advocacy for the emir.