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Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 2003 / 24 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

James Lileks

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The Trouble With Al Gore's Screed on Civil Liberties | Talk about two blasts from the past: Al Gore recently gave a speech sponsored by, 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 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 America."

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:

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"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 shameless.

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. Move on.

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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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09/29/03: Ah-nold & Clark may be on different sides of the aisles, but their supporters are cut from the same cloth
09/19/03: All Hail the Ninth Circuit Court of Surreal
08/26/03: This time, the record industry doesn't stand a chance!
08/18/03: Assessing the Schwarzenegger Factor in Republicanism
08/08/03: No wonder Howard ‘Two Covers’ Dean gets all the buzz
08/04/03: Expect bad news for the foreseeable future
07/28/03: Despot's Deserts
07/21/03: No winners in this game of gotcha
07/14/03: Doing the right thing in Liberia may not be the right thing to do
06/27/03: On feet in Democratic mouths
06/16/03: The real story behind Hillary's book
06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
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05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
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02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
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01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks