Thursday, January 25, 2007

Al Gore: "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done."

"There is a wild card. On Feb. 25, America will watch the Academy Awards, where the Oscar for best documentary will likely go to "An Inconvenient Truth." If Al Gore wins the Oscar, addresses the nation for two minutes on global warming and the war, then appears on Oprah, Leno, Letterman, Stewart and Colbert, a subsequent declaration of candidacy would put him in the top tier. " Pat Buchanan
David Seaton's News Links
The news about candidates now is mostly about how much money they are raising and how eager they are find correct positions and how much they want the job. It all has the flavor of a reality show, a talent contest, or something with Donald Trump; a slight flavor of Paris Hilton or "Little Miss Sunshine". This does not fit the political mood of the times. This is a very grave and deadly moment, colored by cynicism and war crimes, of doubt, failure and defeat... of betrayal of trust. Of regret.

One of America's biggest regrets must be that George W. Bush stole the 2000 election from Al Gore. If Gore had been sworn in instead of Bush, we know now that we wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Hillary, like Gore's running mate, Joe Lieberman, was all for the invasion of Iraq and would probably support military action against Iran. As for Barack Obama, he was an Illinois state senator at the time... he says he was against the war, but did he inhale?

Having something you want with all your heart, which you have won fairly, literally stolen from you is about as bitter an experience as any man or woman can face in life. I'll freely admit that I never really had any clear impression of Al Gore at all until I observed how he carried himself in "defeat". Gore's reaction showed no bitterness, anger or pettiness. America, with its horror of losing, has not learned what a wise and demanding master the pain of defeat is. Spaniards, who have long experience of both triumph and defeat, say that the bravery of a man is like the taste of a melon, until they are cut open, you don't know what is inside. So now we know two important things for sure about Al Gore: he wouldn't have started the war and that he has a strong heart. Do we really know much of anything of comparable value about any other candidate for the Democratic nomination?

In global warming Gore has found an issue of universal concern and has carved himself a universally recognized position as an authority on it. He did this quietly, patiently and methodically. Even if adopting global warming were only a strategy to recreate his political career, it is such a long headed strategy and so subtly executed that it would prove a capacity of analysis, judgment, self control and execution that have long been (longer than six years) missing from the White House. One thing for sure, Al Gore shouldn't have to beg for the presidency. We cannot turn back the clock or undo the harm undone, but there can be second acts in American life. DS


John said...

Hi David,

Thanks for this post, the analysis raises interesting questions, but I take issue or question this (now becoming common) notion that "Gore wouldn't have started the war". On what basis do you believe that?

I think its been tremendously convinient for many Americans to blame "Iraq" on "neocons" without taking into consideration both the longstanding involvement of the American political apparatus in Mesopotamia and the broad-based support that support for Saddam (which the neocons opposed), the 1991 Gulf War, sanctions and the 2003 attack and occupation actually have had.

Americans can be anti-war, even flip-floppers now and realise that its time to pull out, but I believe it is historical revisionism and lacking in moral clarity to believe that a fundamentally different policy would have occured had someone other than Bush become president. It may be true, but its not a 'given'.

Across the political spectrum in Washington 'taking care' of Iraq was something high on the priority list as the 1990s moved forward. Americans have a affinity for answering such questions with political violence (support for coups) or outright agression (invasion). Tough to believe whoever became president wouldn't have seen this as a priority issue.

I'm not arguing that they would have done it the same way, nor that it would necessarily have ended in an occupation; just that conflict was clearly lined up and to give Gore (or anyone) a free pass is just that ... giving them a free pass. It should be opposed because it challenges the fabric of the essays you have written on this blog: that Americas interaction with the world has been a bloody march over the last five decades ... its time for introspection, not free passes.

John (

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Gore is mainstream, but is on record opposing the invasion of Iraq. He was in favor of the first Gulf War to restore the status quo antebellum in Kuwait. These positions are perfectly compatible. Both positions emphasize stability. Certainly as a Democrat he is pro-Israel, but he is more likely to listen to Hollywood Zionists than the AIPAC variety and certainly would not be in the "Judea-Samaria, let's move the embassy to Jerusalem, 'last days'" crazies. I also don't see him organizing death squads in Latin America.

As to his human qualities, I have been very impressed with how Gore has re-cycled himself. This is one of the most difficult feats imaginable for anyone. To tell you the truth, before 2000 I had no clear impression of him at all, but he has shown real class in defeat.

Another thing. He has made climate change his center piece. To solve this problem the United States must not only join Kyoto it must lead Kyoto. Everything about solving global warming is about collective, international agreements and enforcement, in fact it means the end of the neo-liberal agenda of deregulation and the death of Goldwater-Reagan-Thatcher conservatism.

Frankly, do you see us getting Dennis Kucinich, who I adore? Not likely. I think Al Gore is as good as we are going to be offered and probably better than we deserve.

Anonymous said...

I dont think that Gore will run as long as the powers that oppose him on issues exactly like this such as Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Car etc are able to prevent the augmentation of their business models. Gore naturally cannot rely on technology to escape the fact that as the economy grows then the more will we pollute; thus he must tax and legislate; if he flip flops on this then he would be worse than Bush. Americans will not elect Gore because Big Media will tell the people not to.

RLaing said...

I think the point about corporate influence is well taken. The power they have in the U.S. politicial system is simply overwhelming, and it's hard to imagine anyone who isn't behind that agenda getting his hands on the office of the presidency. The existing system did not arise overnight, and it does not owe its existence to any individual--so it seems a bit fanciful to imagine that one man could really change it, however decent.

As for climate change, there's no real chance of staving that off unless we the people change the way we live. I see three conditions that have to be met before that happens:

1. The world changes in such a way as to inspire real fear.

2. People connect those global changes with their local way of life.

3. The above must happen while there is still time for lifestyle changes to have meaning.

Unfortunately, massive systems (like the earth) have enormous time lags, which means that anything less than foresight is effectively useless, making conditions 1 and 2 mutually exclusive with condition 3. In other words, fasten your seatbelts: we are in for a rough ride.

John Measor said...

Hi David,

Thanks for the reply and there is no need to post this comment to the blog (I don't have any other way to get this to you).

I should be up front and let you know that I teach the politics of the modern middle east at the University of Victoria in Canada, and am in the final stages of writing up my PhD dissertation on the creation of modern political identities in Iraq. I completed my field work in Iraq in March and April of 2004 and have lived in Damascus two of the last four years to improve my arabic and increasingly as I've come to love the city and have a number of friends there. None of this provides me with any better insight than your own, but I just thought it was fair to let you know a bit about me as you are quite open on your blog about who you are.

The problem I have - with both your original post and the kind response you provided to my comment - is that it doesn't address my contention. I agree with everything you've said about Gore for what that matters; I too have been impressed with him and as far as a Canadian can have a preference I guess Gore would be better than much of the field.

I also think he undoubtedly would have handled the office differently than Bush had he "won" (or decided to stay on and contest) the 2000 vote.

However, none of this obviates my point: I believe that any incoming administration would have engaged militarily with Iraq within the 2000-2003 timeframe - even if 9/11 had not occured. The 'dual containment' policy of the Clinton years was collapsing and the only options for any administration were escalation or to walk away and allow Saddam to emerge 'victorious' from the 13-year war and sanctions crucible.

Based on the Clinton-Gore maintenance of sanctions, their imposition of the restrictive and punitive no-fly zones, and the reality that the most dovish positions in Washington (from anywhere across the mainstream political spectrum) called for escalation and not retreat I don't see the contention that Gore's position would have flown in the face of all this as tenable.

As an independent citizen he might oppose the use of war, and certainly the ensuing occupation, as much as he bravely now tackles global warming. My criticism is not a slight against the man; but, I think that Washington writ-large had largely agreed that something needed to be done, the nuclear confrontation with Iran was nearing and "Iraq" had to be settled. All coup efforts had failed throughout the 1990s (there were several he supported as VP), daily airial strikes throughout the 1990s had failed to foment an internal coup, sanctions had failed to force popular uprisings, and while Iraq's WMD programs were clearly mothballed and no longer a reality they were easily refurbished as soon as sanctions were lifted as the human capital and will were there to reconstitute them.

It is important to note that Clinton-Gore established 'regime change' in Iraq as official U.S. policy in 1998; not Bush following 9/11. I don't know of a single mainstream think tank in Washington, nor a single Congressional committee called to examine the issue from 1995-2000 that were not framing the issue in the terms I have laid forth. Smart sanctions might have bought time, but everyone was in favor of "action".

I fail to see how Gore could have stood up against such an avalanche ... and that assumes he would be against it personally.

All his policy actions as VP beggar against his oposition to the Bush invasion; and I fear like all the op-ed writers and analysts who supported the war and are now turning against it Gore's position is that the war "wasn't conducted the *way* ... that he would have done it differently etc." rather than a flat rejection of war as a policy option vis-a-vis Iraq.

This is a topic that is near and dear to me, and part of a book I'm thinking about writing on U.S.-Iraqi relations (meaning I'm already writing and the publisher wants asap, but I'm taking my time). Please feel free to continue the discussion if you wish as I'm all for someone challenging my views.


David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Thanks so much. I find your reasoning and contextualizing excellent.
The dynamic you describe is exactly the one that existed when Bush II took office and that would have been the what Gore would have had on his desk: a feeling that the situation was going nowhere and well "something would have to done".... sometime. No great rush to do anything drastic existed which is what was driving the neocons and Likud nuts.

However, where I think things might have been a little different is Al Gore's hypothetical reaction toward 9-11. Which in fact, is what was so extraordinary about the reaction of the Bush administration. 9-11 was simply an instrument to execute the neocon agenda.

As soon as the Towers went down they were talking about Iraq. They ignored the solidarity of the allies (Nous sommes tous Américains) as they saw 9-11 as an excuse to take a series of actions to empower the presidency, reduce civil liberties in the US and to take unilateral action abroad and to trash international law... all while allowing bin Laden to escape in Afghanistan and not taking sufficient care in stabilizing that country.

With Gore in office, I think 9-11 would have taken place and the United States (w/ NATO from day one) would have invaded Afghanistan and probably captured bin Laden in Tora Bora. Since Iraq had had nothing to do with al Qaeda, it would have been on a back burner. However the Atlantic alliance would have been reinforced and al Qaeda's influence reduced and the dynamic would have been running more favorably for US interests. And that might have effected Iraq to the benefit of the US.

Simply put, I don't think Al Gore would have used 9-11 to execute a sort of universal coup d'etat, he would have dealt with the real situation.

Understand me about Gore, I don't think its possible for a real progressive to become president of the US, but I think it just might be possible for a decent human being to get elected... and that might be Gore.

RLaing said...

Sure it's possible for a decent human being to get elected in the sense of being chosen by the public; moreover it happened to Gore. But this is the U.S. we're talking about, and democracy is only democracy when the results come out right!

papadavo said...

David - as testimony to the power of the web - I am preparing a slideset for a presentation I will give next Friday, and I was googling for an image of Al Gore accepting his Oscar and instead picked your image of Al which led me to your blog and your very astute analysis of Al's recycled "image"

Al has all the power he needs now to carry on his life's quest for saving the planet = it would demean him and sap his power to stoop to run for President - He can exert more influence as an Oscar winner than as POTUS.

It is not well known that Al's rise to Hollywood fame came as the result of a remarkable man ( Jeff Skoll) and his Participant Productions team who produced
An Incovenient Truth.

Jeff is a billionaire co-founder of eBay and is using his fortune in a number of socially valuable ways - the most powerful force behind his production of movies that ( to use his tag line) Change the World One Story at a Time

Jeff is the power behind Al Gore's throne - and his Hollywood production company has had enormous success in their previous Oscar-winning productions:

Good Night and Good Luck and

Skoll's Hollywood team includes George Clooney who is also using his movie celebrity to change the world.

If you wait a day or so and if you are interested in seeing how I used your blog post and photo of Big Al you can link to Thoughts Illustrated: Are Crowds Intelligent Life Forms?