Was that really Al Gore at the podium last Wednesday (May 28), thundering damnation at the Bush Administration? What possessed him?
What does it mean when a former Vice President (and Democratic Presidential nominee during the election of 2000) comes out swinging against the current Administration? And in the midst of a war no less!
Calling Bush "the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon," and the head of an Administration that has made "war on America's checks and balances" and who has set out to "radically destroy the foreign policy consensus that had guided America since the end of World War II," Gore went on to call for the resignations of many of those in the Administration "below Bush and Cheney."
Charging Bush & Co. with "incompetence and recklessness" in their decision to strike a "Faustian bargain" by trading America's moral high-ground for naked world dominance, Gore asks solemnly: "Where do we go to get out good name back?"
(Gore's use of imagery that invokes fundamentalist Christians making deals with the Devil goes straight for the political jugular vein, as does his combination of the insights of the Marquis de Sade and Sigmund Freud to explain the Abu Ghraib tortures.)
This speech, more than anything in the recent past, demonstrates just how sharp the razor's edge is that we are all riding on at this point in history.
Gore's broadside represents the first real counterattack by the faction of America's rulers that lost out in Election 2000, when, for the first time in history the Supreme Court had to be mobilized to settle this internecine war.
While it is our tendency and habit (thank you, Rene Descartes) to see things as polar opposites (black/white, Democrat/Republican, etc.), it seems quite likely that the powers-that-be are more fractured and fragmented than simply Kerry vs. Bush would imply.
While many of us progressives knew deep in our hearts that Kerry was really "Bush-lite," we were willing to hold our noses come November and punch the chad (or touch the screen) anyway, imprisoned as we were in our "Anybody But Bush" mindset.
Then suddenly the Gore salvo.
While it is too early to tell if this is the opening shot in a "draft Gore" movement at the Democratic Convention, it is curious that Gore hands down very clear political advice to Kerry in his speech (i.e., to hold his cards close to his vest in a rapidly changing situation).
In comparison, Kerry has never looked suddenly so un-presidential.
For some, it might seem like poetic justice if the "winner" of the last election (by popular vote) actually reclaimed the Presidency in 2004. If Gore continues on the political offensive with this kind of speech and this kind of tone, the character of the Democratic Convention will be an open question.
Equally as important as what Gore spoke about is what he chose not to speak about.
Once again there was no mention of withdrawing from Iraq, no mention that the invasion and occupation of Iraq (not just the acts in Abu Ghraib) was an illegal act of aggression and a war crime, and no mention that the war on terror is the new Big Lie for continued U.S. militarism at home and throughout the world.
Gore's whole speech was an example of Political Science Operations (or Political Psychological Operations). His intent was to condemn the iron fist of America's current worldwide swagger as simply the Bush Administration running amok. By calling what is taking place in Iraq "not America" Gore is attempting to repair and re-upholster the torn and tattered velvet that once adorned America's hegemonic practices.
He is speaking not to the people of the world, who have tasted the metallic bite beneath the soft fabric time and time again. No, Al Gore is desperately speaking to the American people to turn away from the car wreck of Iraq that daily reveals what drives American policy no matter who is in the White House.
As I've written before, Bush is an example of just how drastic the world situation has become for the American empire [See my "Anybody But Bush: The Great Abdication"]. Gore, stepping into the political breach as he has, represents those that believe things have gone too far and need to be reigned in a bit (and that Kerry is just not up to the task).
This is a debate between whether to steal the election come November (or use another terrorist episode to declare martial law), or whether it is possible to mobilize the support of the American people by rallying their blind innocence and idealism once again.
Unfortunately, "staying the course" in Iraq by "internationalizing the effort" and "really, really" rebuilding a "democratic and prosperous" Iraq, is really code for expanding the U.S. hold on the region and its oil reserves.
The next five months represent a very decisive moment in world history and in the history of this country. Let us keep our eyes wide open and our critical thinking faculties finely honed. We may all be called upon by unfolding events that from this vantage point seem highly unlikely and even impossible.
The problem is not being surprised; the problem is how quickly we recover from the surprise and how we choose to respond.
T. Patrick Donovan is a student of Depth Psychology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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