Thursday, January 19, 2006

A public service message

Al Gore delivered a dynamic speech this past Monday night at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. If you have not yet seen, heard or read it, please have a look at it (links below). Or, at the very least, please continue reading this post. I offer you small bits and pieces from the speech (the italics) and my own summary and comments. Gore’s message was powerful and absolutely essential for all Americans, or at least those of us who value our liberty. It was inspiring to hear a mainstream politician voice some of the concerns that many of us have been expressing for a rather long time already.

In his opening line, Gore defined a principal problem:

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

Gore argued for restoration of the rule of law, and asserted that a president should never be beyond the rule of law. He shared the thoughts of our Founding Fathers:

“The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.” – John Adams

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” – James Madison

But G.W. Bush has assumed powers that do not belong in the hands of the president. Amongst the examples which Gore offered were the suspension of habeas corpus and the practices of torture and rendition.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then - until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

For those of you, like Max's brother, who still think that Bush’s tiny little baby steps towards fascism do not amount to anything, here is a bit of analysis from Harold Koh, the Dean of Yale Law School:

“If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution.”

Or perhaps you will prefer the words of Justice Frankfurter, as written in the Steel Seizure Case:

“The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority.”

Gore described the theory of the unitary, or unilateral, executive:

This legal theory threatens to expand the president’s powers until the contours of the Constitution that the framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the president's authority when acting as commander-in-chief, or when making foreign policy, cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as commander-in-chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

We have a problem with dishonesty. As an example, Gore used Cheney’s claim of the week before, that had the Administration had its eavesdropping programme in place prior to 9/11, they would have learned the names of some of the hijackers. But the facts are entirely different:

Tragically, he apparently still doesn't know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have easily led to the identification of most of the other hijackers.

Gore went on diplomatically to blame incompetence for the mishandling of that information. But in this instance, I prefer the conclusions of Gore Vidal, who has compared 9/11 with Pearl Harbour - both were real attacks, but neither was in any way a surprise.

It is often the case that an Executive Branch beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power. Often, the request itself it used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.

Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If this President's attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.

Gore accused the judicial and legislative branches of our government of not exercising their muscles in our system of checks and balances. He pointed out that there are justices on the Supreme Court that believe in a powerful executive, most notably Bush’s appointee, Chief Justice Roberts and his current nominee, Judge Alito. Congress kowtows to the president, and its members are too busy raising money to engage in meaningful debate of the issues. There is corruption. Both Democrats and Republicans are to blame.

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you’re supposed to be.

And Gore then blamed We the people, and shared another couple of quotes:

“An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will.” – Thomas Jefferson

“All just power is derived from the consent of the governed.” – John Locke (Enlightenment philosopher)

We the people have become stupid and uninformed because, according to Gore, for the past 40 years, the majority of Americans have got their news primarily from television. We have dumbed ourselves right out of government by the people. We do not know what is going on so we believe what we are told. One of the ways the Bush administration has tried to influence what we hear and what we think is through the culture of fear that they have created.

As President Eisenhower said, “Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America.”

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: “Men feared witches and burnt women.”

In his conclusion, Gore stated that the founders of our country faced greater threats than we do today, and yet they came up with the Bill of Rights – guaranteeing freedoms rather than restricting them. And finally, he outlined the steps he feels we should take to begin turning things back round towards the rule of law, and liberty.

And Gore’s delivery was actually dynamic, believe it or not, at least in the excerpts that I saw.

You can find that clip of excerpts at www.crooksandliars.com, and the full text of the speech at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11584.htm.

16 comments:

Anonymous A-Hole said...

Gee, is this the same Al Gore (and wife) who've been working for censorship in the arts for more than a decade?

The same Al Gore that was part of an administration that employed VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL wiretapping practices througout the '90's?

Is this the same Al Gore that is financially vested in virtually every alternative that he proposes?

Is this the same Al Gore that, despite being the VP of one of this century's most popular presidents, couldn't even beat The "Shrub" (I know, I know, the election was "stolen")?

That's what I thought.

Al Gore is a hypocrite, a crook, and an absolute stiff; he's no different from nearly every other politician. He's forming a platform (with a run at the presidency being laughable) based on Bush-hate. Essentially, Al Gore will simply be banging the contrarian drum in an effort to satisfy the rest of the contrarians; he's wholly disengenuous (not to mention that he will again divide his own party and set them back 5-10 years). It obviously plays well in Europe but, here in the America, he'll be lucky to finish third in any of the presidential primaries. Sorry, but the guy's spent; he might as well be Howard Dean.

It kind of reminds me of Ted Kennedy. During the Alito trial, Kennedy could not shut up about Alito's affiliation to CAP (Concerned Alumni of Princeton). Lo and behold, only weeks later, Mr. Kennedy is trying to explain away his affiliation to OWL, which is a nearly identical group based at whatever Ivy League school it was that the drunkard's family force-fed his application.

Kennedy and Gore are prime examples of why I no longer vote Democrat. They are both absolute jokes. Fortunately, Kennedy's been so drunk for so long that he's not a real political force. Gore, however, apparently still has even some intelligent people (mostly in Europe) fooled.

Gore's a freaking idiot.

Max said...

Asshole, I would not vote for Gore either. I never said Gore was blameless. I do, however, agree with much - not all - of what Gore said on Monday night. It could have been anyone, but it was Gore, amongst all of the mainstream politicians, all of whom by definition are corrupt, who has stood up and said that this shitting all over the Constitution has gone too fucking far. I respect that.

Max said...

And you had better not be insinuating that I have been "fooled" by Gore. I have not. I am finished being fooled by anyone in politics, I have had my epiphany.

It is you, little brother, who continues to be fooled by Bush and the rest of those corrupt law-breaking motherfuckers in DC. When are you going to wake up?!!

Anonymous A-Hole said...

You said that Gore was "dynamic." Thus, you've been fooled on some level. ;)

Anonymous A-Hole said...

And, seriously here, the reason it was Gore to say it was that nobody else can afford to; they all value their chances in the next election.

Right or not, the majority of Americans are assuming a very defiant stance against hating Bush and America by default. It simply will not win the next election. Those that understand this concept, and stand no chance of competing politically (Gore), have nothing to lose by gaining the interst of the contrarians (who will vote strictly along the I-Hate-Bush platform).

Simply stated, the legitimate politicians, with genuine interests in growing a constituency that includes something other than the moonbats, are working seriously to define a platform that might be taken seriously.

If Al Gore runs again, my return to the Democratic party will be further postponed.

It's a political catch-22, really, with both parties in unenviable position(s), the most worthy candidates (Rice and Clinton) standing no genuine chance of winning (still too many people in the America not willing to vote for a female president).

Anonymous A-Hole said...

Okay, I re-read Mr. Gore's speech.

In summary, by way of paraphrase:

It's time to let go of this partisanship and come to my side.

Max said...

Asshole, I agree with you that Gore can say whatever he wants because he has nothing to lose. But did you look at the excerpts from the speech. He was dynamic - who knows why - maybe drugs.

No one said anything about hating The America. I have said it before, as have many others, hating the current administration and its policies does not equal hating The America. I do not hate The America. You know that.

And, as a matter of perspective, I would have been excited about this speech if a mainstream Republican had made it.

Bush and his cohorts have been lying, breaking laws and shitting on the Constitution for too long. They need to go.

By the way, Asshole, I am picking up my headset for skype next weekend in London. Do you have yours yet? We will be able to argue in real time for free.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

I'll argue with you in real time, for free, in a few weeks, over a few drinks. I think I'll be hanging with you and J at your hotel quite a bit.

Tell J that I'm sorry; interstate gun laws preclude me from bringing the guns and ammo or else we could, again, go shooting.

Max said...

Oh yeah, see you in just 5 weeks. Jono and I are really pleased about the hotel - good to have a refuge away from the madness that we call family. You are welcome anytime, we'll have booze in the room.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

I'll bring the...

Ludovic said...

MM
a pertinant little animation you might enjoy.
Take care,
Ruto
http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/fiore/2006/01/greater.html

Max said...

Ludo, thanks, I have indeed watched and enjoyed.

Asshole, yes, please.

Audie said...

anonymous a-hole said: "Al Gore ... the VP of one of this century's most popular presidents"

This century has had only two presidents, and to be more popular than Shrub is not saying much (>38%?).

Also, Rice and Hilary's dearth of chances to win the presidency have little to do with their female-ness, and more to do with the fact that they are freaks.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

Whoops, a technicality. Fine, the last one hundred years.

But, while we're splitting hairs, you may want to check your 38% number and compare it against more current polls.

Audie said...

Oh, you're right. Bush's approval rating has rocketed up to 43% now. Hmmmm.

Also interesting, I think, is that, according to the most recent issue of Military Times magazine, approval for Bush's Iraq policy is at only 54% amongst the US armed forces.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

That's because the military perspective tends to be "shit or get off the pot." We've stopped shitting, for the moment, and are merely on the pot.