Archive for the ‘Al Gore’ Category

His Name Was Wellstone, we need Al Gore to replace him

November 2, 2007

by William Rivers Pitt 

“If we don’t fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don’t really stand for them.”
— Paul Wellstone

Five years ago, Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) died when his plane went down in the woods of northern Minnesota. The crash also took the lives of his wife Sheila, his daughter Marcia, campaign staffers Will McLaughlin, Tom Lapic and Mary McEvoy, along with pilots Michael Guess and Richard Conry.

This grim remembrance is a marker for the Democratic majority in Congress, a moment for unblinking self-assessment, a chance to compare and contrast the vast gulf between who Wellstone was in life and what his party has become since his death.

Wellstone’s political life was dominated by his efforts to improve economic and social conditions for millions of Americans. He began as a community organizer during the 1970’s, advocating on behalf of working families and the poor for better health care, affordable housing, better public education, day care and other essential programs and policies. Through these activities, he created a powerful network of activists, union members, farmers and other newly involved citizens.

The effectiveness of this network made the difference in his long-shot 1990 campaign for US Senate against Rudy Boschwitz, an entrenched incumbent with far greater financial resources. Over the next twelve years, Senator Wellstone served as a tireless advocate for environmental protections, labor rights, victims of domestic violence, veterans, campaign finance reform and sensible US foreign policy.

Wellstone’s Senate career began, and tragically ended, in remarkably similar fashion. His first months in office were defined by his opposition to President George H. W. Bush’s 1991 “Gulf War” against Iraq, and some twelve years later, his last weeks in office were defined by his vote against another Bush administration, and against another push for war in Iraq. On October 11, 2002, Wellstone was one of only twenty-three senators to cast a vote against the fateful Iraq War Resolution.

The week before, on October 3, Wellstone addressed the proposed attack upon and occupation of Iraq in a speech given from the floor of the Senate. “The United States could send tens of thousands of US troops to fight in Iraq,” he said, “and in so doing, we could risk countless lives of US soldiers and innocent Iraqis.”

“The United States could face soaring oil prices,” he said, “and could spend billions, both on a war and on a years-long effort to stabilize Iraq after an invasion.”

“Authorizing the pre-emptive, go-it-alone use of force now,” he said, “right in the midst of continuing efforts to enlist the world community to back a tough new disarmament resolution on Iraq, could be a costly mistake for our country.”

A week and a day later, the IWR passed in the Senate. Five days after that vote, it was signed into law by George W. Bush. Nine days after that signature, five years ago, Paul Wellstone was gone. His words from October 3, 2002, however, still remain. No other floor statement given by any senator before the IWR vote echoes with such prescience. Wellstone was right, and voted accordingly. He was a beacon in the darkness that has spread and spread until, five years later, this nation and the world entire have become almost completely cloaked in shadow.

After Wellstone’s death, his staff released a transcript of his last 2002 midterm election campaign commercial, which had been slated for airing just before the November vote. “I don’t represent the big oil companies,” said Wellstone in the ad; “I don’t represent the big pharmaceutical companies, I don’t represent the Enrons of this world. But you know what, they already have great representation in Washington. It’s the rest of the people that need it. I represent the people of Minnesota.” Little else needs to be said; his own words are more than enough.

What can be said, on the other hand, about the Senate he served so well? What about the Democrats who now enjoy majority control but flee the very thought of representing the will of the American people? They called Wellstone “The conscience of the Senate,” and that honorable title seems more true today than ever. Since that conscience died, the Democrats – time after time after time again – have performed unconscionable acts of cowardice, ambivalence and betrayal.

“Every now and then, we are tempted to double-check that the Democrats actually won control of Congress last year,” read a recent editorial from The New York Times. “It was bad enough having a one-party government when Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. But the Democrats took over, and still the one-party system continues.”

Indeed.

As reported by The New York Times on October 14, 2007: “The phone company Qwest Communications refused a proposal from the National Security Agency that the company’s lawyers considered illegal in February 2001, nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 … documents unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Denver, first reported in The Rocky Mountain News on Thursday, claim for the first time that pressure on the company to participate in activities it saw as improper came as early as February (2001), nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks.”

So.

The Bush administration was trying to spy on Americans back when 9-1-1 was only the telephone number for the police. Since the September 11 attacks, the administration has folded, spindled and mutilated the Constitution and Bill of Rights in a rampage of unchecked anti-American activities, ranging from illegal domestic surveillance, to legislative “signing statements” that gut the meaning from duly passed laws, to brazen defiance of legally served subpoenas, to wild-eyed arguments against gossamer FISA-court oversight of their cloak-and-dagger actions.

The tempo of this behavior appears poised to increase. A Washington Post article titled “To Implement Policy, Bush to Turn to Administrative Orders,” appropriately published on Halloween, reported that “White House aides say the only way Bush seems to be able to influence the process is by vetoing legislation or by issuing administrative orders, as he has in recent weeks on veterans’ health care, air-traffic congestion, protecting endangered fish and immigration. They say they expect Bush to issue more of such orders in the next several months, even as he speaks out on the need to limit spending and resist any tax increases.”

And yet this Democratic Senate majority, with a slim few notable exceptions, fully intends to immunize the telecom companies who aided in the illegal and warrantless surveillance of Americans by Bush’s big ears at NSA, thus derailing the last and best way to determine, via lawsuits and investigations, exactly how dirty the Bush administration is regarding this illegal spying program. The Democratic senators pushing hardest for telecom immunity also enjoy the financial largess of that very same industry.

And the Democrats may not stop there.

And that was just last week, the very week Paul Wellstone died five years before.

Some days after Wellstone’s death, his friend Tom Schraw penned an essay for The Oregonian titled “When Your Conscience Dies.” In it, he wrote, “When Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota died in a plane crash last week, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle described him as “the soul of the Senate.” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan described him as “a profoundly decent man, a man of principle, a man of conscience.” Which leads to the question: What do you do when your soul dies, and your conscience goes away?”

What do you do?

According to the Democratic majority in Congress, what you do is nothing. You talk a good game and then wither away. You fold. You retreat. You whistle past the graveyard and cross your fingers. You betray the Constitution you swore to uphold. You betray the American people. You do not, under any circumstances, defy The President.

The conscience of the Senate died five years ago. His name was Paul Wellstone. His colleagues cannot have forgotten him so soon. Let them remember.

Let them act.

Should Al Gore Run? if he does we need fight with him and protect him from those who would try to do him harm

October 12, 2007

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by Robert Parry

Al Gore’s supporters are making a last-ditch bid to convince the former Vice President to run for President as a candidate of principle, experience and a powerful claim on the sympathy of Americans who believe in fair play and regret the outcome of Election 2000.

In a full-page New York Times ad on Oct. 10, a group of grassroots Democrats, called DraftGore.com, published an open letter to Gore pleading with him to enter the race.

“You say you have fallen out of love with politics, and you have every reason to feel that way,” the letter read. “But we know you have not fallen out of love with your country. And your country needs you now – as do your party and the planet you are fighting so hard to save.”

Across the country, local draft-Gore groups have sprung up, preparing for signature drives to put Gore on the ballot in Democratic primaries, even as the clock on registration deadlines ticks down.

Some Gore backers hope that Gore might change his mind and enter the race after Oct. 12, the scheduled date for announcing the Nobel Peace Prize, for which he is a nominee because of his work on global warming. [See Newsweek article, Oct. 8, 2007]

The urgency that these rank-and-file Democrats feel about a Gore candidacy derives, in part, from the inadequacies of the current crop of presidential hopefuls who are seen as lacking the foresight, the experience or the gravitas that Gore offers.

Front-runner Hillary Clinton may have reinvented herself as an Iraq War critic for the Democratic primaries, but she was a staunch supporter of the war from 2002 to 2005, even aligning herself with Sen. John McCain’s advocacy for a military escalation.

In a Dec. 8, 2003, article, New York Times columnist William Safire dubbed Sen. Clinton “a congenital hawk” whose mantra on Iraq was “failure is not an option.”

It was not until George W. Bush’s approval ratings went into freefall in late 2005 – and Sen. Clinton was eyeing the Democratic presidential nomination – that she began repositioning herself as a war opponent.

By contrast, Gore was one of the few politicians of national stature who vocally opposed a preemptive war against Iraq amid the war fever of the time. In a speech in San Francisco on Sept. 23, 2002, he described the dangers of the Bush Doctrine’s muscular unilateralism and the harm that could result from charging into Iraq.

Bashing Gore

Gore was excoriated by the Inside-the-Beltway pundit class for his deviant behavior in questioning President Bush’s wisdom.

“Gore’s speech was one no decent politician could have delivered,” wrote Washington Post columnist Michael Kelly. “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.” [Washington Post, Sept. 25, 2002]

“A pudding with no theme but much poison,” declared another Post columnist, Charles Krauthammer. “It was a disgrace – a series of cheap shots strung together without logic or coherence.” [Washington Post, Sept. 27, 2002]

While some pundits depicted Gore’s motivation as “opportunism,” columnist William Bennett mocked Gore for banishing himself “from the mainstream of public opinion.” In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Al Gore’s Political Suicide,” Bennett said Gore had engaged in “an act of self-immolation” by daring to criticize Bush’s policy.

“Now we have reason to be grateful once again that Al Gore is not the man in the White House, and never will be,” Bennett wrote. [WSJ, Sept. 26, 2002]

Indeed, while doing the research for our new book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, I was surprised how often it was Gore who emerged from the political shadows to give a speech that crystallized the challenges facing the country.

Beyond his prescient comments about the Iraq War and his leadership on global warming, Gore offered erudite explanations of how Bush’s arrogation of power marked an unprecedented assault on the U.S. Constitution and the delicate system of checks and balances that the Founders devised to protect the liberties of the American people.

Gore emerges as one of Neck Deep’s few heroes, the rare political figure who dared to tell the truth and endure the wrath of Washington insiders.

While Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois also can cite his early opposition to the Iraq War, his weakness is his shortage of government experience. So, when Obama makes brave comments, such as the need to avoid nuclear brinkmanship and the wisdom of talking to enemies, his statements are dismissed as “gaffes.”

As for former Sen. John Edwards, the other Democratic “big three” candidate, he suffers from a combination of weaknesses. While in the Senate, he voted to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq (though he has since apologized for that vote); his government service is limited to one term in the Senate; and although a skilled orator, he is easily portrayed as lacking much gravitas.

The other candidates – despite positive qualities – have not caught fire with Democratic voters, failing to move out of the single digits in most polls.

Fair Play

Gore has one other powerful argument working for him. He is the only living American – and the first in more than a century – who won the national popular vote for President but was denied the White House.

Though a Gore candidacy would surely be met with more derision from the Washington pundit class, most Americans have a deep-seated sense of fair play. They believe that if someone plays by the rules and wins, the victory should not be stolen just because the other guy has more money, is more ruthless, or has better-connected friends.

Plus, millions of Americans now perceive Election 2000 as a harmful turning point in the nation’s history, a moment when the nation was at a crossroads and lurched off in the wrong direction, before paying a horrible price.

Seven years ago, when Gore won the national popular vote against Bush and apparently also was the choice of a plurality of voters who went to the polls in Florida, the conventional wisdom was quite different: that the outcome of the election wasn’t all that important.

Indeed, during the bitter Florida recount battle, the prevailing opinion in Washington was that Gore should step aside and let Bush take the White House. That supposedly would end the unpleasantness that was widely blamed on Gore even as Bush’s hardball strategists dispatched well-dressed hooligans to disrupt the Miami recount.

“Given the present bitterness, given the angry irresponsible charges being hurled by both camps, the nation will be in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse,” wrote Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. “That man is not Al Gore. That man is George W. Bush.”

Cohen’s view was widely held in Washington where many commentators openly disdained Gore as a “know-it-all” and favored Bush as a “regular guy” who would put the “adults” from the Reagan-Bush era – the likes of Colin Powell and Dick Cheney – back in charge of the federal government.

So, there was a palpable sigh of relief in the power corridors of Washington when five Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Florida recount and effectively installed the son of the well-liked George H.W. Bush in the White House.

The thinking was that a few seasoned counselors behind the throne could guide the novice President away from any serious missteps and that the sordidness of the Clinton era would finally be brought to an end.

After eight years of hazing Bill Clinton and then Al Gore, the major U.S. news media suddenly began acting as if its primary duty was to protect the fragile legitimacy of George W. Bush’s presidency – a dynamic that deepened after the 9/11 terror attacks and continued through the first two years of war in Iraq. [For details, see Neck Deep.]

Tide Turned

It would not be until late summer 2005 – when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Bush administration bungled the federal emergency response – that the tide turned and the news media began to hold Bush accountable for the disasters that have been the hallmark of his presidency.

With that sea change came a grudging reassessment of Gore. It was harder to hold him up to easy ridicule since many of his dire prophecies had turned out to be true. Some of his supporters dubbed him the “Goreacle.”

But Gore continued to resist the urgent appeals from his backers to enter the presidential race and offer the American voters a chance to correct what many see as the historic injustice of Election 2000.

Now, some of those supporters have resorted to an open letter urging Gore to get off the political sidelines and back into the game.

DraftGore.com’s letter reminds Gore that he has often noted that “we are entering a period of consequences with regard to the global climate crisis,” adding:

“Only from the Oval Office can you wield the kind of influence needed to move countries, policies and corporations to bring about meaningful change. The period of consequences you talk about is upon us in many other equally critical areas as well. Our Constitution is being trampled and our most cherished civil liberties are in grave danger. The Executive Branch is not accountable to anyone. …

“Thousands of Americans are dying needlessly in Iraq while our reputation in the world has plummeted to an all-time low. The war on terror is backfiring as our enemies grow stronger and our resources are drained in an endless and unwinnable war. …

“You were the first American political figure to brave political waters and warn us of the perils of starting a preemptive war in Iraq. You were right. But time to reverse the damage is running out. Given your experience, insight and the respect you enjoy among world leaders, you are uniquely positioned to bring this war to an end and restore America’s good name.”

The letter concluded: “Mr. Vice President, there are times for politicians and times for heroes. America and the Earth need a hero right now – someone who will transcend politics as usual and bring real hope to our country and to the world. Please rise to this challenge, or you and millions of us will live forever wondering what might have been.”

Whether or not Gore heeds this appeal, many Americans will live out their days wondering what better course the nation might have followed if those five Republican justices had simply allowed the Florida recount to proceed, if they had left the decision on national leadership in the hands of the voters.
_______

About author Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It’s also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth.’ Robert Parry’s web site is Consortium News

Cast of “30 Rock” wearing “Gore ’08” t-shirts

October 6, 2007

reelectalgore2008.gif

October 4, 2007 — FORMER vice president Al Gore is expected to appear on an upcoming episode of the NBC sitcom, “30 Rock.” Gore recently taped his brief appearance on the show.

Gore’s guest spot is likely to appear during the fifth episode of the season, according to the gossip Web site, Gawker.

During the taping of the episode, the cast was seen wearing “Gore ’08” t-shirts.

NBC officials declined to comment.

http://www.nypost.com/seven/10042007/tv/gore_warming_up_rock.htm

We need Al to be President, but the attack of right wing conservative radical fascists (fox, limbaugh ..) would be personal and unrelenting. If he does run we owe it to him to make sure the main stream media give him a fair shot.

show your support! http://www.algore.org/

Al Gore experts’ choices for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize

October 6, 2007

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By John Acher

OSLO (Reuters) – Former Vice President Al Gore and other campaigners against climate change lead experts’ choices for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, an award once reserved for statesmen, peacemakers and human rights activists.

If a campaigner against global warming carries off the high world accolade later this month, it will accentuate a shift to reward work outside traditional peacekeeping and reinforce the link between peace and the environment.

The winner, who will take $1.5 million in prize money, will be announced in the Norwegian capital on October 12 from a field of 181 nominees.

Gore, who has raised awareness with his book and Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, and Canadian Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier, who has shed light on how global warming affects Arctic peoples, were nominated to share the prize by two Norwegian parliamentarians.

“I think they are likely winners this year,” said Stein Toennesson, director of Oslo’s International Peace Research Institute (PRIO) and a long-time Nobel Peace Prize watcher.

“It will certainly be tempting to the (Nobel) committee to have two North Americans — one the activist that personifies the struggle against climate change, raising awareness, and the other who represents some of the victims of climate change.”

Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, agreed the award committee could establish the link between peace and the environment.

“I think the whole issue of climate change and the environment will come at some point and reflect in the prize,” Egeland told reporters last week.

“There are already climate wars unfolding … And the worst area for that is the Sahel belt in Africa.”

There has been a shift to reward work away from the realm of conventional peacemaking and human rights work.

In 2004, Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai won for her campaign to get women to plant trees across Africa. Last year’s prize went to Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank for their efforts to lift millions out of poverty through a system of tiny loans.

IN WITH A CHANCE

Toennesson said others with a chance included former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, a perennial nominee for decades of peace mediation work, and dissident Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Do for his pro-democracy efforts.

His shortlist also includes Russian human rights lawyer Lidia Yusupova, who has fought for victims of war in Chechnya, and Rebiya Kadeer, an advocate for China’s Uighur minority.

The secretive five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee does not disclose the names of nominees, though some who make nominations go public with their candidates.

Toennesson said by giving the award to those fighting climate change, the committee would thrust itself into the public debate ahead of a key U.N. climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December.

If Gore is seen as too political, the committee could opt instead for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the scientists who advise the United Nations and produce key reports on the climate problem, Toennesson said.

To give it a face, the prize could be shared by the IPCC’s Indian chairman Rajendra Pachauri, experts said, though Pachauri told Reuters in London he did not think he stood a chance.

“I have a feeling it will go to Al Gore, and I think he deserves it. He certainly has done a remarkable job of creating awareness on the subject and has become a crusader,” he said.

Watt-Cloutier told Reuters she was flattered to be mentioned as a possible winner but did not expect to win.

Toennesson said Ahtisaari deserves the prize most for helping to bring peace to the Aceh region of Indonesia in 2005.

(Additional reporting by Alister Doyle)