Al Gore on Countdown

Part One

Part Two

Transcript here.

I have to tell you, every time he says “I don’t think I’m necessarily very good at politics,” I get all teary-eyed, because I can’t help feeling like he’s apologizing for having not been our president. Losing the presidential race must leave anyone struggling to keep at bay the haunting specters of “what ifs” and “if onlys” and regrets and longing to do this or that differently, but “losing” without really having lost, only to stand on the sidelines watching with horror the presidency, this wreck of a presidency, that should have been yours… And now. To hear people say, “Where was this Al Gore then?” as if he weren’t dogged with lies and misrepresentations and accusations that he was dishonest, boring, stiff, crazy when he was none of those things, as if the then-still young 24-hour media that made its name hating Clinton had not turned the same ire on him, as if anyone wouldn’t look better framed against the reality of George W. Bush after seven years than the soft-lens portrait of a beer-drinkin’ buddy the media created all those many years ago. As if he didn’t win. It makes me sad every time I hear him say those words, because he’s apologizing for not preventing the mess that another man, who will never apologize for the rest of his days, created.

Which just goes to show you how much we really lost when SCOTUS wrongly decided Bush v. Gore, what kind of president we could have had.

Anyway, here’s the part of the interview I really want to highlight, because it directly speaks to Gore’s new book and the very important ideas within.

But the fact that [Saddam Hussein was primarily responsible for the attack of 9/11] was conveyed so skillfully and so effectively that more than two-thirds of the American people had it firmly in mind as the principal reason to support the invasion of Iraq, that‘s an indictment of the integrity of this national conversation of democracy that our founders assumed would take place, with a well-informed citizenry that would hold our elected officials accountable.

And the fact that that‘s not working is not so much an indictment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, although it is, but much more serious, in my view, is that our nation was so vulnerable to such crass efforts to manipulate opinion and drive the country in directions we would never have chosen if we had a full and open debate.

…[W]hen the bulk of it is made up of these mass persuasion techniques that don‘t respect the facts and don‘t respect the people who are the objects of this persuasion, then we get the kinds of serious mistakes that we have seen with the climate crisis, with the invasion of Iraq, with the mass warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens, eliminating the prohibition against torture that General George Washington laid down that‘s been respected by every president and both parties for more than 200 years.

These things happen not just because one White House makes terrible decisions, but because we are more vulnerable to these kinds of sophisticated efforts to bypass reason and logic to reach a preconceived policy that was decided before the facts were ever brought into play.

Sing it, brother. Sing it.

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30 Comments

Filed under 01_shakespeares_sister

30 responses to “Al Gore on Countdown

  1. HOW DID I MISS THIS?!!!

    All of the sexy! It’s just so much sexy…

    /sniffle

  2. Allie

    Sad, sad, sad. Damn. I loved Al Gore way back when he first published Earth in the Balance – which, by the way, is a beautiful book. He’s a really amazing man.

    Even if Bush had been just marginal, as opposed to the worst President ever, the country would still be the loser for not having Gore.

    Do you remember when he wrote his own convention speech? I’m a geek, yes, but I thought that was awesome.

  3. You want to know something funny? Despite how much I adore this man, and think he could possibly make one of your best presidents, I don’t really know now if I want him to run.

    He’s being so insanely effective NOT being the president, and I am worried that if he did become such, the world would lose someone that is doing so much good.

    Maybe I am just weird …

    Oh, and Melissa I agree entirely with you, I do think he was apologising for not being a ‘better’ politician, in terms of the modern media construction … and that I think is part of what makes him so wonderful.

  4. nightshift66

    Liss,
    I truly and sincerely wish Al had become president in 2000, and most of your complaints about that campaign are true. However, I respectfully suggest that you are letting your feelings color your analysis too much.

    1. Mr. Gore in 2000 had the advantages of incumbency, peace, and prosperity going for him. He made a tactical decision to distance himself from Bill Clinton, which in hindsight looks erroneous. Mr. Gore didn’t avail himself of Bill’s strengths but was still tarred with his weaknesses. Mr. Gore’s own shortcomings as a candidate (including being the Gorebot in his public appearances) made that election close enough for BushCo to steal.

    2. Mr. Gore made tactical errors after Election Day that hurt his chances, as well. Chief among them was his decision to call for a recount only in counties that favored him, not statewide. Calling for ‘every vote to count’ would have put him on the side of the angels in a way that could not have been spun in the media. That alone may not have changed SCOTUS’ decision, but it would have made their task more difficult.

    3. Mr. Gore should have won, could have won, did win the popular vote nationwide (which is meaningless in a presidential contest), and almost certainly would have carried Florida and the presidency absent fraud and crime in the Sunshine State. BUT HE DID NOT WIN, and it is incorrect to say that he did. To win means you take the prize, and he did not. Politics is nothing but the pursuit of power, and BushCo was better at it than Team Gore was.

    None of this is to excuse the administration’s crimes, but only to note that Mr. Gore played a role in his own failure to take the White House. I think that is what he apologizes for, since he is second-guessing his own decisions and actions.

  5. Melissa McEwan

    1. Mr. Gore in 2000 had the advantages of incumbency, peace, and prosperity going for him. He made a tactical decision to distance himself from Bill Clinton, which in hindsight looks erroneous.

    To whom? It would only appear to be an error in judgment to someone who has completely forgotten what the media treatment of both Clinton and Gore actually was at the time. That Clinton still had a significant approval rating was in spite of media coverage of him, which was appalling–and not remotely in candidate Gore’s favor, I’m afraid. This accusation is a red herring, designed to blame Gore for something over which he had no control: the media’s constant drumbeat that he was a bad candidate (manifesting in various charges of condescension, wonkiness, stiffness, mendacity, exaggeration, etc. etc. etc.). If he’d stuck beside Clinton, the coverage would have been exactly the same, and you’d be saying he should have distanced himself from him.

    2. Mr. Gore made tactical errors after Election Day that hurt his chances, as well. Chief among them was his decision to call for a recount only in counties that favored him, not statewide.

    Which also happened to be the counties in which there were the most reports of voting irregularities. Welcome to Democratic voter suppression.

    3. Mr. Gore should have won, could have won, did win the popular vote nationwide (which is meaningless in a presidential contest), and almost certainly would have carried Florida and the presidency absent fraud and crime in the Sunshine State. BUT HE DID NOT WIN, and it is incorrect to say that he did.

    Yes, that’s right. I’m a fucking idiot who hasn’t noticed he hasn’t actually been president the last seven years. Or, gee, could it be that I was referring to the popular vote and figured most of the Shakers would be intelligent enough to figure out I’m not actually a bloody moron? Come on. Give me a break.

  6. oddjob

    That passage of Gore’s that you quote reminds me of nothing so much as the mild version of Mencken’s vinegary comment about how the White House will someday be occupied by a downright moron.

  7. When it’s down to the wire, I think Al Gore will announce.

  8. "Fair and Balanced" Dave

    1. Mr. Gore in 2000 had the advantages of incumbency, peace, and prosperity going for him. He made a tactical decision to distance himself from Bill Clinton, which in hindsight looks erroneous. Mr. Gore didn’t avail himself of Bill’s strengths but was still tarred with his weaknesses. Mr. Gore’s own shortcomings as a candidate (including being the Gorebot in his public appearances) made that election close enough for BushCo to steal.

    The fact that the so-called “liberal” media had waged an all out war on the Clintons and then turned their fire on Al Gore beginning in 1999 and continuing throughout the 2000 election. Bob Somerby over at The Daily Howler has done a superb job reporting on the atrocities committed against Candidate Gore by the jerks in the MSM.

    2. Mr. Gore made tactical errors after Election Day that hurt his chances, as well. Chief among them was his decision to call for a recount only in counties that favored him, not statewide.

    There was no legal mechanism in Florida for a candidate to request a statewide recount. A candidate could only request recounts by county. Therefore it makes perfect sense for Gore to request recounts in those counties where he was most likely to pick up votes.

  9. Arkades

    [Gore] certainly would have carried Florida and the presidency absent fraud and crime in the Sunshine State. BUT HE DID NOT WIN

    Actually, that pretty much means he did win, rightfully speaking.
    The SCOTUS stopped the recount and pretty much declared Bush the winner, but that doesn’t change the underlying principle that Gore rightfully won the election, then had it stolen from him via various bits of chicanery, obfuscation, and obstruction of procedure.

    If you’re arguing that the person awarded the presidency is de facto the winner of the election process, you have a point. But that’s not what’s being argued here.Gore was the *rightful* winner, even if he wound up not being officially named the winner.

  10. Nik E Poo

    … propagandistic …

    Thats five. Count’em, five syllables!

    I must confess, when a politician advocates transparency, my nipples get hard.

  11. It’s sad how our country has had to learn such hard lessons in all of this. George W. Bush is the worst president ever to have lived. He’ll go down in history as the most hated man in the world.

  12. nightshift66

    Melissa,
    I’m aware that the MSM was severely tilted against both President Clinton and Mr. Gore. However, as you yourself note, Bill Clinton had a high approval rating in spite of that fact. You are right that the coverage would have been negative either way, but your rebuttal assumes a fact not in evidence: that the election result would have been the same had Mr. Gore embraced Clinton. Obviously, we cannot know one way or the other what might have been. However, I stand by my point that with the course of action Gore actually chose, he ended up depriving himself of Clinton’s strengths, and that it might well have made the difference. Don’t forget that there were 5 states closely in play, including Tennessee, and that any one of them would have put Gore into the White House.

    Since Florida requires a county-specific recount, Mr. Gore could have requested recounts in every county, making it in effect statewide. I concede that on one level, only requesting recounts in ‘your’ counties and those in which the voting was most irregular made sense. Nevertheless, as a PR move it was flawed and was (predictably) spun as being the same as Bush taking the election to SCOTUS.

    Regarding my third point, I apologize for giving the impression that I don’t respect your intellect. That is not the case at all. My point was more about the nature of power. It is not enough to be the person who would have won without tampering, not in politics. Not long after the Gore-Bush contest, another country (I think a former Soviet state, maybe Ukraine, but not sure) had a rigged contest, and the people took to the streets to ensure that their will was implemented. We didn’t, nor was there any call from anyone to do so. That is acquiescence in the result both by us and by Mr. Gore.

  13. oddjob

    That was indeed Ukraine, which is now in crisis again.

  14. nightshift66

    oddjob,
    And we aren’t? (I am interpreting your comment to suggest that taking to the streets isn’t something that should be done because it’s destabilizing, and I apologize in advance if that is not correct.)

    Is a stable, authoritarian regime to be preferred to civil unrest? That is a question individuals must answer for themselves.

  15. As much as I would like to have Gore as president, I don’t blame him for not wanting to step into the media maelstrom again. He was treated poorly last time, and the media climate has not changed enough for it not to happen again.

  16. Melissa McEwan

    Regarding my third point, I apologize for giving the impression that I don’t respect your intellect.

    It’s not that; it’s treating this throwaway post like I intended it to be some important analysis of the 2000 election, critiquing it as if I’d presented it that way. I mean, I was talking about how I feel bad for the guy and think he got a shitty deal, and you come out with “you are letting your feelings color your analysis too much.” My analysis of…my feelings? LOL.

    It just struck me as absurd, and a little unfair that I was being taken to task for being “too emotional” in a post where I’m talking about, uh, having an emotional reaction to something.

    If I tell you something made me teary-eyed in an actual election analysis, you’ll have a point. ;)

  17. nightshift66

    Ah. I mistook your post for an analysis of the campaign and election. I agree that we all got a shitty deal in 2000, including Mr. Gore.

    My own analyses of elections 2000, 2002, and 2004 left me moody and bummed, if not teary-eyed. And to be honest, 2006 was only better by comparison. We still look like a 51-49 nation to me, only the 51% went to the Donkey this time. Given how utterly hosed everything is, it should’ve been a 1932-level landslide sweeping the GOP into history’s dustbin for at least 20 years.

  18. I hope Gore runs. Our country needs him as President! :)

    Great blog and I am going to add you to my blogroll.

  19. bluestockingsrs

    There are just so many frustrating things about the 200 election.

    The SCOTUS decision is at the top of my list because the court acted where it absolutely had no jurisdiction and they knew it.

    The US Constitution has a mechanism for addressing a disputed presidential election that leaves it up to the Congress. No mention of SCOTUS is ever made… it is all so maddening given this court’s bullshit allegiance to the ‘strict constructionist” except when following the constitution would inconvenience white men or corporations or anoyone else paying for the idiot four’s hunting trips.

    It is so annoying to read a Scalia opinion and revel in its brilliance while hating every. single. word. of. it.

    Except for the one that said the cops can’t randomly heat scan your house and then break the door in to see if you are growing pot, that was good one.

    Sigh.

  20. Last night on PBS’s Newhour, Gore was asked this:
    “Did you ever think to yourself, … that perhaps you conceded too soon in 2000?
    AL GORE: Well, there was — I took it all the way to a final Supreme Court decision. And in our system, there is no intermediate step between a final Supreme Court decision and violent revolution. So, at that point, having taken it as far as one could, then the question becomes, are we going to be a nation of laws and not people? Do I support the rule of law, even though I disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision? I did disagree with it, and I think that those of us who disagreed with it will have the better of the argument in history.”

    “There is no intermediate step between a final Supreme Court decision and violent revolution.” That gave me goosebumps. “A nation of laws and not people.” I think America has forgotten what it is to have civilized discourse in politics. What a serious gentleman Gore is. He’s an adult. He’s mature in a way the current President can never be. “Supporting the rule of law.” It makes me ill when I think about how much the current administration doesn’t do this.

    All this being said, I don’t want to see him run again. Read David Brooks this week to see the hatchet job they are already doing on Gore and he isn’t even running. Why should he go through such crap again? He should keep doing what he’s doing and be respected. America will have to do without him.

  21. Constant Comment

    With regard to the Florida recount: I was hoping that Democrats learned their lesson with that one. Look how fast James Baker et al. swooped in there to steal that election (of course, it halps a lot when your brother’s the governor and the Sec. of State is running the election out of her office). Not just Gore, but every other Democrat underestimated what those bastards could and did do. In 2004, Kerry swore that it would be differemt. Even when some similar scenarios (voter suppression, Republican Sec. of State, Diebold machines) played out in Ohio, he folded way too quickly. Hopefully, one these years we’ll learn.

    I desperately want Gore to enter the race but there are too many candidates and unknowns on both sides to even wager a guess how this will all play out. I suspect Gore will wait in the wings (after winning the Nobel, of course) and just make a decision at the last possible minute. Boy, what with all the state primary jockeying, everything will be up for grabs.

    In related news, I received my copy of “Assault on Reason” in the mail today.

  22. Constant Comment

    helps, not halps — but then you knew that…

  23. oddjob

    (I am interpreting your comment to suggest that taking to the streets isn’t something that should be done because it’s destabilizing, and I apologize in advance if that is not correct.)

    Apology accepted. I loathe confrontation myself, but that doesn’t mean I always oppose it on a societal level. I strongly prefer its non-violent versions, but they are uncommon. Not every nation is full of Czechs & Slovaks (who demonstrated by massing in the streets and then each jingling their keys as a symbol of what they demanded happen next – the unlocking of the doors to liberal democracy)!

    Always the trouble with a country when it gets to Ukraine’s level of crisis is the ease with which the struggle becomes a contest between two despotic sides, leaving the people out of the picture, regardless of which faction promises what.

  24. oddjob

    The US Constitution has a mechanism for addressing a disputed presidential election that leaves it up to the Congress. No mention of SCOTUS is ever made… it is all so maddening given this court’s bullshit allegiance to the ’strict constructionist” except when following the constitution would inconvenience white men or corporations or anoyone else paying for the idiot four’s hunting trips.

    I know what you mean – however – if SCOTUS had walked away by insisting the matter be taken up by the House of Representatives as the Constitution instructs, the result would have been the same. There’s no way that seriously Republican House was not going to elect Shrub on the very first ballot.

  25. oddjob

    The only thing about waiting in the wings to come in at the end is fund raising. According to Time magazine he has told every $$ guy who usually supports him some version of, “Don’t hold your $$ waiting for me.” when they’ve called him to figure out what to do about the requests they’re getting from the campaigns already underway.

    That’s not a symptom of a man waiting in the wings. That’s a symptom of someone who truly has no intention of running, barring a miracle.

  26. latts

    Since Florida requires a county-specific recount, Mr. Gore could have requested recounts in every county, making it in effect statewide. I concede that on one level, only requesting recounts in ‘your’ counties and those in which the voting was most irregular made sense. Nevertheless, as a PR move it was flawed and was (predictably) spun as being the same as Bush taking the election to SCOTUS.

    IIRC, candidates can’t just request recounts in individual counties for the hell of it– there has to be established cause, or some documented reason for suspicion that the first counts had been incorrect. I don’t think ‘the bastards are stealing the election’ would have flown.

  27. nightshift66

    oddjob,
    The House may not have been the slam-dunk you think. You see, each state has ONE vote in such a contest, with the state’s entire delegation of reps polling to cast that one vote. So, the one-rep states like WY would go GOP fast, but Mississippi had 2 of each and would have cast no ballot. So, it was much simpler for SCOTUS to pull this b.s. decision out of their dark orifices.

    And I assure you, any time you see a court decision that denies its own value as precedent in the very first paragraph, you can know that the fix is in.

  28. RW

    “And I assure you, any time you see a court decision that denies its own value as precedent in the very first paragraph, you can know that the fix is in.”

    Another good clue is when the first sentence of the substantive legal section begins “[t]he individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote …”

  29. RW

    Also, if “the individual citizen has not federal constitutional right to vote…” is prefaced by “Lets get one thing straight, ass-hole…” That can be a clue as well. The prefaratory language did not appear in Bush v. Gore, but is expected to make an appearance as the precedent is “extended.”

    The point about not requesting a recount throughout Florida is a good one. But I see him learning quite a lot.

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