The speech takes the high road, including occasional self-mockery, never stooping to the level of the partisan right (and the fanagtic left) in assaulting Bush's motives, but at the same time is a powerful indictment of Bush's methods :
Robust debate in a democracy will almost always involve occasional rhetorical excesses and leaps of faith, and we're all used to that. I've even been guilty of it myself on occasion. But there is a big difference between that and a systematic effort to manipulate facts in service to a totalistic ideology that is felt to be more important than the mandates of basic honesty.
Unfortunately, I think it is no longer possible to avoid the conclusion that what the country is dealing with in the Bush Presidency is the latter. That is really the nub of the problem -- the common source for most of the false impressions that have been frustrating the normal and healthy workings of our democracy.
Americans have always believed that we the people have a right to know the truth and that the truth will set us free. The very idea of self-government depends upon honest and open debate as the preferred method for pursuing the truth -- and a shared respect for the Rule of Reason as the best way to establish the truth.
The Bush Administration routinely shows disrespect for that whole basic process, and I think it's partly because they feel as if they already know the truth and aren't very curious to learn about any facts that might contradict it. They and the members of groups that belong to their ideological coalition are true believers in each other's agendas.
The entire speech is about Bush, and makes an eloquent appeal for a restoration of the dialouge in this country. It was uplifting, to think that Gore could be such a keen statesman waiting off stage to lend his analysis - and there are so many others as well just like him. It was deeply depressing, too, to think where we used to be and how far we have fallen:
For eight years, the Clinton-Gore Administration gave this nation honest budget numbers; an economic plan with integrity that rescued the nation from debt and stagnation; honest advocacy for the environment; real compassion for the poor; a strengthening of our military -- as recently proven -- and a foreign policy whose purposes were elevated, candidly presented and courageously pursued, in the face of scorched-earth tactics by the opposition. That is also a form of honor and integrity, and not every administration in recent memory has displayed it.
So I would say to those who have found the issue of honor and integrity so useful as a political tool, that the people are also looking for these virtues in the execution of public policy on their behalf, and will judge whether they are present or absent.
Gore notes clearly that he will not run. And he noted clearly that he intends to endorse one of the Democratic candidates running in 2004. But which one? read the whole speech... and then the closing graf:
I am proud that my party has candidates for president committed to those values. I admire the effort and skill they are putting into their campaigns. I am not going to join them, but later in the political cycle I will endorse one of them, because I believe that we must stand for a future in which the United States will again be feared only by its enemies; in which our country will again lead the effort to create an international order based on the rule of law; a nation which upholds fundamental rights even for those it believes to be its captured enemies; a nation whose financial house is in order; a nation where the market place is kept healthy by effective government scrutiny; a country which does what is necessary to provide for the health, education, and welfare of our people; a society in which citizens of all faiths enjoy equal standing; a republic once again comfortable that its chief executive knows the limits as well as the powers of the presidency; a nation that places the highest value on facts, not ideology, as the basis for all its great debates and decisions.
There is only one candidate that has said these things. There is only one candidate that has made the broader point about ideology, while all the rest merely squabble on a per-policy basis with Bush. There is only one candidate who has made it his mission to broaden the pool of poliitics to include more Americans, to foster a dialouge, to look at facts and embrace reason rather than ideology. There is only one candidate that echoes Gore's own critiques of the rush to war on flimsy evidence. There is only one candidate who has actually spoken of attaining the same high standard that Gore lays out in his final paragraph.
And this is what that candidate had to say on Lawrence Lessig's blog:
As a doctor, I�m trained to base my decisions on facts. This President never adequately laid out the facts for going to war with Iraq�perhaps, as it turns out, because the facts were not there. I opposed the war not because I�m a pacifist�I�m not�but because the evidence presented did not justify preemptive war. I opposed needle exchanges for drug addicts until I saw the empirical evidence that showed how such exchanges reduce the spread of disease. I changed my position, and I�m proud of that. Facts are a better basis for decisions than ideology.
That candidate is Howard Dean. Watch for Dean's endorsement by Gore before the end of the year.