Daily Archives: May 27, 2004

Gore Blasts Bush

Vice President Al Gore delivered a blistering attack on the entire Bush Administration in a speech at NYU yesterday, calling for the resignations of six top-ranking members of Junior’s inner circle, including Rice, Rumsfeld, and his friend, George Tenet.

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.

But although that’s the part that will get headlines, probably–if any attention is paid at all–it’s the rest of the speech that deserves attention. From the opening paragraph–‘George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.’–to the closing sentence–‘I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable – and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, “We – even we here – hold the power, and bear the responsibility.”‘–Gore carefully, cogently, and angrily laid out the real Bush legacy: humiliation, deceit, broken promises, and the destruction of America’s reputation.

During Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan was accused of corruption, but eventually, after a lot of publicity, the indictment was thrown out by the Judge. Donovan asked the question, “Where do I go to get my reputation back?” President Bush has now placed the United States of America in the same situation. Where do we go to get our good name back?

It’s a question that haunts many of us. Bush’s inherent unilateralist approach–‘We don’t need anybody else else. We’re the Big Dog and we do what we want”–may have struck a welcome chord with right-wing jingoists but the rest of the world sees only unholy arrogance and a dangerous obsession with flexing our muscles at the expense of order and law.

He promised to “restore honor and integrity to the White House.” Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as “a decent respect for the opinion of mankind.” He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.

How did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a leading French newspaper ran a giant headline with the words “We Are All Americans Now” and when we had the good will and empathy of all the world — to the horror that we all felt in witnessing the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib.

To begin with, from its earliest days in power, this administration sought to radically destroy the foreign policy consensus that had guided America since the end of World War II. The long successful strategy of containment was abandoned in favor of the new strategy of “preemption.” And what they meant by preemption was not the inherent right of any nation to act preemptively against an imminent threat to its national security, but rather an exotic new approach that asserted a unique and unilateral U.S. right to ignore international law wherever it wished to do so and take military action against any nation, even in circumstances where there was no imminent threat. All that is required, in the view of Bush’s team is the mere assertion of a possible, future threat – and the assertion need be made by only one person, the President.

And, he said, we are promoting that pre-emptive war on the cheap at the expense of the soldiers we are sending to die.

The war plan was incompetent in its rejection of the advice from military professionals and the analysis of the intelligence was incompetent in its conclusion that our soldiers would be welcomed with garlands of flowers and cheering crowds. Thus we would not need to respect the so-called Powell doctrine of overwhelming force.There was also in Rumsfeld’s planning a failure to provide security for nuclear materials, and to prevent widespread lawlessness and looting.

Luckily, there was a high level of competence on the part of our soldiers even though they were denied the tools and the numbers they needed for their mission. What a disgrace that their families have to hold bake sales to buy discarded Kevlar vests to stuff into the floorboards of the Humvees! Bake sales for body armor.

It’s a remarkable speech, a speech that should arguably have been made by John Kerry. So where is Kerry?

According to Adam Nagourney of the NY Times, there’s an argument going on between Democratic consultants on that very question.

WASHINGTON, May 26 — President Bush’s political difficulties have prompted a debate among Democrats and aides to Senator John Kerry over how cautious his campaign should be on a variety of issues, from choosing a vice president to differentiating himself from Mr. Bush to responding to the turmoil in Iraq.Some party officials say that with three new polls showing President Bush more embattled than he has ever been, Mr. Kerry’s wisest course would be to take few chances and turn the election into a referendum on a struggling president. “People have won a lot of campaigns by just saying, `It is time for a change,’ ” said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster.

But other Democrats warn that such a strategy entails risks of its own, banking on the proposition that Americans would be willing to fire an incumbent during war time and replace him with someone they know little about. “I don’t think anybody in their right mind is going to run for president on a strategy of `people hate the other guy and that’s enough for our guy to win,’ ” said Douglas Sosnik, the White House political director for President Bill Clinton.

So far the DLC seems to have won and Kerry has, as we’ve noted before, been keeping an awfully low profile–low to the point almost of invisibility. It’s an arguable policy for sure, especially since his numbers haven’t climbed in response to the sinking of Junior’s. But after thinking about this, I’m beginning to wonder if being in the front line, while comforting to those of us who want to hear these things said out loud, as Gore did, might only result in an even further polarization of the electorate. Things are dicey and there are a lot of people sitting on the fence; an active partisan assault by the nominee might shove them onto the other side rather than pull them onto ours.

Good thing I’m not one of the consultants. Go read the speech (it’s a great read) and decide for yourself.

Update: The Associated Press continues its right-wing slant. In reporting on Gore’s speech they characterized him as ‘Raising his voice to a scream’ a la Dean and ‘bellowing’. No other report on the speech mentioned him doing any such thing. They then dismiss the dozen outbursts of applause because they came from a ‘partisan crowd’, and quotes responses to the speech only from Jim Dyke of the RNC.