I was finally able to give a close read to the Al Gore's speech from yesterday. And I wanted to add my voice to all of those around the web who've been praising what the former vice president said. When I think about the Gore now, in the period since he left elected office, what stands out most about him is the way that he has become a standing rebuke to the shame and moral indolence of today's custodians of received opinion. You can see it in the sneering and bemused responses his speeches receive from the usual cast of characters.
These really aren't normal political times we're living in. And I think Gore is right to say that we're in the midst of a constitutional crisis, even though too few people are taking notice of it. Our constitution becomes the proverbial falling tree.
The point Gore makes in his speech that I think is most key is the connection between authoritarianism, official secrecy and incompetence.
The president's critics are always accusing him of law-breaking or unconstitutional acts and then also berating the incompetence of his governance. And it's often treated as, well ... he's power-hungry and incompetent to boot! Imagine that! The point though is that they are directly connected. Authoritarianism and secrecy breed incompetence; the two feed on each other. It's a vicious cycle. Governments with authoritarian tendencies point to what is in fact their own incompetence as the rationale for giving them yet more power. Katrina was a good example of this.
The basic structure of our Republic really is in danger from a president who militantly insists that he is above the law.