Now that John McCain has "suspended" his campaign, those who worried that a man with the temper of a scorpion and the foreign policy views of Attilla the Hun would somehow bully his way into the White House can rest easy. But not too easy, and not for long for now we are faced with the prospect of either George W. Bush or Al Gore as Commander-in-chief of the world's most powerful military machine, and that is enough to give anyone nightmares. Dubya's foreign policy views or, rather, those of his chief foreign policy advisors have been scrutinized and critiqued in this space on several occasions, and will be again. But since British bookmakers are currently giving Gore 8 to 11 odds over Bush, now is the time to examine the great neglected danger, the menace of the morally blind Al Gore.
I mean, here is a man who clearly foresaw the horrific consequences of the Kosovo war, and could still bring himself to goonishly proclaim it "a victory for morality." In a speech to the fighting feminists of "Emily's List," what is in effect the Woman's Division of the DNC, the Gore admitted that
"our celebration and sense of victory is tempered only by the sober awareness that there will also be difficult days ahead because this is an area that has a lot of conflict and fresh emotional as well as physical wounds."
That those wounds were inflicted by NATO's warplanes, and now by our noble allies in the KLA, is not something that the robotic Gore is capable of admitting: he simply is not programmed for it. As KLA cadre launch rocket and grenade attacks against disarmed Serbian civilians, and NATO presides over the vicious ethnic cleansing of Kosovo by fanatical Albanian nationalists, it is clear that the Kosovo war was a cynical powerplay, a war crime masquerading as a noble crusade. The rationale for the war turned out to be a gigantic lie manufactured out of whole cloth by an administration that has developed the art of lying into a fine art. A "victory for morality"? Only by the depraved standards of the Clintonians, for whom no inversion is too boldly obscene. If Gore is elected President, the moral corruption that infuses and perverts even the language will spread and blossom in spectacularly ugly ways. The infection will manifest itself in a particularly virulent (and dangerous) form in US foreign policy.
In researching this column, I am just now beginning to understand the appeal of John McCain's posturing plasticity, to see why and how he recruited so many enablers to his shameless orgy of self-deification. I am getting a glimpse of how normally intelligent people would be willing to discount McCain's utterly ersatz and essentially empty faux-"populism," and surrender themselves to the mindless joys of a cult of personality. For only by looking very closely at such politicians as Gore can one can fully understand how and why the McCain myth acquired such fervent believers. At least with McCain, it is clear what you are you getting: a dangerously unpredictable and even volatile personality, who could explode at any moment and, as President, quite possibly take the rest of us with him. But with Gore the danger is less obvious and, in a sense, more ominous.
It is all too easy to believe the contention of Senator Alan Simpson, made recently on CNBC"s "Hardball," that during the Senate debate over the Gulf War, Gore "shopped" his vote around on the basis of which side would give him a speaking slot closest to prime time. In the culture of celebrity, it isn't what you say but how many people hear you say it. The politics of celebrity aren't much better. According to Simpson, the conversation went like this:
Gore: 'How much time will you give me?''
Dole: ''How much time did you get from the other side?''
Gore: ''Seven minutes."
Dole: ''I'll give you 15 minutes."
Simpson: "And I tellya what, Senator I'll throw in five minutes of my time for good measure. Howsa 'bout it?"
Gore: ''Let me think about it."
Speaking of it afterward, Simpson, a man of the old school, could hardly contain his disgust: '"If you are talking about who people are, and about their character,'' he said, ''I never saw such a thing happen with anybody else." Yes, Senator, but you knew enough to throw your five minutes into the pot, now didn't you? At any rate, none of this is hard to imagine: what is hard to imagine is how Simpson and Dole could have cooked up such an elaborate story all on their own; and certainly it has the ring of truth to it. Can't you just see old Al Gore sidling up to Bob Dole and Simpson in the Senate cloakroom, angling for a little prime time?
To have an opportunist as slimy and unprincipled as Gore coiled in the Oval Office means a calculated use of American power to enrich his corporate allies and serve the interests of every foreign lobbyist in Washington. With foreign money pouring into the coffers of the Democratic National Committee, and not only from the mysterious Orient, this administration has been in hock to its overseas patrons ever since. Whether in return for cold hard cash, or the political support of hyphenated Americans who lobby for the interests of the old country, this administration has shamelessly pursued a foreign policy of America Last, if Ever, utterly without shame. With Gore, we can expect more of the same times two-hundred.
Just look at the example of Colombia, where the US is being slowly dragged into a three-way civil war between leftist guerrillas, paramilitary "death squads," and the Colombian government with all players, including the government, benefiting from the traffic in cocaine, the country's number one export. Gore, and a number of the Clintonians, including corporate oligarch Steve Case of AOL-Time-Warner, who has a big investment in Colombia, and who is one of the biggest friends of Andres Pastrana's regime among corporate executives, have taken a major interest in the Colombian crisis. Gore has long been a key link in the Colombian connection.
Back in 1995, he appeared at a conference of the Western hemisphere's political leaders, and declared that "the drug traffickers shall not prevail. They will be defeated. We can applaud the work of those like President [Ernesto] Samper and Defense Minister [Fernando] Botero of Colombia, who are standing up to traffickers, often at tremendous personal risk, demonstrating personal courage." Less than a year later, Botero had squealed on Samper, and revealed that this paragon of Clintonian virtue had been on the take all along. His entire campaign had been planned and financed by the Cali drug cartel from the very beginning and, what's more, US government officials were fully cognizant of this fact early on. According to PBS's Charles Krause, they suspected Samper was a front for the drug lords in 1994, when he was inaugurated: yet there was Gore, a year later, holding up Samper as a model to Latin America. A few months after Gore publicly embraced his friend Ernesto, Botero gave his damning testimony corroborated by Samper's campaign manager as well as the campaign treasurer. With DEA agents swarming all over that country, in addition to America's other intelligence capabilities, it is difficult to believe that the Vice President was not at least aware of if not fully briefed on the investigation into a man he held up as paragon before the assembled leaders of the New World.
As the epitome of post-millennial vulgarity and hypocrisy, Al Gore has no equal. Here is a man who constantly prates about the inviolability of the rain-forests, dresses in earthtones and invokes the pious bromides of the new Earth religion. Yet he sits on the board of a company that has seized the land of the U'wa Indians, in the rain-forests of northern Colombia, and profits from their expropriation and the polluting of their tribal lands. With a half a million dollar stake in Occidental Petroleum, Gore personally profits from the dirty deal handed to Colombia's indigenous peoples, who have long suffered at the hands of Bogota. The chief complaint of the locals, aside from the outright theft of U'wa lands, seems to be that the pipeline has attracted the guerrillas and greatly increased the level of violence in a region that had been relatively free of it. Since Occidental took over the neighborhood there have been well over 600 guerrilla attacks, with the U'wa caught in the crossfire. Pushed onto a reservation, and stripped of most of their ancestral lands by government fiat, the U'wa caught the attention of the world when they threatened to protest this aspect of "globalization" in the only way they could: by threatening to commit collective suicide.
The U'wa who lead a pastoral existence of just the sort that the rad-libs of today hold up as a moral ideal caught the imagination of a whole cadre of crunch-granola sympathizers in this country, and they have been dogging the Gore campaign at every turn, loudly protesting Gore's complicity with the destruction of a people in order to fatten his own bank account. More importantly, they are calling attention to the fact that Ray Irani, the Occidental chief executive, made a donation of $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee in the early 90s following a stay in the Lincoln Room of the White House. The Gore camp claims that the income from the Occidental assets goes to his mother, but this hardly makes it morally palatable: does he want to make his own mother morally responsible for the death of a people? Furthermore, if the financial interests of the Gore family are so inextricably intertwined with maintaining "stability" in Colombia, how can he separate these interests from the national interest when it comes to deciding if and when to directly intervene in Colombia? The day of decision is coming, and quickly. The question is: do we want Al Gore making it?
While the danger from McCain is that he would have gotten us into a war in the name of "honor," albeit misguided and distorted beyond all recognition, President Gore will get us into a war out of sheer greed and vainglory or even in pursuit of prime time. This is typically Clintonian, but no doubt as we get to know Al Gore he will reveal his own peculiar style of moral nihilism, his own sense of how to embody the very worst aspects of our rotten culture. Let's hope, however, that we don't have to get to know him too well.
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