Gore: The Voice of the Democratic Party
When Al Gore delivered his strong indictment of the administration's Iraq
policy and its preemptive strike doctrine, he did something very unusual for
this day and age. He took a stand. His was the most forceful and eloquent
statement on the subject made by a major Democratic figure in the country.
Thereby the winner of the 2000 presidential election did more than challenge
Bush on the war issue. He set himself up as the true leader of the Democratic
party and its grassroots members nationwide.
Moreover, Gore laid out a vision for America's role as a moral leader of the
free world, a role that would place our country back within the framework of
international law. As a member of the international community, Gore said, we
must act as we expect others to.
"An unspoken part of this new [preemptive strike] doctrine appears to
be that we claim this right for ourselves -- and only for ourselves," Gore
said. "President Bush is presenting us with a proposition that contains
within itself one of the most fateful decisions in our history: a decision to
abandon what we have thought was America's mission in the world -- a world in
which nations are guided by a common ethic codified in the form of
Since 9/11 and until recent weeks, the political debate in this country has
come to a virtual halt. The political leadership of both parties has been
largely paralyzed by explicit threats or implicit insinuations by the White
House that any kind of opposition to this administration is tantamount to
being unpatriotic and un-American. With a few exceptions (most notably
Senator Bob Byrd's outcries against this repressive atmosphere), Congress
adopted a sheeplike mentality on all issues having to do with foreign
affairs. And debate on what may be the most consequential issue of our times
-- the strike against Iraq -- has been essentially muted.
Until now. Al Gore broke the code of silence with his speech on Monday in San
Francisco. The millions of Democrats left without a voice have now found
their leader again. Al Gore speaks for us, and no other Democratic contender
for the White House comes close.
Not surprisingly, the White House immediately dismissed Gore's speech as
insignificant and at odds with the American people. But while the leadership
in Congress suffers from reduced backbone syndrome, the country is in fact
split on the issue. And since it's not too great a leap to assume that most
of those opposing the administration are not Republicans, that means that
most Democrats are in fact supportive of Gore's position.
Finally, Gore's speech also represents a golden opportunity for Democrats to
pick up the baton and blow open the debate on this issue. It may never
happen. But with his bold move Al Gore has broken away from the pack and
served notice that he's the Democrat to beat in 2004.