Al Gore on "The Assault on Reason"

June 01, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

(Click here to read an excerpt from Al Gore's book, The Assault on Reason).

Yesterday, I visited the ATM and filled up my car’s gas tank for the first time since we returned from Ireland (think sticker shock). Then I went to Target, where I bought ant poison, Advil and Al Gore’s new book, The Assault on Reason. Tomorrow I’ll shop in the “B” section.

I’m just getting into Gore’s book, but Arianna Huffington has finished it and scored an interview with him. Scooped again. Be that as it may, and assuming I’ll not soon get to interview the man myself, here are some excerpts from Arianna’s column about the man in whose basket I am placing all my nuggets of political and cultural hope.

. . . I interviewed Al Gore over the weekend. After talking with him and reading his book, The Assault on Reason (which will debut at #1 in the New York Times on Sunday), it was clear that he is obsessed with two kinds of pollution -- the pollution of our planet, and the pollution of our politics and culture. In other words, the toxicity of the atmosphere and the toxicity of the public sphere. Read on!

While I completely agree with his passionate warnings about the dangers from these two pollutions, I believe there is a third: the pollution of our leaders' brains and hearts and souls that affects their spines when they know what is true, right, and in the best interests of the country but fail to stand up for it. After all, leadership has always been about seeing clearly while most around you have their vision clouded by the cultural toxicity Gore rails against.

"It's a problem that George Bush invaded Iraq," Gore told me. "It's a problem that he authorized warrantless mass eavesdropping on American citizens. It's a problem that he lifted the prohibition against torture. It's a problem that he censored hundreds of scientific reports on the climate crisis -- but it's a bigger problem that we've been so vulnerable to such crass manipulation and that there has been so little outcry or protest as American values have been discarded, one after another. And if we pretend that the magic solution for all these problems is simply to put a different person in the office of the president without attending to the cracks in the foundation of our democracy, then the same weaknesses that have been exploited by this White House will be exploited by others in the future."

Gore kept returning to this theme during our conversation: that it's not enough to just throw George Bush and the Republicans out, we need to address the root causes of the rot afflicting our politics. He highlighted some of the elements of the rot, particularly what has happened to our media culture, and the dominant influence of money:

BabsNote: Amen, brother. That is bedrock. No point crowning the tooth when a root canal is called for.

"Money has replaced reason as the wellspring of power and influence in the American political system," Gore told me. "What was revolutionary about the United States of America was that individuals could use knowledge as the source of influence and power on a sustained basis for the first time since the agora [the center of Athenian democracy]... Now that money buys 30-second TV ads, lobbyists, computer banks, and Machiavellian political consultants, the wielding of power depends so much on money and so little on ideas that all of the organizations that Americans have formed to pursue progressive ideas to promote the public interest have been badly weakened."

That's why the Internet is so important to Gore. He sees it as a powerful countervailing force to these poisonous influences. "We need to reengage the America people in the process of democracy," he told me. "We have to convince them that their opinions do matter, that their wisdom is relevant, and that their political power can be used effectively. And the Internet is beginning to bring about some very positive changes in this area -- it's why it is so important that bloggers are now able to hold newspapers and politicians accountable in ways they couldn't even just a few years ago. The E=MC2 of American democracy is John Locke's formulation that all just power derives from the consent of the governed -- and that consent assumes an environment where there can be an open and accessible exchange of ideas."

So here is a modern political leader able not only to reference Locke, Einstein, and the Roman Empire, but to passionately and practically link their ideas to urgent policy decisions being made as we speak -- above all, decisions about Iraq. ~ snip ~

BabsNote: I’m not going to use the above as a springboard for bashing Bush’s intellect or lack thereof. Way too easy to go there. But lordy, lordy, how long it has been (think Bill Clinton) since there has been a man (or woman) eyeballing the White House, even from a great distance, who is capable of reasoned thought and the courage and conviction to act on it.

Arianna goes on to speak of the inner pollution that is mucking up our system (individually and collectively). And then she says:

For example, what made Paul Wellstone, even though he was facing a tough re-election battle, immune to the toxic fears that led so many of his colleagues to vote for a war authorization resolution they knew was wrong? As Gore says, "We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes. We have a Congress. We have checks and balances." The fact that these checks and balances didn't work in 2002 -- and are still not fully working in 2007 -- is not just a function of a toxic system. It's also because not enough of our leaders have spiritual immune systems -- what we used to call character --strong enough to withstand the toxicity, including the fear mongering, of a bad system.

Describing our political leaders, Gore said, "We have good people caught up in a bad system." ~ snip ~

The Assault on Reason offers a powerful indictment of the degradation of our political system. If Al Gore doesn't run for president, perhaps his next mission can be a book/movie about the need for each of us to undergo an inner detox that will get rid of all that stands in the way of us seeing clearly and acting courageously -- freeing up both the better angels of our natures and the leadership potential that's within all of us.

As I finished up our interview by asking him the obligatory question about running for president that so many of you charged me with asking (sorry, there was no new answer!), I was more convinced than ever that one of the reasons so many people are urging Gore to run is because they suspect that his recent journey -- including the devastating loss of the presidency -- have strengthened who he is at his core.

Gore is focused on the problems of environmental and cultural pollution, but perhaps his greatest strength as a leader comes from his hard-earned ability to withstand the pollution of the soul.

BabsNote: I am convinced that Al Gore is the right person for the U.S. presidency in 2008. I believe he has the capacity to lead and to provide a healing touch to this deeply wounded country. Some of you may disagree. Speak out. If I have learned nothing else in the past six+ agonizing years, it is that keeping silent about things that matter deeply is simply not an option any more (if indeed it ever was).

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Comments

perhansa (not verified) | June 1, 2007 - 3:54pm

Why would an intelligent person like AG run again in a country where the media care more about how much weight you've gained (Strib editorial earlier this week) than the painstaking efforts he's made to raise awareness of global warming and the despoiling of our democracy and reason? An intelligent person would say, "If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve." Courage has no place in it. He owes it to himself and to his family to say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

I agree, Al Gore is a much better alternative than those on the table. I fear the "system" is FUBAR and until it is repaired it will be four or eight years of agonizing frustration for Al. Who/how do we change the system? Is it too late?

He couldn't be more right on--money (and ideology), not reason drives the engines of government. I think we all have some work to do to force an overhaul of the system. Capitalism is run amok. The Market is the new Religion of the power brokers and most of the rest of us. Who has the time to discern the Truth in a society overwhelmed with information and flooded with false, misleading, and conflicting information firehosed into the public realm by people we should be able to trust (think NASA's Michael Griffin). Our leaders are despicable in their mendacity. Think George Bush calling on the rest of the world to follow the lead of the US now that he's decided to act on global climate change (which is, of course, another huge lie and a stall tactic). Talk radio is fueling deviseness, disdain for reason, and black-white dicotomy of choices. You have George Will drawing up ridiculously simplistic charicatures of liberals (and conservatives) in the Strib today. Total idiotic bullshit. Will is suppose to be an intelligent man, why is he writing such simplistic, unreasoned, partisan crap? When you can no longer believe a single word that the governing adminstration says and you can't trust the rest of government to expose the lies and distortions and defend the truth, why look for another "savior"?

The internet and the blogs, well, who is validated the information they/we put out? Do any of you believe half the stuff on the Powerline or on the more radical progressive blogs? How do you know what you read is true or accurate? The internet is no "savior" either. Anyone with money can buy someone with credentials to back up their ideology. Face it, we're hosed. The system is broke. Al isn't going to fix it. Only a mass movement of concerned citizens can overcome the years of neglect, in action, shortsightedness, and "free market capitalism" unrestrained. The election of George Bush is clear evidence of how far we've declined...ask a Martian anthropologist to study the trajectory of our socio-political arc and they'd tell you we passed the apex long ago and are now on the descent. The train is headed for the cliff...

And don't listen to a word I say it's med day today...tomorrow I'll be back to being deluded with hope. I'm painting my sign now, "The Fall of the US Empire is Around the Corner!" News at eleven...

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | June 1, 2007 - 6:07pm

What was I THINKing??? Whyever would we want to sacrifice America's best and brightest in the White House? Why would we even dare to believe that someone with ability and principles would ever want the job? It's absolutely true that whoever succeeds Bush will be rather like the dustpan man who follows parading elephants. Far better that we continue our new tradition of mediocrity and evil intention run amok. Yes, yes, of course. Why let's get behind Joe Lieberman. He'd be perfect for the job. Who cares what happens to him? And he'd be so well-suited to strut and fret his hour upon the stage, bleating empty rhetoric and deepening our despair. Yes. Lieberman for president! And maybe Lindsay Lohan at his side. Hide, Al, hide. We don't really need you. Well, we do, but it's just not in the script.

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paul Miller (not verified) | June 1, 2007 - 9:38pm

here is a new game to play:

you have 50 years of criminal sentences to dispense, how would you like to spend your political capital

Here's my breakout:

I'm going to give Rove 15
Bush and Cheney 10 each
Rumsfeld 6 years, 6 months and 6 Days
Rice 5 years
Wolfie 2 yrs 359 days
John Bolton 1 yr

you might want to save something on account as the US atty scandal plays out, and also Libby's sentence does not go against your 50 years on account

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susan | June 1, 2007 - 11:03pm

I think I'd give Wolfie and Rummy and Cheney 20+ years. Hard labor. Rove is a tough one. He seems both evil and bland at the same time, like clear water --if you don't mind the aftertaste of arsenic. Whereever we send him, for however long, he'll just sort of seep out, like Casper the ghost. But hell, 20 for him too, in stocks, being publicly ridiculed. Uh-oh, did you say a total of 50 years? No wonder I keep having trouble with the captcha challenge.

Let me try again. Rummy and Cheney get 12 years each. And Rove too. And Bush too. I know he's sort of the runt of the litter, but he gets extra years for all sorts of other misdeeds not having to do with Iraq. That leaves Condi with 2, just because that's all that's left.
Actually, give her 1 year, and 1 year for Judy Miller of the NYTimes, though she gets a few months off for time already served, and we can tack that back on to Condi.

And doesn't de-Bathification Bremer get some lashes too? And Doug Feith? And I've forgotten John Bolton.

Bottom line, so many crooks, so little time.

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | June 2, 2007 - 8:58am

Five years for Cheney. He's the uber-evilmeister, but he won't live more than five years in prison. Less if prison justice takes its course. So why waste a lot of sentencing years on him?

I love Paul's 6 years 6 months 6 hours sentence. That's for Rove. Solitary confinement. Bright lights at all times so there are no shadows where he can lurk.

7 years 7 months 7 hours for George W. Bush. Cut the marionette strings. He'll just lie there in his cell, not knowing what to do. Why more time than Cheney and Rove? Because however dim his bulb may be, W's is the face everyone associates with more than six years of growing despair and bloodshed and domestic chaos.

10 years for Barbara Bush. No pearls allowed. She spawned 'im, she raised 'im; she's complicit in extremis.

Two years for Gonzo. He may not be able to remember being sentenced, however.

Two years for Wolfie because he's creepy.

One year for Colin Powell because he had the opportunity to set things right at the get-go and didn’t.

Five years for Ann Coulter, because she’s a wicked wench with a cast-iron soul. She will share a tiny cell with John Bolton.

Two years for Joe Lieberman because he’s a disgusting little pissant.

The balance can be parceled out to the appropriate Supreme Court justices who gave us President Bush the Younger.

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perhansa (not verified) | June 2, 2007 - 8:47am

Whew...med day yesterday. I feel much better today and the bright sun after the rain helps too. Sorry Barbara didn't mean to piss on your great idea about Gore--actually I'd love to see him in charge. I always have liked Al Gore. I just don't want to wish bad things on people I admire. Besides, he seems to be able to be more effective outside the beltway, it's too much of a political Bagdhad in DC. Maybe we need a "Green Zone" for the people who are really trying to get something done for the nation.

It's Hillary's turn next...we've have Bush I & II, now we need Clinton II. We might a well at least have our first woman president and Bill as "First-???", that'd be kinda fun. Seems to me Hillary can play the DC game with the best of them and she' can dish it out as well as the next one...People will forget about her Iraq vote as soon as she starts pulling out the remaining troops (i.e., those that are left after Bush pulls out as many as Karl tells him to in the months leading up to the election that is). The Religious Right is on a steep hate trajectory so let's give 'em something to blow a gasket over. Maybe right-wing talk radio will burn itself out in a firey burst of Imus-like spewing. After an exhausting four or eight years of the Clintons--they'll be hoping the Rapture happens soon.

As for distributing sentences (dream on) I'd round up the whole lot of "loyal Bushies," put 'em in Bush-style flight deck suits and exile them to Sadr City and see how many are left after a year.

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