by Michael K. Smith
It is nothing short of amazing that so many apparently well-meaning people are still prepared to argue that an Al Gore presidency in 2000 would have changed the course of history, avoiding the disaster of the 2003 Iraq War and guiding us to a saner 2011.
As with matters of faith in general, the way they know this is from sheer personal conviction. According to this romantic scenario, in the wake of 911, with Republicans screaming about Weapons of Mass Destruction in the hands of Islamofascists and demanding Saddam Hussein's head, Al Gore, described by his own mother as "a born conformist," would have struck out on an independent path for the first time ever and refused to invade a country that was already being continually bombed by the U.S. with (then Vice-President) Gore's hearty approval. Maybe, but given Gore's record, the conclusion is something less than totally obvious.
Gore is the man who caved in to the Miami Cuban fanatics insisting that Elian Gonzalez had an inalienable right to live with his kidnappers forever; the man who reached the House of Representatives on a platform of guns, God, racism, and states rights; the man who marched in lockstep with the NRA and supported the Hyde Amendment denying government-funded abortions to poor women, even voting against an early version of the bill that would have made an exception in cases of rape. Gore supported Ronald Reagan's war on tiny Nicaragua (which the World Court ruled was international terrorism), the disastrous deployment of U.S. Marines in Lebanon, the invasion of Grenada, the 1991 Gulf Slaughter, and the bombing attacks on Libya, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Sudan, and Afghanistan. He approved of the C.I.A's arming and training of moujahedeen guerrillas and declared he wouldn't "hesitate to overthrow a government with covert actions."
Gore worshipped Israel, at whose prompting Washington invaded Iraq, and was insulted at Papa Bush's initiative to withhold $10 billion in loan guarantees until the Holy State talked to the PLO. When Jesse Jackson stood up for Palestinian rights Gore was first to insist that it was racist to not attack him for defying the consensus of the white candidates in the race. Since the white candidates were agreed that indigenous Arabs had no rights in Palestine, they were obligated to not let sympathy for downtrodden blacks in America lead them to find fault with Israel's campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestine.
Gore was also an arms dealer's wet dream. He voted for the neutron bomb, the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the Trident II missile, the MX missile, the Midgetman, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and mini-Star Wars. After backing a nerve gas missile called the Big Eye, he asked President Reagan to phone his mother in hopes the Great Communicator could explain his vote.
Gore was a long-time supporter of the Clinch River breeder reactor, which manufactures plutonium, a millionth of a gram of which is sufficient to induce lung cancer when inhaled, and was an enthusiastic proponent of the free market theology that treated nature as a boundless sewer. While advancing the agenda of the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO, he billed himself as the Green Prince of the Environment.
This is the man on whom hopes for a decent future allegedly depended. He was so bad he couldn't even carry his home state of Tennessee. Of course, that's not the fault of Gore's appalling politics, but rather, of Ralph Nader's ill-advised presence in the 2000 presidential race. Damn egomaniac!
It's a reasonable surmise that a Gore presidency would have been a disaster, just like every other 20th century Democratic administration was (see posts for 8/20/09, 7/3/09, 6/25/09, 5/11/09, 4/27/09, 4/15/09, and 4/1/09 for a review of the seven Democratic administrations of the 20th century). Yes, there are differences between the GOP and the Democrats. No, exploiting those differences will not lead us away from the precipice of human extinction, a matter allegedly of some concern to "progressives."
Barack Obama was supposed to be an obvious improvement over George Bush. He hasn't been. He has increased the Pentagon budget, extended the Bush tax cuts, escalated pilotless drone attacks, endorsed assassinating American citizens, expanded the "war on terror" into Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia, continued torture and the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, backed Jewish apartheid, given trillions of dollars to looters on Wall Street, and presided over the worst unemployment situation in 80 years, with millions of Americans losing their careers, their homes, and their pensions. His single legislative achievement - health care "reform" - keeps the HMO profiteers in control, guaranteeing that thousands of Americans will continue dying every year due to undiagnosed and untreated illnesses.
It is long since time we questioned our allegiance to the crackpot realism that makes a God of expedience and demands nothing more from us than quadrennial ratification of the evil of two lessers. Over the course of time the choice becomes not Gore or Bush, but Gore and Bush, not to mention Carter-and-Reagan, Nixon-and-Clinton, and Ike-and-LBJ. The point is that calls for capitulation easily masquerade as political pragmatism, making subservience a way of life.
This may come as news to the "let's go down on our knees and fight like hell" crowd, but the reality is that there was no more practical value to the Warsaw ghetto revolt than there has been to Ralph Nader's repeated presidential campaigns. Doomed to failure from the start, it needlessly claimed the lives of German security forces who had been assigned the task of ethnic cleansing for Hitler. So if the "let's be practical" logic of the Nader-phobes is correct, the Jews who rose up to defy Nazi power were egomaniacs pointlessly committed to self-serving theatrics.
It should be clear what's wrong with that picture.
Those who would make an argument for cowardice ought first to declare themselves cowards. If we cannot stomach this, we should stop babbling about microscopic differences between Israel-worshipping corporate candidates, and mount a popular challenge to Zionized capitalism that will make the Tea Party look like, well - a tea party.
Otherwise, we have no one else to blame but ourselves.
Cockburn, Alexander and Jeffrey St. Clair, "Al Gore: A User's Manual" (Verso: 2000)
-----Michael K. Smith is the author of "The Madness of King George" and "Portraits of Empire" both with Common Courage Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org