Former Vice President Al Gore went ballistic on President Bush in a speech yesterday at New York University, somehow likening him to Stalin, Nixon, and Faust in less than an hour. (The text of his interminable speech is available here from the left-wing MoveOn PAC’s website.)
To begin, the man who served with Bill Clinton for eight years in the White House said that Bush “has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.”
A few paragraphs later, Gore began to sound like a social conservative in denouncing the President: “[We] know–and not just from De Sade and Freud–the psychological proximity between sexual depravity and other people’s pain,” he said. “It has been especially shocking and awful to see these paired evils perpetrated so crudely and cruelly in the name of America.”
Was he finally addressing the accusations by Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broderick? Or the use of missiles against an aspirin factory in medication-starved North Africa, for the sole purpose of saving President Clinton from a sex scandal after he had perjured himself days earlier?
No, it was Abu Ghraib, of course. Likewise, Gore was not referring to his own administration’s liquidation of U.S. citizens at Waco when he made the surprisingly insightful remark that “One of the clearest indications of the impending loss of intimacy with one’s soul is the failure to recognize the existence of a soul in those over whom power is exercised.”
For all the overwrought outrage over sex and sadism at that prison, don’t expect Gore to start speaking out against the cultural ubiquity of pornography or the needless presence of women in non-traditional military roles–the real roots of the problem in that prison and in the coarsening of America as a whole. The real problem is the current White House, which “designed and insisted upon” the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners.
Lynndie England got her orders and leash straight from Bush, apparently, in order to “force them to say things that legal procedures might not induce them to say.” And when one of the lawless jailers remarked (and Gore quoted him in the speech), “I love to make a grown man piss on himself,” he was not revealing his own depravity, but rather that of Donald Rumsfeld, who perhaps ordered him to say it.
Gore argued that the soldiers involved are somehow both culpable (“the soldiers who are accused of committing these atrocities are, of course, responsible for their own actions”) and not culpable (“a few low-ranking enlisted people, who [sic] he is scapegoating for his policy fiasco”) for the terrible crimes they committed and photographed late last year in Abu Ghraib. “How dare they blame their misdeeds on enlisted personnel from a Reserve unit in upstate New York,” Gore shouted at one point, because no one from upstate New York ever does anything wrong.
Employing fiery rhetoric that often did not match his strangely dispassionate tone of voice, Gore even referred to “Bush’s Gulag,” which is ridiculous and insulting to anyone educated on Stalin’s prison camps, in which millions perished.
The sexual coercion and humiliation inflicted on prisoners at Abu Ghraib is truly awful–worse even than the sexual coercion and humiliation which our last president inflicted on a number of women (Gore defended him at the time). Conditions at the prison are apparently worse than those in the Tennessee slums Gore rents out to poor people and failed to fix up during the 2000 election cycle. But the public is never going to buy the idea that Bush is behind it all.
The Important Part
Gore attacked Bush’s “incompetent war plan,” and “the abuse of the truth that characterized the Administration’s march to war and the abuse of the trust that had been placed in President Bush by the American people in the aftermath of September 11th.”
This part of the speech may even have some merit, were it not being delivered by Gore. Indeed, if Gore had been President in 2001, we would have invaded Iraq on September 12, 2001, and with the full approval of the International Left. First, don’t forget that Senator Gore voted in favor of the original Gulf War in 1991 after he was promised more floor time by the pro-war Republicans than the anti-war Democrats in the U.S. Senate. As Vice President, he also talked up Clinton’s faux-invasion of Iraq in 1998. Gore opposed last year’s invasion only because Bush is in the White House.
Second, the public would not have had the same patience with Gore–as a Democrat–as it did with Bush in waiting nearly a month for the Afghanistan invasion. Bush took his time to identify and locate those involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, even managing to capture Osama bin Laden claiming responsibility for the attacks on videotape. But Gore would not have had that luxury, thanks to the poor reputation Democrats have so richly earned since the early 1970s on defense-related issues. Gore would have invaded Iraq immediately for political reasons, lest he appear weak against terrorism and suffer electoral obliteration. Don’t forget that Sen. Bob Kerrey (D.-Neb.) called for an invasion of Iraq in the wake of the U.S.S. Cole bombing in 2000, which was actually carried out by al Qaeda.
Most importantly, Al Gore offered Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry a way to continue his campaign strategy (perhaps an overstatement) of avoiding any specific foreign policy proposals that would distinguish him from Bush.
“Kerry should not tie his own hands by offering overly specific, detailed proposals concerning a situation that is rapidly changing and unfortunately, rapidly deteriorating, but should rather preserve his, and our country’s, options, to retrieve our national honor as soon as this long national nightmare is over,” Gore said.
This is probably the only important part of the speech, because Kerry, just like Bush, faces a huge problem on Iraq. He voted for the war and has little he can legitimately complain about, since Bush has basically taken all of his advice so far on its conduct.