Talk about two blasts from the past: Al Gore recently gave a speech
sponsored by MoveOn.org, an organization originally founded for the
purpose of issuing a great national tut-tut to Bill Clinton, making that
motherly scowl of disappointment and then "moving on."
Well, everything about that sorry event has moved on, except
MoveOn.org. Now they're another liberal advocacy group. And Gore's
speech sounded a familiar theme of modern liberalism: George W. Bush
is a greater threat to America than Islamist terror.
It was a greatest-hits collection of overgeneralizations, including the de
rigeur accusation of fascism, complete with literary flourish:
"Where civil liberties are concerned, they have taken us much farther
down the road toward an intrusive, `Big Brother'-style government
toward the dangers prophesized by George Orwell in his book `1984'
than anyone ever thought would be possible in the United States of
Remember "Carnivore," the dreaded FBI Internet surveillance program
that would sift through billions of bits looking for crooks? A pre-Bush,
Clinton-Gore era creation. Until we have video of Gore throwing himself
over a server shouting "leave my Internet alone!" his protestations of
looming Big-Brotherism will seem a tad unconvincing.
Wouldn't be a stemwinder without that No. 1 hit, Climate of Fear:
"They have exploited public fears for partisan political gain and postured
themselves as bold defenders of our country while actually weakening,
not strengthening, America."
Yes, yes, how true. We all remember Bush's speech to Congress, in
which he demanded a capital gains tax cut in the name of the victims of
Sept. 11. I mean, every day, it's the same thing: "Oogie boogie! Islam is
coming to kill you, so we must give money to Africa for AIDS and
reconsider our national park fire prevention strategy!" The man is
Personally, this member of the public remembers the fears that clutched
the nation in the weeks after Sept. 11. Fear of germs, fear of spores,
fear of small planes corkscrewing into nuke plants. You wanted to know
that every young male with a Syrian passport coming over the border
from Canada on a student visa would be taken aside and asked a few
questions maybe even photographed, if that's not too Big Brothery.
Exploiting public fears? Well, when al-Qaida opened a new front in New
York City, the public saw it on TV and felt it in their wallets.
One hates to break it to Mr. Gore, but the public doesn't fear that the
government will use the Patriot Act to find out whether a suspect used a
library computer to get the go-code from a Yahoo-hosted jihadi
message board. The public is worried that they won't.
Here's the peculiar thing: Some Democrats' sudden spasm of concern
about governmental intrusions might have traction if people also sensed
that the Dems had a sense of the greater context. We're at war. We're
grappling with a vast and shadowy Hydra-headed foe who wants us
dead as dirt.
One waits for Gore et al to admit that the Republic's greatest peril
doesn't come from a man who took the fight to the enemy's stronghold,
knocked off two horrid tyrannies AND proposed generous prescription
drug benefits in his spare time. One waits for them to be as worried
about Osama's heirs as they are worried about John Ashcroft's power to
tap the phone of the next Mohamed Atta.
Said Fightin' Al: "It makes no more sense to launch an assault on our
civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an
invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama Bin Laden."
Please. Gore's a smart man. He knows the importance of the Iraq
campaign. He knows that the strike on Baghdad wasn't to get Osama.
He knows what intel he saw when he was veep. And he knows these bits
of rhetorical fibbing will go down well with his base. He accuses Bush of
telling lies to create a climate of fear for the purposes of amassing
political power? Psychologists call this "projection." Move on, Mr. Gore.
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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.