01/16/2006 02:38 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Democracy or Autocracy? Gore Challenges Bush

Declaring that, "A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government," Al Gore just finished another extraordinary speech challenging the status quo in this country. Last month, the former Vice President began a compelling campaign to educate the American people on global warming. Today, in a Washington speech sponsored by the American Constitution Society, Gore directly attacked George W. Bush's grab for power as contradictory to the Founding Fathers' intentions and insulting to the American people. Gore condemned the White House for its civil liberties violations, exposed most recently in the NSA domestic spying scandal, and for the corruption that single-party power brings ... no matter who is in charge. Gore was no shrinking violet, nor was he the stereotype that the media has helped Republicans propagate. Nor was his a purely partisan sentiment. Gore was introduced by former very-conservative Republican congressman Bob Barr from Georgia.

Here are some excerpts. The full transcript is available here ...

"In spite of our differences [Barr and Gore] 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."

"It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr ... for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped--one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period."

"The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real ... Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable."

"If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?"

"The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control."

"In the words of George Orwell: 'We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.'"

"the most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power ... the legislative branch of government under its current leadership now operates as if it is entirely subservient to the Executive Branch. "

"Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program."

"Moreover, in the Congress as a whole--both House and Senate--the enhanced role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the sharply diminished role for reasoned deliberation and debate, has produced an atmosphere conducive to pervasive institutionalized corruption. The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg that threatens the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government."

Gore's command of history, his blunt call for accountability, and his grasp of policy solutions cannot be matched by any current national Democratic leader. The prolonged standing ovation at the end of the speech demonstrates this. Let's all hope his enthusiasm for real reform and real change infects all of the leadership on the left and wakes up those on the right who have so blindly followed Bush for five years.