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Jewish World Review Sept. 25, 2002 / 19 Tishrei, 5763

Michael Kelly

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Gore, now and forever, as someone who cannot be considered a responsible aspirant to power | Distasteful as it may be, some notice should be paid to the speech that the formerly important Al Gore delivered Monday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

This speech, an attack on the Bush policy on Iraq, was Gore's big effort to distinguish himself from the Democratic pack in advance of another possible presidential run. It served: It distinguished Gore, now and forever, as someone who cannot be considered a responsible aspirant to power. Politics are allowed in politics, but there are limits, and there is a pale, and Gore has now shown himself to be ignorant of those limits, and he has now placed himself beyond that pale.

Gore's speech was one no decent politician could have delivered. It was dishonest, cheap, low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts -- bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible. But I understate.

Gore uttered his first big lie in the second paragraph of the speech when he informed the audience that his main concern was with "those who attacked us on Sept. 11, and who have thus far gotten away with it." Who have thus far gotten away with it. The government of Gore's country has led a coalition of nations in war against al Qaeda, "those who attacked us on Sept. 11"; has destroyed al Qaeda's central organization and much of its physical assets; has destroyed the Taliban, which had made Afghanistan a state home for al Qaeda; has bombed the forces of al Qaeda from one end of Afghanistan to the other; has killed at least hundreds of terrorists and their allies; and has imprisoned hundreds more and is hunting down the rest around the world. All this while Gore, apparently, slept.

Well, perhaps Gore was talking loosely. No. He made clear in the next sentence this was a considered indictment: "The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the coldblooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized." If there is a more reprehensible piece of bloody-shirt-waving in American political history than this attempt by a man on the sidelines to position himself as the hero of 3,000 unavenged dead, I am not aware of it.

And, again, this sentence is a lie. The men who "implemented" the "coldblooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans" are not at large. They are dead; they died in the act of murder, on Sept. 11. Gore can look this up. In truth, the "vast majority" of the men who "sponsored" and "planned" the crime are dead also, or in prison, or on the run. The inmates at Guantanamo Bay, and the hunted survivors of Tora Bora, and the terrorist cell members arrested nearly every week, and the thousands of incarcerated or fugitive Taliban, might disagree as to whether they have been located, apprehended, punished or neutralized.

Although Gore knows that Bush has been publicly trying to move the nation toward war with Iraq since at least January, he pretended to believe the president was only now -- "in this high political season" -- pushing for war in order to gain electoral ground for his party and to divert attention from his administration's failure against al Qaeda by attacking "some other enemy whose location might be easier to identify." I see -- Bush is risking his presidency on a war with Iraq because it is the easy thing to do.

Although Gore knows that the Democratic leadership insisted (and both practical politics and constitutional imperatives demanded) that Bush seek the congressional support he is now requesting, he pretended this too was something the president was doing simply for political gain. Although Gore knows that Bush is also seeking, as Democrats also demanded, United Nations approval, he pretended this represented a failure of leadership as well because "thus far, we have not been successful in getting it." True enough -- because the Security Council hasn't voted. Thus far. Cute.

Probably the purest example of the Gore style -- equal parts mendacity, viciousness and smarm -- occurred when Gore expressed his concern (his deep, heartfelt concern) over "the doubts many have expressed about the role that politics might be playing in the calculations of some in the administration." And then added: "I have not raised those doubts, but many have."

What a moment! What a speech! What a man! What a disgrace.

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© 2002, Washington Post Co.