see, if you're a Democrat they can make your oh-so-patriotic scads of flags quite invisible
Al Gore has disappointed me over and over again in the past, but what is that saying about a drowning man grasping at straws? Unfortunately in this case the threatened demise is that of an entire polity and its people aren't even going to be in a position to see the straws before they go under.
I've just watched the entire video of the former Vice President's very impressive speech delivered inside Washington's DAR Constitution Hall yesterday. You can catch it here on C-SPAN [see "recent programs" under "video/audio"]. The written text is available here, corrected for the words actually delivered.
This major address, although brilliantly assembled and delivered, seems to have been largely ignored by the media - or, for that matter, anyone else who could profit from its warnings and its call to action. The NYTimes for one gave it only a passing mention in two and a half small paragraphs at the end of a page 14 story about lawsuits being filed against the Bush administration's domestic spying program. What on earth is the matter with those people? I think they've totally lost it.
In any nation with a responsible government and press this speech would have been front page news. This was a major political statement (actually it was more in the way of a dramatic cry of alarm and outrage) presented on a monumental day and in an historic hall by a famously temperate politician who is arguably the leading spokesperson for the leading opposition party of a government and a nation which is in serious trouble. The content of this address even if it hadn't included an accusation of executive tyranny and an implied call for the impeachment of a sitting president should be all the buzz in the halls of government and everywhere on the streets of the nation today and for some time to come.
But we have no real opposition party in America today, and people have to know about something before they can buzz. In the third century of his beloved United States we bear no resemblance to Jefferson's ideal of an informed citizenry. I'm afraid our republic really is now beyond resuscitation. This puts me somewhat at odds with Gore's optimistic conclusion, although I understand his is ultimately still a political speech.
Is this man running for president? But I thought we went through that already and it turned out he didn't really want it after we gave it to him.
Anyway, I'm definitely not a politician; when I hear the thoughts I have already lived with for years echoed by the vice-president's lines recorded just yesterday, I feel not hope but only despair:
Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop on American citizens without a warrant, imprison American citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?
The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's extravagant claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."
The fact that our normal American safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is, itself, deeply troubling.
Gore thinks we'll wake up, come to our senses and restore the Constitution. But I'm thinking, the "safeguards" he speaks of were built into that document and they amounted to much of its substance but they didn't work. I believe that no constitution can be reconstituted once it has been so easily trashed, We've certainly trashed ours, and for no real cause but an irrational fear, hardly a suitable building material for a free people.
If I have any other quarrel with Gore's rhetoric or delivery on this occasion it is that even when he is describing the most egregious assaults on our historic liberties and fundamental law he still only begins to approach the fire his message demands.
And oh yes, not to be too picky about visual design, but did they really have to plant nine (9) American flags directly behind him for 65 minutes? I know, I know, we aren't supposed to let the radical Right take possession of every one of our dear old war banners, but don't we know yet that the Republicans will always win that particular numbers game? [see photo above]
[image by Susan Walsh from AP via Washington Post]