This post is about Al Gore and hoping he runs for President and, frankly, "saves" us. And it's about seeing a typically infuriating interview with our deluded President. I'm worried we have two more years with him. But back story first.
Last Wednesday (August 30), I got very politically depressed and overwhelmed.
That morning on my first sip of coffee I had the unpleasant experience of watching George W. Bush being interviewed by Brian Williams on The Today Show. Bush said many annoying and wrong-headed things, especially about Iraq, and I felt so depressed to have him as our leader. I also fear the administration is itching to attack Iran. (More about this interview below; I want to answer back to it.)
Then at night, through the miracle of dvr (which is like tivo), I was able to record and save two programs that were showing simultaneously.
I fell asleep while they were being taped, but woke up to see the sad and overwhelming sight of New Orleans drowning in Spike Lee's Katrina documentary on HBO, When the Levees Broke: Requiem. Then I went in the other room and saw the end of what was taping on my other tv, ABC's 20/20, whose episode was titled Last Days on Earth and was described as "scientists explain seven deadly threats to humanity."
I suppose something may seem wrong with me that I should be taping both these events.
And I recall a poll that found that conservatives were more upbeat and optimistic, and liberals were more worried and pessimistic. That's probably true. I do worry a lot. And the neocons do seem happy and worry-free, filled with certainty and living in their odd Ivory Tower think tanks, watching other people's children die for their theories. Bill Kristol for dog catcher, anyone? (Bad idea. I like dogs.)
I still haven't watched 20/20, it's "living" inside my television somewhere like a mold, but I did see its final "Deadly Threat."
Deadly Threat #7 was Global Warming, which as the program correctly said should really be called Climate Change, since it's not only about getting warmer, but about the other changes that warming causes throughout the planet (melting ice caps, rising sea waters, stronger hurricanes due to warmer water, etc.).
The program - liberal bias, liberal bias! Call the police! - seemed very close in its presentation of the facts to Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, and went so far as to say that the few remaining scientists who raised doubts that Climate Change was related to manmade carbon emissions were on the level of Holocaust deniers. The program also said many of these doubting voices were actually being paid by oil and gas companies, and compared them to the paid experts who said nicotine wasn't addictive when the Cigarette Makers were on their many-years-long lying jag.
So George Bush in the morning, and drowning people and Katrina and Global Warming/Climate Change in the evening.
Then my local weather came on, about Tropical Storm Ernesto, which spared New Orleans but was likely to flood Virginia (it did) and maybe Pennsylvania too (it didn't).
I live in Pennsylvania near the Delaware River, and I have friends who live by the river itself. When the river floods, those people's homes become submerged (basements and first floors), and the damage and clean-up are considerable. Also the roads that take you to New Jersey and the Land of Oz beyond become impassible during flooding.
There was a famous, serious flood along the Delaware in 1955. Then another in the 1970s. Then another in 1996. Residents along the river came to feel that "luck of the draw" in terms of major flooding seemed to happen every 20 years. Then there were major floods September 2004, April 2005, and this past June 2006.
Normal fluctuation of weather? God's distemper? Or could it be... no, no, the oil companies and pro-business Republicans MUST be right, it can't be Climate Change. That nutty Al Gore finding problems where there aren't any.
We didn't get as much rain from Ernesto as the weather reporters worried, but there was a lot of wind, and lots of trees down, smashing peoples' roofs and cars and occasionally killing someone. Plus these past three months we seem to have had severe thunderstorms about every seven days or so, or sometimes for several days in a row, with high wind, lightning and trees down, smashing things. While out west they seem stuck in drought.
These weather systems seem to get "stuck" in one place more than I recall. Several of the recent floods occurred because some weather systems simply stayed in place for several days, not moving.
So Bush, Katrina, Climate Change, and specific worry about the weather over the coming days. Had me in a bad mood.
In that bad mood, I then came across Brent Budowsky's August 30th post called Al Gore For President: The Man Meets the Moment. I hope you'll read all of it.
It's a very eloquent discussion about what a really fine president Gore would make, and also how his temperament and his knowledge and experience so far surpass our present President, who goes on hunches, chooses bad advisers and sticks with them, and is also reflexively bellicose and seemingly incapable of complex reasoning. The sort of guy who punches people in bars, only now he does it sober (presumably) and on a world stage.
I hope Mr. Budowsky will not mind if I quote his post here:
Unlike virtually every major Democrat in Washington Al Gore was dead right about Iraq from day one. This commends him for the Presidency for two reasons, both equally important. The first reason is that with decades of national security experience he was wise enough and smart enough to know that the Iraq War was a tragic mistake. The second reason is profound: Al Gore had the courage and clarity to speak out clearly, forcefully, and unequivocally without the maneuvering and positioning that led virtually every leading Washington Democrat to be dead wrong.
Iraq alone should not be disqualifying. But this is the defining war of our times, and evaluating who should be leader of the free world and commander in chief, the fact that Al Gore was completely right and courageously straight is a monumental plus.
Agreed. And then one more quote from his post:
When George W. Bush took office, he was a man of enormous self-esteem but virtually zero knowledge of the world, zero understanding of foreign nations, zero understanding of military strategy or military life. When Al Gore was a young man he had vast curiosity about the world that continually expanded his knowledge throughout his life. He was not a war hero, but accepted the obligations of service, joined the military and had more world experience and war experience returning from Vietnam than George Bush did the day he took the oath of office as President.
As I read Mr. Budowsky's full piece, I felt such a surging of hope that it might be possible to get some true leadership, and from someone smart. The world and the United States need someone very intelligent right now.
I hope we can convince Al Gore to lead us through and, hopefully, out of these dark times.
Sometimes Gore's poll numbers are bad among people (though not Democrats), and it is probably due to the 2000 Bush-Gore race. Gore did not run a good campaign, and he seemed stiff and a bit dorky. Bush seemed relaxed and like a slightly more educated good ol' boy. It was conventional wisdom that of the two, Bush was the one you wanted to have a beer with.
And the mass media focused on this - they covered the campaign as if it was to choose who to elect for the head of the fraternity - "W's the man!" - or even which co-ed should win Beauty Queen - "Al stands too straight, he seems tight; W's a movin' guy, he's cool, he has better sweaters, and his boobs are larger."
I'm sorry I've slipped into gender confusion. Give me a moment.
There, here I am again.
No mainstream media person that I know of ever did a serious investigation of Bush's job as Governor of Texas. When long after the election, I read Molly Ivins' collection Bushwhacked, I was surprised to learn that during his time there, he weakened environmental safeties and pollution went up very high, and he also ran up big, big deficits in Texas.
Wouldn't that information have been more useful to know about the two candidates, rather than all the blather about how Gore "seemed" stiff and Bush "seemed" like a regular guy?
All this focus on strategy and image over actual content is the result of this merging of news and entertainment that corporations have decreed, and it's part of why the country is less well informed and not encouraged or guided to focus on what's important.
So...to recap... please - let's urge Gore to run. Let's get ready to defend him against the Swift Boat Veterans from Hell that will undoubtedly come out and clog the airwaves with lies and lies.
And to move on to topic two, the Brian Williams interview I saw with George Bush.
The full interview was on MSNBC on August 29. I saw an edited version of it the next day on The Today Show. The transcript is here.
Reading the transcript, I see that the Today Show version is edited. It leaves out a lot of interesting stuff about W's father. And it re-orders things, so that topics are put together. (The re-ordering is a bit questionable, but I don't think it changed the meaning.)
Oddly, the transcript does NOT include several run-on comments that Bush made about Iraq that I found very upsetting and typical of how his thinking works. I don't know if it's left out for a reason, or an error. Because of my dvr, I was able to rewatch the Today interview and transcribe the missing sections.
I also left in a lot of word stumbling Bush was doing, since it felt as if the stumbling was part of its meaning: he feels stressed at the recurring Iraq questions, and he has trouble putting his thoughts together. He has trouble, I think, because his thoughts are from a set series of talking points he has learned; I do think he believes these points, which is almost too bad because it means he'll never change or adjust them, his mind isn't supple, and he apparently never admits mistakes. But watching him reiterate these points over and over is disorienting and exhausting both for him and for the listener, because the talking points don't always fit the questions he's asked.
And so he stumbles and sounds a bit annoyed, but tries to cover it with that irritating and disorienting little smile that simultaneously says "I'm still friendly" and "why can't you get the logic of my reasoning and accept it, you jerk?" Really, Mainstream Media - I'd take Al Gore's stiffness any day. (Plus he's not stiff when he's himself and engaged in talking about important issues he knows about.)
I want to show you some of the interview. The stuff NOT in the transcript and which I transcribed, I will put in italics. (I will also add in times he smiled or got irritated even when it's from the transcript stuff; it adds to its meaning.) And I will interrupt the President's answers sometimes when I can't stand to hear his "reasoning" go unchallenged. The interview takes place in New Orleans, by the way.
WILLIAMS: The view out there, I think if you asked 9 out of 10 historians -- High point: bullhorn, in the rubble of the buildings that came down. Low point: We're standing on it. Is that fair?
BUSH: First of all, (with a little smile) there's no such thing as short-term history as far as I'm concerned. I think that you can't judge a presidency based upon a moment's notice. I believe you have to take -- eventually my standing in history will be judged by people 30 or 40 years from now who will be able to take an objective look, at whether the decisions I made led to peace and prosperity.
From Durang: Bush and his administration have been using this dodge a lot in the past months. When things get so bad in Iraq that even they can't spin it as good or "we're making progress," they get all philosophical. History may show us that they're right, that invading Iraq was a great move. We really can't say. Can't say. It's too soon. Let's stay the course for 15 more years, and then wait 40 years after that, and then we'll know.
Yes, of course, history does look at events and evaluate them. But you don't just turn your mind off and go, oh well Daddy President knows best. I'll hold my tongue and wait and see, it'll probably be fine.
There are so many reasons why the Iraq invasion seemed wrong from the beginning, it was so clearly not "war as a last resort," and then there were all the shifting explanations of why we went in. (I think Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for not deriding his and Cheney's ever changing explanations for why we went to war.) I think we can make a fair guess it will NOT be judged well by history.
So why don't we settle on that course - we'll agree it's a really, really bad decision by the Decider that has not worked out as they told us it would -- that we'd be greeted as liberators, they'd become a democracy and thus stabilize surrounding Islam countries, and, what's more, their oil will pay for the whole thing. That didn't happen, Bush ignored (and probably didn't read) the State Department papers that explained the dangers of the Shiite-Sunni hatred boiling into civil war, and the war has had several unintended consequences: it's working well as a recruiting tool to get more young Muslims to join the ranks of terrorists and fight and die for their religion; and by deposing Sunni Saddam Hussein, the balance of power has shifted in favor of the more fundamentalist Shiite Muslims, including the country Iran. And finally it has proved, which Bush and company have never acknowledged perhaps even to themselves, that the concept of "pre-emptive war" is insane - it's immoral, and when you have the reasons for it WRONG you end up attacking a country that does not deserve to be attacked.
So, given all that, I say we say it's been a disaster, let's let that be the assumption for now. And if in 30 or 40 years, if the planet is still here, won't it be fun and interesting if facts and time make it look like it was a really, really good idea. (Vietnam is over 30 years ago, and it still looks like an enormous, wasteful mistake.)
Back to the President.
WILLIAMS: When you take a tour of the world, a lot of Americans e-mail me with their fears that, some days they just wake up and it just feels like the end of the world is near. And you go from North Korea to Iran, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, and you look at how things have changed, how Americans are viewed overseas, if that is important to you. Do you have any moments of doubt that we fought the wrong war? Or that there's something wrong with the perception of America overseas?
BUSH: Well those are two different questions, did we fight the wrong war, and absolutely -- I have no doubt -- the war came to our shores, remember that. We had a foreign policy that basically said, let's hope calm works. And we were attacked.
WILLIAMS: But those weren't Iraqis.
BUSH : They weren't, no, I agree, they weren't Iraqis, nor did I ever say Iraq ordered that attack, but they're a part of, Iraq is part of the struggle against the terrorists. [transcribed, not in the transcript:) These terrorists have made it clear they want us to leave Iraq. Prematurely. And why is it? Because they want a safe haven. They'd love to get ahold of oil. They have territorial ambitions. (argumentative) And uh, no I...I...I... think fighting this war is the absolute right thing to do. [back to the transcript] Now in terms of image, of course I worry about American image. We are great at TV, and yet we are getting crushed on the PR front. [transcribed, not in the transcript] And so we work hard and try to work smart about how we get a message out. That says we respect Islam, we just reject the ideology of extremists, who kill innocent people for political objectives. And we've got to do a harder job. I... but... somehow people... if, if what you're saying is... if we retreat, for the sake of popularity, is that the smart thing to do, my answer is absolutely no. It'd be a huge mistake...to give the battlefield to these extremists. We retreat, they follow us. And uh... eh eh dih... I see this clearly as-as-as day. I mean I... I'm ... and I understand the challenge. And I understand... I also understand the frustrations of our citizens.
From Durang: No, Mr. President, you do not understand. Watching your irritation and stumbling, you don't understand why everyone doesn't see it as you do, which dutifully matches what Cheney and Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and the neocons have told you. You're like someone in school who was taught something wrong by a teacher, and then cannot take in that the original teaching was wrong, and just holds on to it. On and on.
BUSH: The war came to our shores, remember that.
Excuse me if I shout. NO, MR. PRESIDENT, THE IRAQ WAR DID NOT COME TO OUR SHORES. 19 ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST TERRORISTS CAME TO OUR SHORE. Fifteen came from Saudi Arabia (your oil buddies' country), four came from Egypt, the United Arab Emigrates, and Lebanon. NONE FROM IRAQ, NOT ONE PERSON.
I'm going to stop shouting.
The terrorists, of course, were individual members of al-Qaeda, which is a terrorist organization. It is not a country. It is not under the control of a country. When it was ascertained that Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda were behind the attacks and were in Afghanistan, you didn't decide to attack Afghanistan, you first asked the government to hand over Bin Laden. That was correct, you made the distinction back then. When the Taliban refused, you then said you would invade the country in order to get Bin Laden.
That all made sense. Both Republicans and Democrats supported you. The countries of the world supported you. Even some of the Muslim countries supported you.
Then you took this insane turn... after your somewhat embarrassing pledge to capture Bin Laden "dead or alive," you lost interest in getting him. Don't know why; don't know why the Republicans or the voters let you get away with it. But seemingly finding a tall man who has to be on dialysis is just too hard.
So you changed your sights to Iraq.
Bill Cusack reminds us in his post that "ten days after Bush is elected, according to former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, Bush decides to invade Iraq, telling his staff to 'find a way to do it.'"
And Richard Clarke told us that the day after 9/11, Bush told him he wanted to find connections between Iraq and al-Quada. Clarke, the terrorist expert at the CIA, told Bush there were no connections, they'd looked repeatedly. Bush aggressively told him to try again... he wanted a connection found.
And then months later Bush goes on television and says he hasn't made his mind up about invading Iraq, and war is always a last resort.
Remember when the scuttlebut was we had to go war SOON because in a couple of months it would be too hot for our soldiers over there. So we were going to move ahead to war faster for good weather.
And now here we are three years later, still there. I guess the soldiers are very hot, as they drive around in their armorless Humvees. (Some of them now have armor, I imagine. But we all remember those Katrina-like stories of incompetence of not giving our troops what they needed, body armor etc.)
On August 30th in Salt Lake City there was a large protest against Bush and his policies. From the Salt Lake Tribune:
A crowd of thousands cheered Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson for calling President Bush a "dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights violating president" whose time in office would 'rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure." ...With their signs labeling Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld the "axis of evil," calling the Iraq war a "mission of lies" or comparing the invasion of Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001, to invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor, the estimated 1,500 to 4,000 protesters hoped their demonstration at the Salt Lake City-County Building sent a message about the reddest state in the country.
I especially like the comparison of invading Iraq after 9-11 to if we had invaded Mexico after Pearl Harbor.
Look, it is absolutely true that the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists are an enormous danger to the world. But it is clear that Bush's only solution is to kill all Muslim terrorists one by one, and for every one he kills, three more are converted to join the jihad. Then the "collateral damage" - that immoral euphemism for dead bystanders, often women and children - also pushes creates more terrorists anxious to fight the Great Satan.
I mean, imagine if your wife, mother or child were killed by an invading country's bombs - would you be saying, "Oh, I'm so glad they're bringing me Freedom!" I don't for a moment think George Bush has done anything that has not made it all worse. Certainly a western country invading a Muslim country that did not attack us is a superb way to recruit more terrorists - that's the main legacy of George Bush so far.
The mid-terms elections are coming up. I know more Americans agree with this point of view now than did a year ago, Bush's folly has become so apparent.
We must vote out the Republicans who have just rubber stamped everything Bush has wanted. (And we must throw mealy-souled Joe Lieberman onto that list as well, he too has rubber stamped Bush's wishes.) Particularly we must vote out the Senators and Congressmen who have been on Bush's side about Iraq, the environment and stem cell research. Out with them.
Back to the President:
BUSH: I was in Crawford and I said I was looking for a book to read and Laura said you oughtta try Camus, I also read three Shakespeare's.
WILLIAMS: This is a change...
BUSH: Not really. Wait a minute.
WILLIAMS: A few months ago you were reading the life story of Joe DiMaggio by Richard Ben Cramer.
BUSH: Which was a good book.
WILLIAMS: You've been on a Teddy Roosevelt reading kick.
BUSH: Well, I'm reading about the battle of New Orleans right now. I've got an ...eck-electic reading list.
By which I think he means he reads books on varied topics all the while trying to swallow his tongue.
You know, in fairness, if I liked the man or if I thought he was competent or if I thought he wasn't doing VAST DAMAGE to our country and the world, I'd cut him slack on this... words are hard to say sometimes. But this man is not that smart, he should not be president, he's also rigid, etc. etc. So allow me my minor enjoyment of making fun of his new word "eck-electic."
By the way, the transcript, somewhat understandably, just says "eclectic," but if you heard it on television, he says, in his on-going stumbling, "eck-electic."
So. Very long post, huh?
1. Vote Democrat in the mid-term elections, get rid of any of those who have rubber-stamped Bush.
2. Urge Al Gore to run. Hope he says yes. Work for his election.
3. And then if he's elected, hold on tight. The world is in terrible shape. But at least we could feel what it's like to have someone intelligent at the helm again.
Let Bush go back to Crawford, and read eck-electic books while he waits for history to judge him.