by Vice President Al Gore
Speech at Media Conference
I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave
danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public
discourse . I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has
gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of
ideas" now functions.
How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the
last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an
I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said
they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on
September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a
half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and
supporting the attack.
At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was
just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the
normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know
that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions
that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.
Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel
right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And
does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this
abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the
American people? If the gap between rich and poor is widening steadily and
economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem
increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?
On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving
senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor
asked: "Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?"
The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with virtually no
meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few days ago, the former
head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom,
said, "The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest
strategic disaster in U.S. history."
But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd's question is
like the others that I have just posed here: he was saying, in effect, this
is strange, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to have full and vigorous debates
about questions as important as the choice between war and peace?
Those of us who have served in the Senate and watched it change over time,
could volunteer an answer to Senator Byrd's two questions: the Senate was
silent on the eve of war because Senators don't feel that what they say on
the floor of the Senate really matters that much any more. And the chamber
was empty because the Senators were somewhere else: they were in fundraisers
collecting money from special interests in order to buy 30-second
TVcommercials for their next re-election campaign.
. . . The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study
to be only the 27th freest press in the world. And that too seems strange to
me. . . .
The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible
marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video
streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what
we call viewer-created content or VC squared. . . .
[Hitler used the Reichstag fire to create an atmosphere of crisis. Both the
judicial and legislative branches of government collapsed, and Hitler's
decrees became law. . . .
In this first decade of the 21st century the United States regards itself
as a land of democracy and civil liberty but, in fact, is an incipient
dictatorship. . . .
It is paradoxical that American democracy is the likely casualty of a "war
on terror" that is being justified in the name of the expansion of
democracy.--Paul Craig Smith "Tyrant in the White
House," CounterPunch, January 16, 2006]
[A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General
to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from
investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the
President.--Al Gore, "
America's Constitution is in grave danger," Salon.com, January 16,
[Two years ago, in a report entitled Democracy in an Age of Rising
Inequality, the American Political Science Association concluded that
progress toward realizing American deals of democracy "may have stalled, and
even, in some areas, reversed." . . .
The following year, on the eve of President George W. Bush's second
inauguration, the editors of The Economist, reporting on inequality in
America, concluded that the United States "risks calcifying into a
European-style, class-based society." . . .
But this crowd in charge has a vision sharply at odds with the American
people. They would arrange Washington and the world for the convenience of
themselves and the transnational corporations that pay for their
elections. . . .
Until we offer qualified candidates a different source of funding for their
campaigns - "clean," disinterested, accountable public money - the selling
of America will go on.--Bill Moyers, "Restoring the Public Trust," tompaine.com, February 24,
[Sandra Day O'Connor, a Republican-appointed judge who retired last month
after 24 years on the supreme court, has said the US is in danger of edging
towards dictatorship if the party's rightwingers continue to attack the
judiciary.--Julian Borger, "Former top
judge says US risks edging near to dictatorship," Guardian,
March 13, 2006]
[President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than
750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power
to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his
interpretation of the Constitution.--Charlie Savage, "Bush
challenges hundreds of laws," Boston Globe, April 30, 2006]
[There are now 37 million Americans living in poverty, and at 12.7 percent
of the population, it is the highest percentage in the developed
world.--Paul Harris, "Wake up: the
American Dream is over," Observer, June 8, 2006]
[Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads,
and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the
country is another day we're slowly creeping across the final line beyond
which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.--Sara
Robinson, "Is the U.S. on
the Brink of Fascism?," alternet.org, August 7, 2009]
[Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens
United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d'etat in slow
motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to
streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a
functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power.--Chris Hedges,
"Democracy in America
Is a Useful Fiction," truthdig.com, January 25, 2010]
[Our government is not broken; it's been bought out from under us, and on
the right and the left and smack across the vast middle, more and more
Americans doubt representative democracy can survive the corruption of
money.--Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, "What Are We Bid for American Justice?,"
huffingtonpost.com, February 20, 2010]
[We will blunt these rising anti-democratic forces only when we organize
outside conventional systems of power. It means dismantling the permanent
war economy and the corporate state. It means an end to foreclosures and
bank repossessions. It means a functional health care system for all
Americans. It means taking care of our poor and unemployed. And it means a
system of government that is freed from corporate interests.--Chris Hedges,
to Nowhere," truthdig.com, October 5, 2010]
[ . . . the Justice (sic) Department told the court that murdering American
citizens is a "political question" that is not subject to judicial review.
The "freedom and democracy" government then invoked the "state secrets
privilege" and declared that the case against the government's power to
commit murder must be dismissed in order to avoid "the disclosure of
sensitive information"--Paul Craig Roberts, "America's
Devolution Into Dictatorship -- Licensed to Kill," counterpunch.org,
November 11, 2010]