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Saturn Smith
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MAY 21, 2009 12:52PM

VP vs. VP: Why Al Gore Should've Been More Like Dick Cheney

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By Simone.Brunozzi, via Flickr/CC license

I love Al Gore.  I've spoken of this before.  I am almost irrationally attached to the man, and his 2000 loss was as crushing to me as... some great, crushing thing, like an anvil -- no, like 50 anvils falling on your dreams of justice in the world, if you'd decided to store those dreams in a hollowed-out egg. 

But he's currently making an argument, and being used as the basis for an argument, that I disagree with: he's saying Dick Cheney should lay off because he laid off the Bush administration from 2000-2002. 

Wait wait wait.

First, to make that argument, you have to believe that it was valuable for Gore to lay off Bush for those first two years.  These were terrible years.  The election left the country divided (and half of us very, very hopeless).  Then came 9/11, which left us scared and hopeless, and vulnerable not just to external threats, but internal threats under the guise of protection.  The Patriot Act passed -- and it took Gore three years to call for its repeal.

Throughout 2002, the Bush administration was planning -- sometimes quite publicly -- a war with Iraq.  And Gore was silent.  He was silent until September 23, 2002 -- well after war planning had gone public.  (I assume that someone with Gore's government contacts would or could have known more about the planning earlier than nearly anyone in the press).  Everyone hid behind a "we support the Commander in Chief" banner, probably partly from fear that to do differently would hand the GOP the chance to question their patriotism.  When Gore did speak out, his speech was factually quite fiery -- but also of the typical, tepid Gore-ese, a dork-wonk's paradise, but not the kind of rhetoric that was going to overcome the "you're either with us or against us" line popular at the time.

Six weeks later, the GOP took control of both parties of Congress.

How were we served by Al Gore's silence?  Poorly.

Dick Cheney -- Official White House portrait 2005So, then, let's make the opposite argument.  I read Dick Cheney's speech today [.pdf], and predictably, I disagreed with almost every word of it.  I would love to never hear anything from Dick Cheney again.  I'd love to see him retire peacefully to Wyoming, or Texas, or anywhere he wants, to fly fish and write scary letters to his grandchildren.  In fact, I'd be happy not to hear from him again until the day he's called to testify before the Leahy Truth Commission.

But if he wants to talk -- if he feels it's necessary to talk, and to talk over the current president -- then I think he should go for it.  I don't think it's particularly damaging to President Obama's efforts for Dick Cheney to make the talk show rounds or speak at friendly think-tanks.  (Whether it's damaging to my overall faith in journalism that he's getting the access and coverage that he is makes for an entirely different and more curse-filled post).  Obama has a much bigger platform to speak from -- and, hey, he has a Vice President of his own that he could send out to meet Cheney on these shows.

What I really don't understand is why the Obama administration isn't using these opportunities to openly debate Cheney's positions.  Send Joe Biden -- or better yet, Hillary Clinton -- to every think tank and talk show and radio station and newspaper reporter to whom Dick Cheney speaks with.  Make a standing offer that the administration will gladly answer any charges Cheney makes.  This guy is wrong, but ignoring him doesn't prove that.  Wishing he would go away -- or suggesting that he has a duty to do so -- doesn't prove it, either.  And since the media is clearly still willing to give him attention -- the Washington Post, for instance, is letting him share the front page with President Obama at the moment -- it seems like it's time for the administration to step up and answer.

If Gore had made a similar tour in 2002, if he'd aired his complaints on TV, if he'd shown just how wrong the administration's stances were on any number of issues, if he'd insisted he be heard... would we be where we are today?  If we'd had an open debate on whether the Iraq invasion was a good idea instead of long, obvious silence from the only party leader Democrats really had -- what would America look like today?

Maybe it would be the same.  But maybe things would be better.  And if the Obama administation believes in what they're doing, that they're making the world safer, that they're trying the right things, then they should welcome Dick Cheney's criticism, because it can only make us stronger, as a country and a party.

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We have an expression in the Air Force Officer Corps: "Not Officer Material".

Gore was not officer material, simply put. Those were times when the aggressive, evil forces were tromping all over us, our values, our country, and the world. Those were NOT times for anything less than the most adamant and courageous stands against wrong, wrong, wrong.

Yes, he would have been attacked, a pariah, a "traitor". But his temporary discomfiture would have had a braking effect and would have showed enough leadership for the rest of us to follow in protest and boycott and speaking up.

He could have led us. Instead he walked away.

There's another saying "The best way to explain leadership is this: Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way." The trick, however, is knowing which of those three options to take, and when to take it.

He got the hell out of the way when he should have continued to lead.

And I am with you that it was a crushing loss. My heart was broken as my country was being destroyed. I was furious at VP Gore for not running in 2003. He would have won and could have prevented 4 additional years of damage.

Looking forward, we cannot even think of stopping the fight. Dick Cheney is all over the news these days, interfering as much as he can with the administration that needs to send him to prison.

Giving Cheney (who led, when he should have gotten out of the way) as little attention and response as possible might be the best option. He is, after all, an admitted war criminal who continues to advocate continuation of his own crimes! Why should he get one minute of anyone's time as he attempts to throw around weight that he doesn't have anymore?

I prefer to see him fidget and sweat during his defense...uh testimony before as many commissions, investigatory bodies, and tribunals as we can drag him through.
I just can't figure Gore's silence out, completely. From a cynical, political strategy-only stand, I guess maybe if he was still considering a 2004 run, he stayed quiet to reduce the number of shots the GOP could take at him later for being "unpatriotic." I don't know. It would have been brave either way. He seems to have the capacity for leadership, but he squandered a big chance by walking away, like you say.
I'm thinking part of his mysterious silence was PTSD. (Supreme Court v. Gore.) Anyone who heard the sabre rattling from Crawford at the end of summer, 2002, didn't need an expert's opinion.
i couldn't agree more. i wish gore had fought harder for the election he won in 2000. how many more humans would be alive today if he had?
The theft of the 2000 election, and Gore's denial of any attempt to correct it left me wondering about skeletons in his closet. Yes, we all have them. But he had to know, or have some idea of what was about to be unleashed on the country. Cheney, Baker and others were all well known and recycled lunatics with a penchant for "extra-constitutional" activities. Everyone surrounding Bush came out of the Nixon/Reagan/BushI triumverate. And while you and I may not have seen into that fog very well, guys who were absolutely in the know (Senate and the Administration) would have had to have a very good idea what we were in for by allowing Bush the White House.
Bush was a terrible president. We will be living with his sins for generations, if we ever recover at all (I for one think we need another Andrew Jackson, but thats another story). But given how easily Gore folded his tent and went into hiding, I do have to wonder about his fitness for the office of POTUS.
Saturn writes: "If Gore had made a similar tour in 2002, if he'd aired his complaints on TV, if he'd shown just how wrong the administration's stances were on any number of issues, if he'd insisted he be heard... would we be where we are today? If we'd had an open debate on whether the Iraq invasion was a good idea instead of long, obvious silence from the only party leader Democrats really had -- what would America look like today?"

I'd like to add a couple things.

If Gore had stood up in November 2000 and called on his supporters to march outside the Supreme Court to demand that the votes all get counted, does anyone think that that wouldn't have made a difference? His failure to act then was fateful because it didn't just mean that his own victory was turned into a defeat, but that the country and the world was inflicted with Bush and Cheney and their atrocities. His silence then and his advocacy of it as a good thing is hogwash.

Saturn is right that Obama should be dispatching people to take on the lies that Cheney's spewing. Obama's failure to do that is indicative of the appalling parameters that the Democratic Party is offering us relative to the GOP: both parties accept the underling logic of the war of terror and are arguing about what will best protect American lives, open torture or modified, concealed torture?

The whole premise is wrong and bad as can be:

First, American lives aren't more precious than any other people's lives. Even if torture did protect some Americans, it would be wrong and anyone who thinks that torture's ok if it protects their lives is a moral moron.

Second, torture doesn't work to produce good intelligence. That's not its purpose. Its purpose is terror.

As I've written elsewhere, the ticking time bomb scenario is pure fiction: If you have take someone into custody that you think knows about an immediately pending plot, the terrorist group that person is with would 1) know very quickly that this person's been captured and 2) cancel their plans because of that.
Let's say Gore came out as strongly as Cheney is now.

Who was going to listen to Al Gore? The Beltway media hated him. They couldn't find enough ways to defame and mock him. The Republicans would laugh at him. Many Democrats were pissed at him for losing. W came into office without any real negatives attached to him. Sure he was conservative, wasn't too bright. It seemed that he'd muddle through and come out a below average president, no real damage done. Who would've listened to Al Gore at that point?

Then came 9/11. W's popularity skyrocketed. Americans embraced fear like mother's milk. In the time between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, anyone who tried to speak out against Bush & Co. was essentially shouted down as being un-American or ignored. Who would've listened to Al Gore?

Despite being nationally unpopular, Cheney still has a horde of admirers in the media. These same people who dismiss talk of torture were ready to indict Gore for wearing earth tones.

After losing in 2000, Gore no longer had an audience willing to listen.
I think you forget the political climate in this country following 9/11/2001. A lot of people should have spoken up, but we were all whipped into a flag-waving frenzy of ultra-patriotic sharks. Remember?
this makes me want to stand up and cheer. it is not a sign of maturity and grace to stand aside as people run roughshod over this country and the law. that attitude makes it too easy for dicks like dick to inhabit the discussion.

however, i do think gore was more productive than you acknowledge. if he had been so openly critical of the new administration, he probably would not have gotten an inconvenient truth made or won the nobel prize. the war on terror was not the only front in the past 8 years, and he made a lot of progress on the climate front.

i would like to make a star trek parallel (not just because of the movie, but just because i am an unrepentant dork). gore is spock, and we tend to elect kirks. while it might be awesome to put spock in charge, we cannot really hold it against him that he likes to be analytical and wonkish rather than swashbuckly. he will NEVER stand up and openly tell the crew that he thinks kirk is an idiot. his focus turned from this country to the world in a very "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" way rather than a righteous leader way.

i would love to see him tell bush he makes a convincing nazi.
William Cohen was countering some of Cheney's arguments today on MSNBC. Cohen, as former Defense Secretary, was a good spokesperson, but I'd like to see someone of even greater visibility make the anti-Cheney argument -- someone like Powell or Madelaine Albright. I can understand Gore's reticence -- he is fairly polarizing himself, and Biden, as sitting VP, probably wants to remain above the fray (although he probably shouldn't).

Fortunately, no one but the Republican stalwarts seems to be paying any attention to what Cheney says these days. I hope that stays the case.
Gore always struck me as a gentleman caught in a brawl with barbarians. Their zeal to win at all costs and ignore, redefine and make up new rules of engagement as they went along, meant the principled candidate never stood a snowball's chance. I think his reticence to stray from his principles, would have made a Gore administration reminiscent of the Carter years. Good men, decent men, but not necessarily executive material. I'm not in any way saying that it wouldn't have been the lesser of evils. The Bush team (except for Colin Powell - who will never remove the taint from his involvement with these jackals) always struck me as a group of amoral opportunists who corrupted and pillaged this country's resources and reputation for 8 years. We may never recover from the damage they did, but I feel a lot better about President Obama than I can ever imagine feeling about President Gore.
As for Dick Cheney, he needs to just shut the hell up & go back to his undisclosed location. We can't muzzle him, but we can ignore him and render him as irrelevant as Nader.
As a Republican I think he should shut up because most people don't like him and he reminds people of Bush, which is terrible for the Party.
I guess he feels like he has to defend the legacy, so I will give him that, and maybe he feels like if he goes out there on this topic, he distracts the artillery towards him, and then someone else can come in, but he is not the one to be too much the public face of the Party, I think, as a Republican.
Good point on Gore. In the end, a Republic is not well served by failing to discuss the issues vigorously, although intelligently and fairly, which is lacking too much. Although you always are great on that point. I do not always agree with you, but you do not slander, which is refreshing. rated.
I side with Lulu and Phoebe. Obama has nothing to gain by engaging in a public media squabble with Cheney. Most likely he advised those closest to him to steer clear as well.
Obama will be president for the next 4 years. In time, his actions will obscure Cheney’s rhetoric.
Let Cheney roar. It can't be very good for his health. Eventually, he'll have to be quiet because he won't be able to roar any more.

As for Gore, I have to agree that anything he said afterwards would have been twisted into the next week by the press. It's also true that he really did grow up in the culture of being a southern gentleman, something that was sooo not true for Bush, et al.

Still, I was very disappointed when I saw that scene in Moore's film.
I should've included a disclaimer here that, due to family obligations, my response time is going to be slow this week.

Stacey, Lulu, you know, I agree that some of Gore's reluctance to speak out probably did come from wanting to be as far offstage as possible after the depressing 2000 outcome.

I do wish Obama's team would go bare-knuckles with Cheney; he seems to have no problem doing the same, Aaron.

Dennis, Aaron, Tim -- I still have mixed feelings about his post-election behavior, and what's being characterized as his "lack of fight." But, as a Gore supporter who DID stand outside the Supreme Court and demand that the votes be counted -- I don't know that I think he could have forced a reversal of that decision.

Stim, you know -- I think he might have had a broader audience by 2002 than you think, just because the post-9/11 handling of events made it so evident that Bush wasn't built for a situation like that. And that same beltway press that hated Gore during the 2000 campaign hated him in part because he represented the status quo -- had he spoken up as an outsider in 2002, and brought conflict, I think he would have easily found a following in newsprint and televisions. He did when he started talking.

You know, Punterjoe, I found myself nodding along to your take -- maybe a Gore administration would've been very Carter-like. There's a certain sense there. And I totally agree with the idea that Cheney and Nader should wander off together.

Thanks, Don.

Spin Doctor -- I agree that Obama shouldn't stoop to Cheney's level (fabrication, defensiveness), but I think a civilized offer of open debate would be to his (and our) benefit, because there's no way Cheney wins that discussion. Just no way.
I think that Gore, if he won would have been quite the same as Bush. We know that democrats backed Bush greatly to attack Afghanistan. They backed him only a little less to attack Iraq.

The difference between democrats and republicans is that republicans want to kill more Iraqi people than Afghans, democrats want to kill more Afghans than Iraqi people.

The special idea of Omaba is that he wants to kill even more Pakistanis than Afghans or Iraqis. That looks completely crazy.
Maybe he thinks Cheney is so gone that engaging him would be pointless? I dunno. Al rests on his dignity at odd times.
I think Cheney is further marginalizing himself and cementing his role in the neo-con universe. I think continuing to let him spin his little web of deceit, lies, and paranoia will eventually come home to roost.

No need for Gore. No need to engage directly.
Excellent point Saturn. I fear that O is taking his "I can be conciliatory" approach too far. He needs to unleash the dogs and go on the attack and paint Cheney as the UnAmerican for his behavior. Silence only encourages a nitwit like Cheney.
1. Can't believe you found a smiling pic of DC
2. What's with the letter to grandkids? That's not real, right? He was never Acting Pres was he? (I mean, in the official sense).
3. You're right that he shouldn't be bragging about staying out of the way from 2000-2002. Those were the oppressive years for me and anyone who lives in a conservative enclave like I do. It was positively stifling and I actually get clinically depressed at the nonsense.
4. As to why: Dems hate their losers. He was mocked at the time, by both sides. He was just completely marginalized by the right and the left was embarrassed by him for some reason. This was before his big Global Warming comeback, remember. He's gained stature since then. I'm not sure his speaking up would have made as much difference as you think. NOW, yes. THEN, not so much.
5. I'm not sure I agree that HRC or JB should be dispensed to combat Cheney. They have real jobs to do. I agree that media relations is a real job in one sense, but at this point, Cheney's being made fun of and looking a bit defensive. Maybe bring out the big guns only if it looks like he's gaining some traction. I don't see it yet.

Thanks, Saturn.
GOT clinically depressed at the nonsense. Doing fine now.
DISPATCHED to combat Cheney.

If Gore had of won the election the Country would not be in the Mess it is today. I like Gore also. Well Written!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes, I have often wished someone would light a fire under Al Gore. The man is just too taciturn!
Judging by his speech, any debate with Cheney would go like this:

C: We saved the county.
(Anybody else): No you didn't.
C: Yes we did, if you knew, you would know. . . there's proof.
(Anybody else): No you didn't. And there isn't.
C: Yes we did.
(Anybody else): No you didn't.
C: Yes we did.
(Anybody else): No you didn't.
C: Yes we did.

Maybe there is wisdom in staying outta this.
Rated 50 anvils, for the improbable feat of making me smile while thinking of Dick Cheney.

I love Al Gore too. I'll never forget his election-eve rally in Miami Beach. It felt like a cheerful wake, thousands of us pretending to believe we were not about to lose the White House to Dick Cheney's sock puppet. Just before Al and Tipper appeared, Stevie Wonder managed to get the crowd to sing a song with the most godawful refrain in the whole history of campaign songs:

The only way for America to winnnnn
Is to vote for Gore and Leeb-er-minnnn!

We sang. We laughed. We cried... We knew, even then, that we were defeated.

On election night, I turned off the news and went to bed with a book, not wanting to witness the loss I felt in my gut. A friend woke me up with a jubilant phone call: "We've won! They've called Florida for Gore, and we've won."

God, the relief! It was like your fifty anvils, but in reverse. An awful weight, pressing despair, lifted as if it had never been.

What a splendid moment that was. What a different world this might have been.
For what it's worth, Al Gore won more votes than any Democratic candidate in history, prior to Obama. The manner of his victory and subsequent loss must have been crushing. I'm just grateful he didn't tell us to sod off, and disappear from public service. He could have sat on a clifftop in Santorini, written a bitter tell-all, and grown that scruffy beard until it became entangled with his bellybutton lint. But he's a stand-up guy. That's his curse.
.... speaking of VP vs VP where is Joe Biden through all this?
You would think this is the sort of thing that bring him out, swinging from his heels (
and of course I meant "swinging from his heels" as a baseball metaphor, not a torture metaphor.
Why won't Gore counter Cheney? Because he lacks what it takes....balls. He is more interested in profiting off of morons not leading them.
1.Dick Cheney never spends a day in front of any committee in any hearing justifying what he did or didnt do. Warmonger,yes. Jailbird,never.
2. Al Gore is mostly interested in reaping the benefits of being highly invested in "GREEN TECHNOLOGY" companies in Silicon Valley, an industry he has spent a lot of time promoting. Could Betty Crocker ever get a Pulitzer Prize for promoting the need to eat?

So Al Gore is into this Climate Change business for the money?

Okay, whatever. How about the thousands of scientists, worldwide, who are saying the same thing?

It is the easiest thing in the world to discount an individual person who is a figurehead of a movement. (Gore is not a scientist.) But please, this is too important for that to be your intellectual case in any discussion about the environment.

Go here: http://www.ipcc.ch to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Start reading those technical reports. Thousands of scientists, from across the world, and across disciplines. (Meteorology, biology, chemistry, physics, etc.)

Think of Gore as the "Celebrity Spokesperson" I'm sure he wouldn't mind. Take him or leave him. But don't discount the science.
Tanya? Yes to answer your question.

Do some reading yourself. Al Gore is a global warming pimp. However, if you would like to participate in group consciousness guilt ie, " mankind is destroying the world with greenhouse gases" rather than discover what you dont like about yourself, go ahead. Please dont try to legislate me into your psychosis.
aaron, al gore had one sentence about the polar bears in his presentation.

i commented favorably on the piece you link, but i think your comment here is completely disingenuous.

The time is past when we can count on so called leaders to get us out of this mess. We all have to do everything we can, each and every day to promote truth, hold our elected officials feet to the fire, uncover the vermin under the rocks, and act in consequence with our own conscience. We can no longer afford to waste 29 hours a week on watching TV (national average). The clock is ticking.

thumbed for provoking the issue
Aaron, Waterboy,

You employ 2 methods to debunk global warming.

1) Take on the science (which Aaron does in earlier posts).
And which is the point of one of the three links from
Waterboy. (His single science citation takes you to Easterbock. )

2) The other is disparaging the messenger, by suggesting that global warming alarmists are only trying to get rich, and are madly investing in green technology hoping we will all be duped. This is a conversation we can all take part in, because its easy to understand. The science: that's tougher.

So for the moment (I'm on a break at work) let's just consider the second point. Maybe all these individuals (ie Gore) and NGO's you mention are just trying to make a fast buck. But surely you have to ask who stands to make a buck by funding research that would suggest global warming is a myth, don't you?

So let's call it a draw. On the one hand you have Al Gore's get-rich scheme, on the other you have Exxon's. I won't ask you to decide who's got the longer track record in "get rich" schemes.

Let's just get back to the science.

And here's wishing I had a little extra cash-flow. If I did, I'd invest in green technology. Do good and make money? I'm there with Al.
A lot of politics is not about votes but intimidation and insinuation. The Republican Party seems to have raised these techniques to high art both in their execution and in their choice of how to allow certain disclaimable individuals to take center stage, "letting others do their dirty work" as the expression goes. I hesitate to say the Democrats should learn the same skills, but they should at minimum learn not to be kicked around by them.
I wish Al Gore would have been more like Cheney, too. Then he could have used his secret connections in Fourth Branch to have Bush and Cheney kidnapped and tossed in a secret CIA prison a couple of weeks before the election and we wouldn't be in this mess.
Gore was undermined politically by the ambitions of the Clintons to promote Hilary. They had floated her as a candidate in 2008 fro a very long time. They were very astute at using every contigency as leverage, the most obvious being Bill Clinton's stupid philandering. It makes them good politicians, I guess, but it has cost the country dearly. Gore paid his dues, had the intellectual capacity to be a good leader. He might have been able to fight the Republicans, but without the sizeable Clinton contingency of the Democratic party behind him, he couldn't have continued to be a viable force within the party. He was deliberately pushed aside and rendered powerless by those people. They didn't count on Obama, so their betrayal of Gore did not win for them the ultimate prize. I just think it's a shame they've gotten the cabinet post out of it. I think it's a shame because of the lives irrevocably damaged or lost and these people go right along with their blind ambitions
Call me paranoid, but perhaps the networks did not encourage Gore to speak out? I imagine Cheney is being courted just now by the media moguls to keep the ratings spiced up. They cannot maintain a 24/7 news cycle without some controversy.

Cheney's presence on the airwaves at this point in time is appalling, but consistent with what we have had to endure from the mogul controlled media for the past eight years. Rush Limbaugh can only do so much to keep the fear-mongering going on a daily basis. The "right" needed to bring out the Dark One in effort to spike up the highest levels of fear...nobody does it better Dick "Darth Vader" Cheney.
Saturn: Certainly agree with you about Gore. And I SERIOUSLY agree with you about people like Clinton and Biden needing to be in Cheney's face, rather than Obama.
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