I was surfing the tv the other day, looking for news about a speech Al Gore was scheduled to deliver at NYU. Advance reports said that Gore would be calling for the resignation of several key Bush administration officials. I don't care much for Gore but the topic definitely got my attention. So I flipped back and forth from CNN to HNN to MSNBC to FOX and CNBC and C-SPAN, certain that someone would be covering this highly political speech, if only to blast it. Former Vice Presidents usually do get air-time when they make radical statements. Or so I thought. Only one channel--I think it was CNN--was following the story. They had cameras in the NYU lecture hall and began to broadcast the speech live when...
WHOOSH! A big terror alert from the Feds, and a sudden White House Press conference, swept the air-waves! Everything changed, Gore was gone and utterly forgotten, replaced by various Bush officials explaining how, while we are staying the same color for now (are we at orange? yellow? personally, I'm purple, but that's another story...), and even though they haven't heard anything new or substantive, and don't know when or where or really if anything might happen this summer, it's important that all Americans be scared out of their minds right now.
Naturally, the Gore story just DIED. Who cares what an ex-Vice President has to say when the Bush people are telling us to be scared? I didn't see another video clip of Gore all day. None of the talking head shows advertised coverage. Even print media barely reported it or (as in the case of the NY Post, Rupert Murdoch's baby) only reported it to bash Gore and have Podhoretz, a GOP spin-meister, declare him insane, thus dismissing all Gore's important ideas as crazy ranting. Have you ever heard Podhoretz speak? I don't doubt for a minute that he knows all about being crazy.
In doing a google search today, I was bemused to find that foreign presses took top spots while while other links led to mainly small, local papers. The NY Times ran an OpEd piece by Bob Herbert, which was, at best, a tepid plea for people to take Gore seriously. Good Lord: no one had to tell people to take Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter seriously when they denounced Clinton's extra marital affairs and Ford and Carter were two of the worst presidents of the 20th century. (In my never humble opinion, of course.) There is something insidious about even suggesting that one's first reaction to Gore is to brush him off. I may not like Gore but I take his opinions about foreign policy a hell of a lot more seriously than Gerald Ford's opinion on Bill Clinton's philandering or Dan Quayle's opinion about Murphy Brown's tv pregnancy (remember how much press that story got?).
Instead the news for the past couple of days has been all about the Non-News story of a terror threat we all know is there and which has not grown more nor less dangerous. All that day tv media broadast and then parsed speeches in excruciating detail, recruiting terror experts who essentially all said the same thing: there is no story here. There's no new information, no new developments, no reason to think the risk is bigger now than it was last week. Then they'd shift to White House spokepeople who wouldn't say whether or not the terror experts were right but emphasized how important it is for Americans to be vigilant--as if any of us have forgotten that we are at war with lunatics who want to see us all die. Er, perhaps I'm alone in this, but I haven't stopped feeling vigilant since 9/11. Judging by the number of times local police have sent in bomb squads to investigate suspicious lunch-pails and briefcases, I'll guess that I'm not the only American whose way of thinking about security has altered over the past few years.
Meanwhile, it seems the American public already feels that whether or not a terrorist attack occurs is just not something they, or the government, can control. Here are some results from a poll currently running on AOL:
**How confident are you that the U.S. could stop another attack?
Not at all 38%
Very 13% **
With 87% of respondents believing that the US can't stop another attack, it's pretty obvious we aren't "winning the war on terrorism," certainly not in the minds of Americans. But why get distracted by facts when you can call a press conference, and get tons of air time to parade around, and make it look like you're on top of things when you don't even know which end is up?
Maybe I'm just a wee bit cynical but is it possible that the White House TIMED this non-news, non-event to distract attention from a speech that could have hurt them? Is it possible this was just another example of "Wag the Dog" politics, staging a fake event to distract Americans from real events?
Here are some tidbits from Gore's speech, beginning with the call for resignations:
***"We simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country with more blunders by this team. Donald Rumsfeld, as the chief architect of the war plan, should resign today. His deputies Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and his intelligence chief Stephen Cambone should also resign. The nation is especially at risk every single day that Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense.
Condoleeza Rice, who has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy, should also resign immediately.
George Tenet should also resign. I want to offer a special word about George Tenet, because he is a personal friend and I know him to be a good and decent man. It is especially painful to call for his resignation, but I have regretfully concluded that it is extremely important that our country have new leadership at the CIA immediately."
***"Now the White House has informed the American people that they were also "all wrong" about their decision to place their faith in Ahmed Chalabi, even though they have paid him 340,000 dollars per month. 33 million dollars (CHECK) and placed him adjacent to Laura Bush at the State of the Union address. Chalabi had been convicted of fraud and embezzling 70 million dollars in public funds from a Jordanian bank, and escaped prison by fleeing the country. But in spite of that record, he had become one of key advisors to the Bush Administration on planning and promoting the War against Iraq.
And they repeatedly cited him as an authority, perhaps even a future president of Iraq. Incredibly, they even ferried him and his private army into Baghdad in advance of anyone else, and allowed him to seize control over Saddam's secret papers.
Now they are telling the American people that he is a spy for Iran who has been duping the President of the United States for all these years. "
***"The president episodically poses as a healer and "uniter". If he president really has any desire to play that role, then I call upon him to condemn Rush Limbaugh perhaps his strongest political supporter who said that the torture in Abu Ghraib was a "brilliant maneuver" and that the photos were "good old American pornography," and that the actions portrayed were simply those of "people having a good time and needing to blow off steam."
So what do you think? Is Gore insane? Are these the rantings of a madman or perhaps the indignation of someone who recognizes corruption and incompetence in high places (as well he should).
I'll end with two quotes.
"Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." --Lord Acton
"There's an old saying...that says, fool me once, shame on--shame on you. Fool me--you can't get fooled again." --George W. Bush
I hope American voters won't be fooled again.