Editor's Note: With the authoritarianism of
George W. Bush's administration now apparent to people around the world,
former Vice President Al Gore delivered
an impassioned speech on Jan.
16, 2006, urging Americans to rally in defense of their constitutional
freedoms. On the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Gore noted
that the legendary civil rights leader himself had been the victim of
illegal wiretapping and Gore called for an independent counsel to
investigate criminality in Bush's current domestic spying program.
Within hours, the Republican National Committee
issued a snide response. "Al Gore's incessant need to insert himself in
the headline of the day is almost as glaring as his lack of
understanding of the threats facing America," said RNC press secretary
The RNC reaction reminded us of the ridicule
heaped on Gore in 2002 when he cautioned against a "preemptive" invasion
of Iraq while Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders were still at
denunciations of Gore were an early sign of what we called the "politics
of preemption," the inevitable domestic side effects of Bush's imperial
designs. We have republished our original story below:
W. Bush’s doctrine of "preemptive war" – the elimination of foreign
governments he deems a threat to U.S. security interests – is quickly
developing a domestic corollary. Any politician who questions Bush’s
strategy can expect to be confronted by a rapid-deployment force of
pro-Bush operatives who counterattack using weapons of ridicule and
In a kind of test run, this army swung onto the offensive immediately
after former Vice President Al Gore on Sept. 23 delivered a
comprehensive critique of Bush’s radical departure from decades of
American support for international law. Rather than welcome a vigorous
debate on the merits and shortcomings of the so-called "Bush Doctrine,"
conservative commentators treated Gore and others raising questions as
dishonest, unpatriotic and even unhinged.
Bush himself has joined in this politics of preemption with comments
such as one at a campaign speech in New Jersey when he declared the
Democratic-controlled Senate "is not interested in the security of the
American people." The goal appears to be the silencing of domestic
debate about Bush’s unparalleled assertion of executive authority to
conduct an open-ended series of wars.
Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000 and
would have won
the White House if all legally cast votes were counted in Florida,
was slapped around by Beltway political analysts. He was hit from all
angles, variously portrayed as seeking cheap political gain and
committing political suicide.
Helped by the fact that Gore’s speech received spotty television
coverage – MSNBC carried excerpts live and C-SPAN replayed the speech
later that night – pro-Bush commentators were free to distort Gore’s
words and then dismiss his arguments as "lies" largely because few
Americans actually heard what he said. [Gore’s speech is described in
detail below. To watch the speech in its entirety on C-SPAN's website,
Some epithets came directly from Bush partisans. Republican National
Committee spokesman Jim Dyke called Gore a "political hack." An
administration source told the Washington Post that Gore was simply
"irrelevant," a theme that would be repeated often in the days after
Gore’s speech. [Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2002]
Other slurs were fired off by battalions of conservative
opinion-makers from their strategic high ground on the editorial pages
of major newspapers, on talk radio and on television chat shows.
"Gore’s speech was one no decent politician could have delivered,"
wrote Washington Post columnist Michael Kelly. "It was dishonest, cheap,
low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of
constructive ideas, very nearly of facts – bereft of anything other than
taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly
hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral
condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It
was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible." [Washington Post, Sept.
"A pudding with no theme but much poison," declared another Post
columnist, Charles Krauthammer. "It was a disgrace – a series of cheap
shots strung together without logic or coherence." [Washington Post,
Sept. 27, 2002] At Salon.com, Andrew Sullivan entitled his piece about
Gore’s "The Opportunist" and characterized Gore as "bitter."
While some depicted Gore’s motivation as "opportunism," columnist
William Bennett mocked Gore for the opposite, sealing his political doom
and banishing himself "from the mainstream of public opinion." In an
Op-Ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, entitled "Al Gore’s Political
Suicide," Bennett said Gore had "made himself irrelevant by his
inconsistency" and had engaged in "an act of self-immolation" by daring
to criticize Bush’s policy.
"Now we have reason to be grateful once again that Al Gore is not the
man in the White House, and never will be," Bennett wrote. [WSJ, Sept.
When the conservative pundits addressed Gore’s actual speech, his
words were bizarrely parsed or selectively edited to allow reprising of
the news media’s favorite "Lyin’ Al" canard from the presidential
Kelly, for instance, resumed his editorial harangue with the argument
that Gore was lying when the former vice president said "the vast
majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the
cold-blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large,
still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and
To Kelly, this comment was "reprehensible" and "a lie." Kelly
continued, "The men who ‘implemented’ the ‘cold-blooded murder of more
than 3,000 Americans’ are dead; they died in the act of murder on Sept.
11. Gore can look this up." Kelly added that most of the rest are in
prison or on the run.
Yet, Kelly’s remarks were obtuse even by his standards. Gore clearly
was talking about the likes of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, who
indeed have not been located. Plus, the Bush administration itself has
expressed frustration at the failure of Afghan and Pakistani forces to
cut off escape routes for al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders during last
winter’s U.S. military offensive.
The administration also has cited the resurgence of the al-Qaeda
terrorist threat, fearing that its operatives are preparing new rounds
of terrorist attacks from bases scattered through dozens of countries.
In September, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security chief
Tom Ridge recognized this problem by raising the terrorist threat
warning in the U.S. from yellow to orange.
But when Gore makes similar points, he is dismissed as a liar. That
then opened the door for smirking TV pundits to reprise other bogus
examples of Gore’s "lies," including the news media’s invented quote
about Gore supposedly saying he "invented the Internet." [For details
about how the national press corps exaggerated Gore’s alleged
exaggerations during the campaign, see Consortiumnews.com's
"Al Gore vs.
Limbaugh & Hume
As Bob Somerby, editor of The
Daily Howler, has pointed out, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh
and Fox News’ Brit Hume led the way on another front, accusing Gore of
lying about his position on the Persian Gulf War in 1991. That claim was
advanced by snipping off a portion of Gore’s Sept. 23 remarks to create
a phony contradiction with a statement he made in 1991.
On Fox News’ "Special Report" on Sept. 24, Hume played a clip of
Gore’s Sept. 23 speech in which Gore, who had voted in the U.S. Senate
to support President George H.W. Bush’s intervention to oust Iraqi
forces from Kuwait, said "I felt betrayed by the first Bush
administration’s hasty departure from the battlefield."
Then, Hume played a comment by Gore on April 18, 1991, in which Gore
defended the first President Bush’s decision not to march to Baghdad and
added, "It was universally accepted that our objective was to push Iraq
out of Kuwait, and it was further understood that when this was
accomplished, combat should stop."
Juxtaposed, these two statements were made to appear as
contradictions, another Gore "lie." Hume’s panel of pundits jumped at
the opportunity to draw that conclusion.
Hume asked, "How do we explain that, as against what he said
"It’s inexplicable," said Bill Sammon of the Washington Times. "It’s
puzzling why he would flip-flop on something so easily checkable."
"He invented the Internet," smirked pundit Morton Kondracke. "He’s
got a bad memory."
But as Somerby pointed out at The Daily Howler, Hume had created
Gore’s "contradiction" by omitting a key phrase from Gore’s Sept. 23
speech, relating to which battlefield Gore was referring. The fuller
Gore quote read, "I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration’s
hasty departure from the battlefield, even as Saddam began to renew his
persecution of the Kurds of the North and the Shiites of the South –
groups we had encouraged to rise up against Saddam."
Gore made similar points in April 1991, when he criticized the elder
Bush for leaving the anti-Hussein forces in the lurch. Gore said Bush’s
handling of the post-war insurrections "revives the most bitter memories
of humankind’s worst moments." [NYT, April 13, 1991, as cited by Somerby
in his column on
Sept. 26, 2002] It is clear to any honest, careful reader that
Gore’s two comments were about different parts of the Iraqi conflict.
So, the national news media was at it again, twisting Gore’s words to
advance the depiction of Al Gore as dishonest. By contrast, during
Campaign 2000, the Bush-Cheney campaign was allowed to utter whopper
after whopper with the media barely noticing. [See Consortiumnews.com’s
Bush-Cheney," October 16, 2000]
Still, the leit motif running through the attacks against Gore
and other Democratic critics of George W. Bush’s "preemptive" wars was
that a thorough debate will not be allowed. Rather than confront
arguments on their merits, Bush’s supporters simply tried to drum Gore
and other skeptics out of what passes for respectable political society.
Bush personally has joined these efforts. Indeed, his political
adviser Karl Rove appears to have masterminded a plan to inject the Iraq
war debate into the congressional campaigns both to distract voters from
the sinking economy and portray Democrats as unpatriotic. One theory
holds that the primary target of Bush’s war talk is not Saddam Hussein’s
government in Baghdad but "regime change" in the U.S. Senate, which if
captured will give the Republicans total control of the U.S. government.
In a speech in Trenton, N.J., on Sept. 23, Bush escalated his
rhetoric in attacking Democrats who opposed his demand for sweeping
power to circumvent civil service rules in a bill to create a vast
Homeland Security Department. "The Senate is more interested in special
interests in Washington, and not interested in the security of the
American people," Bush declared.
Bush’s assertion that the Democratic-controlled Senate was "not
interested in the security of the American people" pushed the normally
mild-mannered Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle into a rage. He
demanded an apology in the name of many Democrats who had fought for
their country. In the U.S. Senate, Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of
Hawaii lost an arm in World War II and Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia lost
both legs and one arm in Vietnam. Many other Democratic leaders served
the country in war, including Gore who was a military journalist in
Vietnam and Daschle who served as an intelligence officer in the U.S.
Air Force Strategic Air Command during the Vietnam War. Contrarily, both
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney avoided national military
service in Vietnam, Bush by joining the Texas Air National Guard and
Cheney by taking advantage of five separate draft deferments.
Bush refused to apologize and the press corps’ turned on Daschle for
his supposedly intemperate behavior. While Bush’s comments were presumed
to represent his penchant for speaking bluntly, Daschle’s protest was
analyzed for its political calculation or for its irrationality. Rev.
Sun Myung Moon’s newspaper, The Washington Times, pictured the South
Dakota Democrat as headless in an editorial cartoon. Reprising the other
media refrain of Lyin’ Al, another Washington Times cartoon drew Gore as
Another media explanation for the curious behavior of Daschle, Gore
and other Democrats was that they were intent on a self-destructive
nostalgia trip back to their youth when they had criticized the Vietnam
War. "A good many Democratic Party cadre cut their teeth as anti-war
protesters marching against Vietnam," wrote Wall Street Journal
columnist Robert L. Bartley. "The anti-war movement is dead, but it
hangs around the neck of the Democratic Party." [WSJ, Sept. 30, 2003]
So, instead of examining the substance of the criticism from Gore and
others, conservative pundits have chosen to ascribe dark political
motives and lob accusations. While perhaps effective politically, that
approach prevents a full debate on the risks and benefits of Bush’s new
With that doctrine, the United States faces two historic foreign
policy choices: what to do about Iraq and what will a policy of
preemptive military strikes mean to America’s constitutional framework
and the nation’s relationship to the rest of the world.
The White House spelled out Bush’s preemptive policy in a Sept. 20
report on "national security strategy" to Congress. In justifying the
departure from traditional U.S. policy, the White House said, "the only
path to peace and security is the path of action." The report states,
"We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients
before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction
against the United States and our allies and friends."
At first blush, there is some logic to the change given the
unpredictable nature of rogue states and terrorist networks. But
important questions are left unanswered, including such basic ones as
what defines an imminent threat.
The report points out that in the past, countries could measure
threats by the build-up of forces along borders. But the new doctrine
calls for the U.S. "to adapt the concept of imminent threat to the
capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries." The report offers
no definition for how to gauge these threats, presumably leaving such
judgments to the discretion of the president.
As currently defined, preemption not only requires the U.S.
government to analyze another country’s capabilities but to read the
minds of that country’s leaders and to assess possible intentions and
motives. Like some worldwide version of predictive crime, as in the
movie "Minority Report," these evaluations then become the basis for
"defensive" action before any offensive action occurs.
Sen. Robert Byrd, known for his scholarship on constitutional issues,
argued in a Senate floor speech on Oct. 3 that the Bush Doctrine
represents a rewriting of the U.S. Constitution and augurs a new era of
The West Virginia Democrat said Bush’s resolution seeking broad
powers to wage war in the Middle East was "a product of presidential
hubris. This resolution is breathtaking, breathtaking in its scope. It
redefines the nature of defense. It reinterprets the Constitution to
suit the will of the executive branch. This Constitution, which I hold
in my hand, is amended without going through the constitutional process
of amending this Constitution."
Byrd said Bush’s policy of preemptive war represented "an
unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the president’s authority
under the Constitution of the United States, not to mention the fact
that it stands the Charter of the United Nations on its head."
Other countries, Byrd noted, can be expected to cite the U.S.
precedent in justifying strikes at their enemies which might be
considered potential threats sometime in the future.
A Spiral of War
Indeed, by definition, preemption would beget preemption. If one
country explores the possibility of taking preemptive military action,
as the U.S. has against Iraq, the logic of preemption would permit a
country like Iraq to attack first, preemptively. If this new rule
applied to all countries, it would usher in a cycle of military
conflicts that would be self-sustaining and never-ending.
Of course, that is not what the Bush Doctrine envisions. It asserts
the notion that the United States stands alone above other nations in
its right to assess the intentions of other countries and attack
preemptively. Yet how the Bush administration plans to put the genie of
preemption back into the bottle once it’s been released is not
George W. Bush also makes a questionable argument when he asserts
that the dangers now facing the United States are unprecedented, thus
justifying an unprecedented response. During the Cold War, the U.S.
government faced down direct threats to its existence with the Soviet
Union and China possessing nuclear weapons. Still, presidents from Harry
Truman through the first President Bush managed the threat without
recourse to invading and disarming the Soviet Union and China.
In some ways the Bush Doctrine resembles the position of military
hawks at the time of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. They favored an
invasion of Cuba to remove missiles delivered by the Soviet Union, but
the hawks were thwarted by President John F. Kennedy who chose a
non-violent blockade and negotiations to eliminate the Cuban missile
threat and reduce tensions.
Now, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush has chosen to opt for
military preemption against countries that might become threats to U.S.
security. After Iraq, the policy of preemptive war would presumably
justify U.S. conflicts with many countries including Iran, Syria,
Venezuela, Cuba, China and North Korea. Each of these countries, to
varying degrees, rejects U.S. hegemony and represents potential security
Al Gore raised a series of similar questions in his Sept. 23 speech,
the one that was then characterized as crazy, opportunistic and
self-immolating. But just what did Al Gore actually say that merited
that new round of personal calumny?
Speaking to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Gore laid out a
series of concerns and differences that he has with Bush’s policy of
"preemption" and specifically the decision to refashion the war on
terror into an immediate war with Iraq.
Gore, who supported the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, was not opposing
efforts to oust Saddam Hussein, though the media coverage obscured that
point. Rather, the Tennessee Democrat expressed concern over Bush’s
approach to the task. One of Gore's criticisms focused on Bush’s failure
to enlist the international community as his father did in 1990. Gore
warned about the negative impact alienating other nations is having on
the broader war against terror.
"I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are
presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to
seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to
weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century," Gore said.
"To put first things first, I believe that we ought to be focusing our
efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on Sept. 11. …
"Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one
unfinished task to another. We should remain focused on the war against
Gore centered his criticism largely on the pace and the strategy, not
the goal of driving Hussein from power. "I believe we are perfectly
capable of staying the course in our war against Osama bin Laden and his
terrorist network, while simultaneously taking those steps necessary to
build an international coalition to join us in taking on Saddam Hussein
in a timely fashion," Gore said. "If you’re going after Jesse James, you
ought to organize the posse first, especially if you’re in the middle of
a gunfight with somebody who’s out after you."
Instead of keeping after al Qaeda and stabilizing Afghanistan, Bush
has chosen to jump to a new war against Iraq as the first example of his
policy of preemption, Gore said. "He is telling us that our most urgent
task right now is to shift our focus and concentrate on immediately
launching a new war against Saddam Hussein," Gore said. "And the
president is proclaiming a new uniquely American right to preemptively
attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat."
Gore also objected to the timing for a war that isn’t triggered by a
specific Iraqi action, but rather Bush’s determination that Iraq may
pose a threat sometime in the future. "President Bush is demanding, in
this high political season, that Congress speedily affirm that he has
the necessary authority to proceed immediately against Iraq and, for
that matter, under the language of his resolution, against any other
nation in the region regardless of subsequent developments or emerging
circumstances," Gore said.
The former vice president staked out a position with subtle but
important differences from Bush’s broad assertion that the U.S. has the
right to override international law on his command. Gore argued that
U.S. unilateral power should be used sparingly, only in extreme
"There’s no international law that can prevent the United States from
taking action to protect our vital interests when it is manifestly clear
that there’s a choice to be made between law and our survival," Gore
said. "Indeed, international law itself recognizes that such choices
stay within the purview of all nations. I believe, however, that such a
choice is not presented in the case of Iraq.
"Indeed, should we decide to proceed, our action can be justified
within the framework of international law rather than requiring us to go
outside the framework of international law. In fact, even though a new
United Nations resolution might be helpful in the effort to forge an
international consensus, I think it’s abundantly clear that the existing
U.N. resolutions, passed 11 years ago, are completely sufficient from a
legal standpoint, so long as it is clear that Saddam Hussein is in
breach of the agreements made at the conclusion of the Persian Gulf
Gore’s central point was that Bush had unnecessarily alienated the
international community over Iraq, thus making the war against terrorism
more difficult. "Our ability to secure that kind of multilateral
cooperation in the war against terrorism can be severely damaged in the
way we go about undertaking unilateral action against Iraq," Gore said.
Gore also contrasted the younger Bush’s approach now with his
father’s in 1991. "Iraq had crossed an international border, invaded a
neighboring sovereign nation and annexed its territory," Gore said.
"Now, by contrast, in 2002, there has been no invasion. We are proposing
to cross an international border. And, however justified it may be, we
have to recognize that this profound difference in the circumstances now
compared to what existed in 1991 has profound implications for the way
the rest of the world views what we are doing, and that in turn will
have implications for our ability to succeed in our war against
Gore noted, too, that the senior Bush confronted Iraq with the
support of a broad international coalition of nations, including every
Arab nation except Jordan. Now, Gore said, many allies around the world
are opposed to Bush’s course of action. The senior Bush also waited
until after midterm elections to push for a vote by Congress, while his
son has demanded a vote in the weeks before the elections.
"Rather than making efforts to dispel these concerns at home and
abroad about the role of politics in the timing of policy, the president
is on the campaign trail two or three days a week, often publicly
taunting Democrats with the political consequences of a no vote," Gore
said. "The Republican National Committee is running pre-packaged
advertising based on the same theme.
"All of this apparently in keeping with a political strategy clearly
described in a White House aide’s misplaced computer disk which advised
Republican operatives that their principal game plan for success in the
election a few weeks away was to, quote, ‘focus on the war.’ Vice
President Cheney, meanwhile, has indignantly described suggestions of
any such thing as reprehensible and then the following week took his
discussion of the war to the Rush Limbaugh Show."
Good Will Lost
In his speech, Gore bemoaned the fact that Bush’s actions have
dissipated the international good will that surrounded the United States
in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks. "That has been squandered in a
year’s time and replaced with great anxiety all around the world, not
primarily about what the terrorist networks are going to do, but about
what we’re going to do," Gore said. "Now, my point is not that they’re
right to feel that way, but that they do feel that way."
Then, the former vice president addressed his broader concerns about
Bush’s "preemption" doctrine.
"To begin with, the doctrine is presented in open-ended terms, which
means that if Iraq is the first point of application it is not
necessarily the last," Gore said. "In fact, the very logic of the
concept suggests a string of military engagements against a succession
of sovereign states – Syria, Libya, North Korea, Iran – none of them
very popular in the United States, of course, but the implication is
that wherever the combination exists of an interest in weapons of mass
destruction, together with an ongoing role as host to or participant in
terrorist operations, the doctrine will apply.
"It also means that if the Congress approves the Iraq resolution just
proposed by the administration, it would be simultaneously creating the
precedent for preemptive action anywhere, any time this or any future
president, as a single individual, albeit head of state, decides that it
As much as the international community is unnerved by Bush’s asserted
power, Gore said, the position is strongly supported by Bush’s political
base. "From the outset, the administration has operated in a manner
calculated to please the portion of its base that occupies the far
right, at the expense of solidarity among all of us as Americans and
solidarity between our country and our allies," Gore said.
Gore also took aim at Bush’s unilateral assertion of his right to
imprison American citizens without trial or legal representation simply
by labeling them "enemy combatants."
"The very idea that an American citizen can be imprisoned without
recourse to judicial process or remedy, and that this can be done on the
sole say-so of the president of the United States or those acting in his
name, is beyond the pale and un-American, and ought to be stopped," Gore
"Now, regarding other countries, the administration’s disdain for the
views of others is well documented, and need not be reviewed here. It is
more important to note the consequences of an emerging national strategy
that not only celebrates American strength, but actually appears to
glorify the notion of dominance. The word itself has been used in the
counsels of the administration.
"If what America represents to the world is leadership in a
commonwealth of equals, then our friends are legions. If what we
represent to the world is an empire, then it is our enemies who will be
legion. At this fateful juncture in our history, it is vital that we see
clearly who are our enemies, and that we intend to deal with them. It is
also important, however, that in the process we preserve not only
ourselves as individuals, but our nature as a people dedicated to the
rule of law."
Chaos in Iraq
Gore also raised practical concerns about the dangers that might
follow the overthrow of Hussein, if chaos in Iraq follows. Gore cited
the deteriorating political condition in Afghanistan where the new
central government can extend its control only to areas of the capital
and has ceded effective power to warlords in the countryside.
"What if, in the aftermath of a war against Iraq, we faced a
situation like that, because we’ve washed our hands of it?" Gore asked.
"What would then happen to all of those stored reserves of biological
weapons all around the country? What if the al-Qaeda members infiltrated
across the borders of Iraq the way they are in Afghanistan? Then the
question wouldn’t be, ‘Is Saddam Hussein going to share these weapons
with a terrorist group?’ The terrorist groups would have an enhanced
ability to just walk in there and get them.
"Now, I just think that if we end the war in Iraq the way we ended
the war in Afghanistan, we could very well be much worse off than we are
Gore also raised questions about the international chaos that could
be unleashed by the Bush Doctrine of "preemptive" wars against countries
that may become threats to U.S. national security sometime in the
future. Gore noted that the United States survived dangerous times
during the Cold War by operating through a strategy of collective
defense and multilateral organizations, such as NATO and the United
"Through all the dangerous years that followed, when we understood
that the defense of freedom required the readiness to put the existence
of the nation itself into the balance, we never abandoned our belief
that what we were struggling to achieve was not bounded by our own
physical security, but extended to unmet hopes of humankind," Gore said,
according to a text of his speech.
"The issue before us is whether we now face circumstances so dire and
so novel that we must choose one objective over the other," Gore said.
"Even those who now agree that Saddam Hussein must go, may divide deeply
over the wisdom of presenting the United States as impatient for war.
"At the same time, the concept of preemption is accessible to other
countries. There are plenty of potential imitators: India/Pakistan,
China/Taiwan; not to forget Israel/Iraq or Israel/Iran. Russia has
already cited it in anticipation of a possible military push into
Georgia, on grounds that this state has not done enough to block the
operations of Chechen rebels.
"What this doctrine does is to destroy the goal of a world in which
states consider themselves subject to law, particularly in the matter of
standards for the use of violence against each other. That concept would
be displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of
the president of the United States.
"I believe we can effectively defend ourselves abroad and at home
without dimming our principles. Indeed, I believe that our success in
defending ourselves depends precisely on not giving up what we stand
While it may be understandable why Bush’s supporters would be upset
over Gore’s address – Rush Limbaugh said he was unable to get to sleep
after listening to it – their subsequent reaction was more attuned to
obscuring Gore’s arguments than addressing what he actually said. [That
is why we have quoted from the speech at some length, so the readers can
judge Gore’s words themselves.]
Perhaps it should not be a surprise that as the Bush administration
sets the United States on a course to become a modern-day Rome that many
traditional notions of democracy, including the value of vigorous debate
and the rule of law, also would require revision.
In effect, Bush and his supporters already have created a domestic
flip side to the coin of worldwide "preemptive" war. They judge even
serious critics to be outside the acceptable public debate, which then
turns almost exclusively to the means of fighting war – displayed in 3-D
graphics and night-vision video – rather than on a thoughtful debate of
the justifications and the principles behind going to war.
As many in ancient Rome learned two millennia ago, it is difficult if
not impossible to maintain a republic within an empire.