At his blog Political Punch, ABC reporter Jake Tapper has been reading Al Gore's new book The Assault on Reason. He has an online analysis going through the "liberal red meat," and perhaps the knee-slapping funniest line -- coming from a man who stood silently in support of Bill Clinton every day of his scandalous presidency, except when he was honoring him as "one of our greatest presidents" minutes after he was impeached for lying in a sexual harassment lawsuit -- is his claim about the Bush administration: "I cannot remember any administration adopting this kind of persistent, systematic abuse of the truth and the institutionalization of dishonesty as a routine part of the policy process."
This could be the funny Who Are You To Talk? runner-up: "It is love of power for its own sake that is the original sin of this presidency."
But Tapper finds "For me the most surprising part of the book was Gore's implication that if a more competent person had been president during 9/11 -- like, say, him -- 9/11 might not have happened." He underlined:
Gore argues that the president does not need enhanced domestic surveillance powers he has sought and received, often in secret, just competent use of the information already available. He points out, for instance, the fact that 9/11 terrorists Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almidhar were already on a State Department/INS watch list.
He does not flatly state that 9/11 would not have occurred during a Gore administration. But, he writes, "whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable, it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes."
Then, using a study from the Markle Foundation, Gore shows how "better and more timely analysis" -- not the increased data sought by the Bush administration -- would have led to other hijackers Salem Alhazmi, Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi and so on. Bush received that dire warning in August 2001, Gore notes at two different points in the book -- "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." -- which he refers to as "a headline more alarming and more pointed than any I saw in eight years of six-days-a-week CIA briefings."
Gore notes that he took pre-9/11 warnings seriously, even if Bush did not. After all, "unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden an immediate threat" is "inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the president," Gore says, noting that as vice president he "made that very point to President Clinton when he had the opportunity to seize an al Qaeda operative who was planning an attack against us. And the president took my advice, though the individual we attempted to capture escaped."
But instead, Gore writes, incompetence rules the day and Bush has "taken us much further down the road toward an intrusive 'Big Brother'-style government -- towards the dangers prophesied by George Orwell in his book 1984 -- than anyone ever thought would be possible in the United States of America."
It's a strong charge, laid out carefully, with tidbits dropped here and there throughout the book. I've covered Al Gore for years. He rarely misspeaks, never miswrites. He is smart and deliberate.
Let's hope Tapper doesn't mean that Gore is never inaccurate, but I'm guessing he means that Gore really believes this stuff, and isn't unintentionally claiming he was smart enough to stop Osama where Bush wasn't. But it's always amusing when liberals -- who never saw a trivial thing the government should NOT be involved in improving -- decry Republican presidents for "intrusive Big Brother-style government."
Reading through Tapper's material, you can't help but wonder: why was Diane Sawyer so busy apologizing for the media's lack of substance and how the media hypnotize people like chickens in 15 minutes of interviews with Gore, even as she found him enthralling -- and why was she not pressing Gore on all this "liberal red meat"?
PS: The Washington Examiner's gossip column Yeas & Nays notes not only that Al Gore's cover-flap picture shows a "svelte" Gore, but that in the index, there's a listing for "Reason, Bush's lack of, 55-56, 58, 60, 62, 66, 71, 177."