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.