Aug 10, 09
Read in January, 2008
This book was a very easy read, and as a pretty liberal individual, my views are very well in line with Al Gore's. I know there must be hundreds of anti-Bush books published by now, but if you just read this one, you should get a pretty good sense for the numerous abuses of this current administration. Gore cites many good examples ranging from Katrina to the War on Terror to Global Warming. The entire middle of the book is dedicated to this and eventually, I just wanted to browse through it since there were so many egregarious abuses of executive power. Reading about this pattern of abuses just got old. I was pretty well-informed on most of the evidence he cites, but his examples really drive the point home. There is a relieving sentiment that I got because no matter who the next president is, he/she cannot possibly be this manipulative and abusive with his/her power (knocking on wood).
One of Gore's main point is that America no longer has a well-informed electorate. Since television is a "one-way communication", there is no forum for discussion. And since propagandists have figured out that the electorate is very responsive to 30 sec commercials on television, politicians spend a exhorbitant portion of their time fundraising to buy 30 second programming, instead of having lengthy, thorough debates. Gore, of course, offers hope that the internet will offer the two-way communication that will restore the public forum for debate. And with my excessive postings on facebook, blogging on the NYT, and this goodreads page, I think Gore is right.
I only gave three stars because I did not receive too many new insights or paradigms of thinking from reading this book.
Two new insights I did get were:
1. Bush is perceived to be a dimwit by most citizens of the United States. But, Gore points out that he is really a smart, calculating individual who successfully misled the majority of Americans into believing that Saddam Hussein was somehow responsible for September 11. He has also successfully hijacked religious doctrine to develop an international policy that suits the special interests that he and Cheney represent.
2. A few months ago, I was surprised to hear that Bush has only vetoed 3 bills in his 7 years in office (#1 was federal funding for addition embryonic stem cell lines, #2 and #3 were expansions of SCHIP - the program providing healthcare to children). How does any President get through office with so few vetoes (not even one per year)? He apparently does it through "signing statements". Signing statements "are written pronouncements that the president issues upon signing a bill into law."
Gore writes, " For example, after American soldiers dishonored and embarassed the country by torturing large numbers of helpless prisoners [Abu Gharaib:], an overwhelming bipartisan majority passed legislation sponsored by three Republican senators -- John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham -- outlawing torture. Bush could have vetoed the law, but COngress almost certainly would have overriden his veto. Instead, he signed the law but announced that he did not, and would not, have to abide by it. This helps to explain why Bush has vetoed only one bill [circa 2006:] during his entire term in office. Why bother, if he can simply decide on his own whim which provisions of a law apply to him and which ones he will simply ignore."