11 November 2012

David Remnick on Al Gore, 2004

David Remnick in the New Yorker, September 2004:
In the summer of 2001, Gore had ended his silence and launched a public critique of the Bush Administration with a speech in Florida. However, after the terror attacks, he declared Bush “my Commander-in-Chief,” a gesture meant to promote unity and not offend the national mood. But by September, 2002, as the Bush Administration started its march toward a war in Iraq, Gore ended his discretion with a withering speech at the Commonwealth Club, in San Francisco, aimed at the Administration’s foreign policy. Gore, who was one of the few Democrats to vote in favor of the 1991 resolution in Congress endorsing the first Gulf War, now said that an American-led invasion of Iraq would undermine the attempt to dismantle Al Qaeda and damage the multilateral ties necessary to combat terrorism:

If we quickly succeed in a war against the weakened and depleted fourth-rate military of Iraq, and then quickly abandon that nation, as President Bush has quickly abandoned almost all of Afghanistan after defeating a fifth-rate military power there, then the resulting chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam. 
Gore’s challenge to the Bush White House to present real evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 was, in both tone and substance, more critical than any speech yet delivered by the candidates in the Democratic field. Suddenly, the prospect of a Gore candidacy hit the media in a wave.
“I wasn’t surprised by Bush’s economic policies, but I was surprised by the foreign policy, and I think he was, too,” Gore told me. “The real distinction of this Presidency is that, at its core, he is a very weak man. He projects himself as incredibly strong, but behind closed doors he is incapable of saying no to his biggest financial supporters and his coalition in the Oval Office. He’s been shockingly malleable to Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and the whole New American Century bunch. He was rolled in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He was too weak to resist it.
“I’m not of the school that questions his intelligence,” Gore went on. “There are different kinds of intelligence, and it’s arrogant for a person with one kind of intelligence to question someone with another kind. He certainly is a master at some things, and he has a following. He seeks strength in simplicity. But, in today’s world, that’s often a problem. I don’t think that he’s weak intellectually. I think that he is incurious. It’s astonishing to me that he’d spend an hour with his incoming Secretary of the Treasury and not ask him a single question. But I think his weakness is a moral weakness. I think he is a bully, and, like all bullies, he’s a coward when confronted with a force that he’s fearful of. His reaction to the extravagant and unbelievably selfish wish list of the wealthy interest groups that put him in the White House is obsequious. The degree of obsequiousness that is involved in saying ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes’ to whatever these people want, no matter the damage and harm done to the nation as a whole—that can come only from genuine moral cowardice. I don’t see any other explanation for it, because it’s not a question of principle. The only common denominator is each of the groups has a lot of money that they’re willing to put in service to his political fortunes and their ferocious and unyielding pursuit of public policies that benefit them at the expense of the nation.”

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/09/13/040913fa_fact#ixzz2BvRGB2rr