Former vice president Al Gore gave what I believe
to be the most important political speech in my lifetime, and the New York
Times, "the newspaper of record," did not report it. Not even
For the New York Times, it was a nonevent that a former vice president
and presidential candidate, denied the presidency by one vote of the Supreme
Court, challenged the Bush administration for its illegalities, rending of the
Constitution and disrespect for the separation of powers.
So much for "the liberal press" that right-wingers rant about. If
a "liberal press" exists, the New York Times is certainly no
longer a member.
The Washington Post had a short report on Gore's address at Constitution
Hall, but the newspaper, if that is what it is, managed to dilute with sneers
the seriousness and urgency of the message that Gore brought to the country.
Gore's address is the first sign of leadership from the Democratic Party in
six years. This alone makes it a major news event. But not even his own party
took notice. According to reports, only one Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein
(Calif.) was in the audience. One would have thought the entire Democratic congressional
delegation would have turned out in support of Gore's challenge to Bush's extraordinary
claims of power.
The lack of an opposition party makes the media vulnerable to intimidation
by a dictatorial-minded administration.
The New York Times' ownership suppressed for one year the leaked information
in the paper's possession that the Bush administration was violating the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act and was spying on Americans without court warrants.
Had the New York Times not placed a gag in its reporter's mouth and suppressed
the story, Bush may have gone down in defeat as the new Richard M. Nixon. Clearly,
the New York Times is failing the obligations of a free press.
Bush is angry at the New York Times and at the government officials
who leaked the story that Bush illegally spied on American citizens. Both may
be prosecuted for making Bush's illegal behavior public. By ignoring Gore's
speech, is the New York Times signaling to Bush that the newspaper is
willing to be a lap dog in exchange for not being prosecuted?
With the U.S. media now highly concentrated in a few corporate hands, has the
Democratic Party reached the conclusion that opposition is no longer possible?
Once Bush places Sam Alito on the Supreme Court, he will have a high-court
majority friendly to his claims that his executive powers are not constrained
by congressional statutes or judicial rulings. Once a president is held to be
above the law, whether for reasons of his role as commander in chief or any
other, he can no longer be held accountable.
Conservatives should fear this more than anyone. The separation of powers and
our civil liberties are our most precious property rights. They are our
patrimony from the Founding Fathers. We are stewards of these rights, which
we hold in trust for our descendants. How can any conservative fail to realize
that Bush's attack on these rights is the ultimate attack on property? It is
astonishing to watch conservatives wave the flag while they are transformed
into subjects to be dealt with as presidential authority decides.
Gore challenged the American people to step up to the task of defending the
Constitution, a task abandoned by the media, the law schools, and the Democratic
and Republican parties. If we fail, darkness will close around us.