August 08, 2003

Former Vice President Al Gore Remarks to

(8/7/03) The man who was elected President of the US by Fraudida and the nation in November 2004, freed from the constraints of poliitcal campaigning, fund-raising and media-placating by renouncing his rightful claim to the 2004 nominatio, Al Gore, is telling like it is "...the global capital markets have begun to recognize the unprecedented size of this emerging fiscal catastrophe. In truth, the current Executive Branch of the U.S. Government is radically different from any since the McKinley Administration 100 years ago. "

Former Vice President Al Gore Remarks to
New York University
August 7, 2003


Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thank you for your investment of time and energy in
gathering here today. I would especially like to thank for sponsoring this event, and the NYU
College Democrats for co-sponsoring the speech and for
hosting us.

Some of you may remember that my last formal public
address on these topics was delivered in San
Francisco, a little less than a year ago, when I
argued that the President's case for urgent,
unilateral, pre-emptive war in Iraq was less than
convincing and needed to be challenged more
effectively by the Congress.

In light of developments since then, you might assume
that my purpose today is to revisit the manner in
which we were led into war. To some extent, that will
be the case - but only as part of a larger theme that
I feel should now be explored on an urgent basis.

The direction in which our nation is being led is
deeply troubling to me -- not only in Iraq but also
here at home on economic policy, social policy and
environmental policy.

Millions of Americans now share a feeling that
something pretty basic has gone wrong in our country
and that some important American values are being
placed at risk. And they want to set it right.

The way we went to war in Iraq illustrates this larger
problem. Normally, we Americans lay the facts on the
table, talk through the choices before us and make a
decision. But that didn't really happen with this war
-- not the way it should have. And as a result, too
many of our soldiers are paying the highest price, for
the strategic miscalculations, serious misjudgments,
and historic mistakes that have put them and our
nation in harm's way.

I'm convinced that one of the reasons that we didn't
have a better public debate before the Iraq War
started is because so many of the impressions that the
majority of the country had back then turn out to have
been completely wrong. Leaving aside for the moment
the question of how these false impressions got into
the public's mind, it might be healthy to take a hard
look at the ones we now know were wrong and clear the
air so that we can better see exactly where we are now
and what changes might need to be made.

In any case, what we now know to have been false
impressions include the following:

(1) Saddam Hussein was partly responsible for the
attack against us on September 11th, 2001, so a good
way to respond to that attack would be to invade his
country and forcibly remove him from power.

(2) Saddam was working closely with Osama Bin Laden
and was actively supporting members of the Al Qaeda
terrorist group, giving them weapons and money and
bases and training, so launching a war against Iraq
would be a good way to stop Al Qaeda from attacking us

(3) Saddam was about to give the terrorists poison gas
and deadly germs that he had made into weapons which
they could use to kill millions of Americans.
Therefore common sense alone dictated that we should
send our military into Iraq in order to protect our
loved ones and ourselves against a grave threat.

(4) Saddam was on the verge of building nuclear bombs
and giving them to the terrorists. And since the only
thing preventing Saddam from acquiring a nuclear
arsenal was access to enriched uranium, once our spies
found out that he had bought the enrichment technology
he needed and was actively trying to buy uranium from
Africa, we had very little time left. Therefore it
seemed imperative during last Fall's election campaign
to set aside less urgent issues like the economy and
instead focus on the congressional resolution
approving war against Iraq.

(5) Our GI's would be welcomed with open arms by
cheering Iraqis who would help them quickly establish
public safety, free markets and Representative
Democracy, so there wouldn't be that much risk that US
soldiers would get bogged down in a guerrilla war.

(6) Even though the rest of the world was mostly
opposed to the war, they would quickly fall in line
after we won and then contribute lots of money and
soldiers to help out, so there wouldn't be that much
risk that US taxpayers would get stuck with a huge

Now, of course, everybody knows that every single one
of these impressions was just dead wrong.

For example, according to the just-released
Congressional investigation, Saddam had nothing
whatsoever to do with the attacks of Sept. 11.
Therefore, whatever other goals it served -- and it
did serve some other goals -- the decision to invade
Iraq made no sense as a way of exacting revenge for
9/11. To the contrary, the US pulled significant
intelligence resources out of Pakistan and Afghanistan
in order to get ready for the rushed invasion of Iraq
and that disrupted the search for Osama at a critical
time. And the indifference we showed to the rest of
the world's opinion in the process undermined the
global cooperation we need to win the war against

In the same way, the evidence now shows clearly that
Saddam did not want to work with Osama Bin Laden at
all, much less give him weapons of mass destruction.
So our invasion of Iraq had no effect on Al Qaeda,
other than to boost their recruiting efforts.

And on the nuclear issue of course, it turned out that
those documents were actually forged by somebody --
though we don't know who.

As for the cheering Iraqi crowds we anticipated,
unfortunately, that didn't pan out either, so now our
troops are in an ugly and dangerous situation.

Moreover, the rest of the world certainly isn't
jumping in to help out very much the way we expected,
so US taxpayers are now having to spend a billion
dollars a week.

In other words, when you put it all together, it was
just one mistaken impression after another. Lots of

And it's not just in foreign policy. The same thing
has been happening in economic policy, where we've
also got another huge and threatening mess on our
hands. I'm convinced that one reason we've had so many
nasty surprises in our economy is that the country
somehow got lots of false impressions about what we
could expect from the big tax cuts that were enacted,

(1) The tax cuts would unleash a lot of new investment
that would create lots of new jobs.

(2) We wouldn't have to worry about a return to big
budget deficits -- because all the new growth in the
economy caused by the tax cuts would lead to a lot of
new revenue.

(3) Most of the benefits would go to average
middle-income families, not to the wealthy, as some
partisans claimed.

Unfortunately, here too, every single one of these
impressions turned out to be wrong. Instead of
creating jobs, for example, we are losing millions of
jobs -- net losses for three years in a row. That
hasn't happened since the Great Depression. As I've
noted before, I was the first one laid off.

And it turns out that most of the benefits actually
are going to the highest income Americans, who
unfortunately are the least likely group to spend
money in ways that create jobs during times when the
economy is weak and unemployment is rising.

And of course the budget deficits are already the
biggest ever - with the worst still due to hit us. As
a percentage of our economy, we've had bigger ones --
but these are by far the most dangerous we've ever had
for two reasons: first, they're not temporary; they're
structural and long-term; second, they are going to
get even bigger just at the time when the big
baby-boomer retirement surge starts.

Moreover, the global capital markets have begun to
recognize the unprecedented size of this emerging
fiscal catastrophe. In truth, the current Executive
Branch of the U.S. Government is radically different
from any since the McKinley Administration 100 years

The 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics,
George Akerlof, went even further last week in Germany
when he told Der Spiegel, "This is the worst
government the US has ever had in its more than 200
years of history...This is not normal government
policy." In describing the impact of the Bush policies
on America's future, Akerloff added, "What we have
here is a form of looting."

Ominously, the capital markets have just pushed U.S.
long-term mortgage rates higher soon after the Federal
Reserve Board once again reduced discount rates.
Monetary policy loses some of its potency when fiscal
policy comes unglued. And after three years of rate
cuts in a row, Alan Greenspan and his colleagues
simply don't have much room left for further

This situation is particularly dangerous right now for
several reasons: first because home-buying fueled by
low rates (along with car-buying, also a
rate-sensitive industry) have been just about the only
reliable engines pulling the economy forward; second,
because so many Americans now have Variable Rate
Mortgages; and third, because average personal debt is
now at an all-time high -- a lot of Americans are
living on the edge.

It seems obvious that big and important issues like
the Bush economic policy and the first Pre-emptive War
in U.S. history should have been debated more
thoroughly in the Congress, covered more extensively
in the news media, and better presented to the
American people before our nation made such fateful
choices. But that didn't happen, and in both cases,
reality is turning out to be very different from the
impression that was given when the votes -- and the
die -- were cast.

Since this curious mismatch between myth and reality
has suddenly become commonplace and is causing such
extreme difficulty for the nation's ability to make
good choices about our future, maybe it is time to
focus on how in the world we could have gotten so many
false impressions in such a short period of time.

At first, I thought maybe the President's advisers
were a big part of the problem. Last fall, in a speech
on economic policy at the Brookings Institution, I
called on the President to get rid of his whole
economic team and pick a new group. And a few weeks
later, damned if he didn't do just that - and at least
one of the new advisers had written eloquently about
the very problems in the Bush economic policy that I
was calling upon the President to fix.

But now, a year later, we still have the same bad
economic policies and the problems have, if anything,
gotten worse. So obviously I was wrong: changing all
the president's advisers didn't work as a way of
changing the policy.

I remembered all that last month when everybody was
looking for who ought to be held responsible for the
false statements in the President's State of the Union
Address. And I've just about concluded that the real
problem may be the President himself and that next
year we ought to fire him and get a new one.

But whether you agree with that conclusion or not,
whether you're a Democrat or a Republican -- or an
Independent, a Libertarian, a Green or a Mugwump --
you've got a big stake in making sure that
Representative Democracy works the way it is supposed
to. And today, it just isn't working very well. We all
need to figure out how to fix it because we simply
cannot keep on making such bad decisions on the basis
of false impressions and mistaken assumptions.

Earlier, I mentioned the feeling many have that
something basic has gone wrong. Whatever it is, I
think it has a lot to do with the way we seek the
truth and try in good faith to use facts as the basis
for debates about our future -- allowing for the
unavoidable tendency we all have to get swept up in
our enthusiasms.

That last point is worth highlighting. Robust debate
in a democracy will almost always involve occasional
rhetorical excesses and leaps of faith, and we're all
used to that. I've even been guilty of it myself on
occasion. But there is a big difference between that
and a systematic effort to manipulate facts in service
to a totalistic ideology that is felt to be more
important than the mandates of basic honesty.

Unfortunately, I think it is no longer possible to
avoid the conclusion that what the country is dealing
with in the Bush Presidency is the latter. That is
really the nub of the problem -- the common source for
most of the false impressions that have been
frustrating the normal and healthy workings of our

Americans have always believed that we the people have
a right to know the truth and that the truth will set
us free. The very idea of self-government depends upon
honest and open debate as the preferred method for
pursuing the truth -- and a shared respect for the
Rule of Reason as the best way to establish the truth.

The Bush Administration routinely shows disrespect for
that whole basic process, and I think it's partly
because they feel as if they already know the truth
and aren't very curious to learn about any facts that
might contradict it. They and the members of groups
that belong to their ideological coalition are true
believers in each other's agendas.

There are at least a couple of problems with this

First, powerful and wealthy groups and individuals who
work their way into the inner circle -- with political
support or large campaign contributions -- are able to
add their own narrow special interests to the list of
favored goals without having them weighed against the
public interest or subjected to the rule of reason.
And the greater the conflict between what they want
and what's good for the rest of us, the greater
incentive they have to bypass the normal procedures
and keep it secret.

That's what happened, for example, when Vice President
Cheney invited all of those oil and gas industry
executives to meet in secret sessions with him and his
staff to put their wish lists into the
administration's legislative package in early 2001.

That group wanted to get rid of the Kyoto Treaty on
Global Warming, of course, and the Administration
pulled out of it first thing. The list of people who
helped write our nation's new environmental and energy
policies is still secret, and the Vice President won't
say whether or not his former company, Halliburton,
was included. But of course, as practically everybody
in the world knows, Halliburton was given a huge
open-ended contract to take over and run the Iraqi oil
fields-- without having to bid against any other

Secondly, when leaders make up their minds on a policy
without ever having to answer hard questions about
whether or not it's good or bad for the American
people as a whole, they can pretty quickly get into
situations where it's really uncomfortable for them to
defend what they've done with simple and truthful
explanations. That's when they're tempted to fuzz up
the facts and create false impressions. And when other
facts start to come out that undermine the impression
they're trying to maintain, they have a big incentive
to try to keep the truth bottled up if -- they can --
or distort it.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, the White House
ordered its own EPA to strip important scientific
information about the dangers of global warming out of
a public report. Instead, the White House substituted
information that was partly paid for by the American
Petroleum Institute. This week, analysts at the
Treasury Department told a reporter that they're now
being routinely ordered to change their best analysis
of what the consequences of the Bush tax laws are
likely to be for the average person.

Here is the pattern that I see: the President's
mishandling of and selective use of the best evidence
available on the threat posed by Iraq is pretty much
the same as the way he intentionally distorted the
best available evidence on climate change, and
rejected the best available evidence on the threat
posed to America's economy by his tax and budget

In each case, the President seems to have been
pursuing policies chosen in advance of the facts --
policies designed to benefit friends and supporters --
and has used tactics that deprived the American people
of any opportunity to effectively subject his
arguments to the kind of informed scrutiny that is
essential in our system of checks and balances.

The administration has developed a highly effective
propaganda machine to imbed in the public mind
mythologies that grow out of the one central doctrine
that all of the special interests agree on, which --
in its purest form -- is that government is very bad
and should be done away with as much as possible --
except the parts of it that redirect money through big
contracts to industries that have won their way into
the inner circle.

For the same reasons they push the impression that
government is bad, they also promote the myth that
there really is no such thing as the public interest.
What's important to them is private interests. And
what they really mean is that those who have a lot of
wealth should be left alone, rather than be called
upon to reinvest in society through taxes.

Perhaps the biggest false impression of all lies in
the hidden social objectives of this Administration
that are advertised with the phrase "compassionate
conservatism" -- which they claim is a new departure
with substantive meaning. But in reality, to be
compassionate is meaningless, if compassion is limited
to the mere awareness of the suffering of others. The
test of compassion is action. What the administration
offers with one hand is the rhetoric of compassion;
what it takes away with the other hand are the
financial resources necessary to make compassion
something more than an empty and fading impression.

Maybe one reason that false impressions have a played
a bigger role than they should is that both Congress
and the news media have been less vigilant and
exacting than they should have been in the way they
have tried to hold the Administration accountable.

Whenever both houses of Congress are controlled by the
President's party, there is a danger of passivity and
a temptation for the legislative branch to abdicate
its constitutional role. If the party in question is
unusually fierce in demanding ideological uniformity
and obedience, then this problem can become even worse
and prevent the Congress from properly exercising
oversight. Under these circumstances, the majority
party in the Congress has a special obligation to the
people to permit full Congressional inquiry and
oversight rather than to constantly frustrate and
prevent it.

Whatever the reasons for the recent failures to hold
the President properly accountable, America has a
compelling need to quickly breathe new life into our
founders' system of checks and balances -- because
some extremely important choices about our future are
going to be made shortly, and it is imperative that we
avoid basing them on more false impressions.

One thing the President could do to facilitate the
restoration of checks and balances is to stop blocking
reasonable efforts from the Congress to play its
rightful role. For example, he could order his
appointees to cooperate fully with the bipartisan
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, headed by
former Republican Governor Tom Kean. And he should let
them examine how the White House handled the warnings
that are said to have been given to the President by
the intelligence community.

Two years ago yesterday, for example, according to the
Wall Street Journal, the President was apparently
advised in specific language that Al Qaeda was going
to hijack some airplanes to conduct a terrorist strike
inside the U.S.

I understand his concern about people knowing exactly
what he read in the privacy of the Oval Office, and
there is a legitimate reason for treating such memos
to the President with care. But that concern has to be
balanced against the national interest in improving
the way America deals with such information. And the
apparently chaotic procedures that were used to handle
the forged nuclear documents from Niger certainly show
evidence that there is room for improvement in the way
the White House is dealing with intelligence memos.
Along with other members of the previous
administration, I certainly want the commission to
have access to any and all documents sent to the White
House while we were there that have any bearing on
this issue. And President Bush should let the
commission see the ones that he read too.

After all, this President has claimed the right for
his executive branch to send his assistants into every
public library in America and secretly monitor what
the rest of us are reading. That's been the law ever
since the Patriot Act was enacted. If we have to put
up with such a broad and extreme invasion of our
privacy rights in the name of terrorism prevention,
surely he can find a way to let this National
Commission know how he and his staff handled a highly
specific warning of terrorism just 36 days before

And speaking of the Patriot Act, the president ought
to reign in John Ashcroft and stop the gross abuses of
civil rights that twice have been documented by his
own Inspector General. And while he's at it, he needs
to reign in Donald Rumsfeld and get rid of that DoD
"Total Information Awareness" program that's right out
of George Orwell's 1984.

The administration hastened from the beginning to
persuade us that defending America against terror
cannot be done without seriously abridging the
protections of the Constitution for American citizens,
up to and including an asserted right to place them in
a form of limbo totally beyond the authority of our
courts. And that view is both wrong and fundamentally

But the most urgent need for new oversight of the
Executive Branch and the restoration of checks and
balances is in the realm of our security, where the
Administration is asking that we accept a whole
cluster of new myths:

For example, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
was an effort to strike a bargain between states
possessing nuclear weapons and all others who had
pledged to refrain from developing them. This
administration has rejected it and now, incredibly,
wants to embark on a new program to build a brand new
generation of smaller (and it hopes, more usable)
nuclear bombs. In my opinion, this would be true
madness -- and the point of no return to the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty -- even as we and our
allies are trying to prevent a nuclear testing
breakout by North Korea and Iran.

Similarly, the Kyoto treaty is an historic effort to
strike a grand bargain between free-market capitalism
and the protection of the global environment, now
gravely threatened by rapidly accelerating warming of
the Earth's atmosphere and the consequent disruption
of climate patterns that have persisted throughout the
entire history of civilization as we know it. This
administration has tried to protect the oil and coal
industries from any restrictions at all -- though
Kyoto may become legally effective for global
relations even without U.S. participation.

Ironically, the principal cause of global warming is
our civilization's addiction to burning massive
quantities carbon-based fuels, including principally
oil -- the most important source of which is the
Persian Gulf, where our soldiers have been sent for
the second war in a dozen years -- at least partly to
ensure our continued access to oil.

We need to face the fact that our dangerous and
unsustainable consumption of oil from a highly
unstable part of the world is similar in its
consequences to all other addictions. As it becomes
worse, the consequences get more severe and you have
to pay the dealer more.

And by now, it is obvious to most Americans that we
have had one too many wars in the Persian Gulf and
that we need an urgent effort to develop
environmentally sustainable substitutes for fossil
fuels and a truly international effort to stabilize
the Persian Gulf and rebuild Iraq.

The removal of Saddam from power is a positive
accomplishment in its own right for which the
President deserves credit, just as he deserves credit
for removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan.
But in the case of Iraq, we have suffered enormous
collateral damage because of the manner in which the
Administration went about the invasion. And in both
cases, the aftermath has been badly mishandled.

The administration is now trying to give the
impression that it is in favor of NATO and UN
participation in such an effort. But it is not willing
to pay the necessary price, which is support of a new
UN Resolution and genuine sharing of control inside

If the 21st century is to be well started, we need a
national agenda that is worked out in concert with the
people, a healing agenda that is built on a true
national consensus. Millions of Americans got the
impression that George W. Bush wanted to be a "healer,
not a divider", a president devoted first and foremost
to "honor and integrity." Yet far from uniting the
people, the president's ideologically narrow agenda
has seriously divided America. His most partisan
supporters have launched a kind of 'civil cold war'
against those with whom they disagree.

And as for honor and integrity, let me say this: we
know what that was all about, but hear me well, not as
a candidate for any office, but as an American citizen
who loves my country:

For eight years, the Clinton-Gore Administration gave
this nation honest budget numbers; an economic plan
with integrity that rescued the nation from debt and
stagnation; honest advocacy for the environment; real
compassion for the poor; a strengthening of our
military -- as recently proven -- and a foreign policy
whose purposes were elevated, candidly presented and
courageously pursued, in the face of scorched-earth
tactics by the opposition. That is also a form of
honor and integrity, and not every administration in
recent memory has displayed it.

So I would say to those who have found the issue of
honor and integrity so useful as a political tool,
that the people are also looking for these virtues in
the execution of public policy on their behalf, and
will judge whether they are present or absent.

I am proud that my party has candidates for president
committed to those values. I admire the effort and
skill they are putting into their campaigns. I am not
going to join them, but later in the political cycle I
will endorse one of them, because I believe that we
must stand for a future in which the United States
will again be feared only by its enemies; in which our
country will again lead the effort to create an
international order based on the rule of law; a nation
which upholds fundamental rights even for those it
believes to be its captured enemies; a nation whose
financial house is in order; a nation where the market
place is kept healthy by effective government
scrutiny; a country which does what is necessary to
provide for the health, education, and welfare of our
people; a society in which citizens of all faiths
enjoy equal standing; a republic once again
comfortable that its chief executive knows the limits
as well as the powers of the presidency; a nation that
places the highest value on facts, not ideology, as
the basis for all its great debates and decisions.

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Posted by richard at August 8, 2003 09:19 AM