Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Assault on Reason- A Book Review

This book by Al Gore is a masterpiece. Gore begins to put together a case for what went wrong and why in our Republic. He starts with the decline in discourse and reason within our nation. The evolution of television and radio as news mediums are discussed at length in Gore’s book, in that those mediums are one-way and non-interactive. He attributes much of the troubles we face in our Republic to the relative decline of the print media, which requires more of the reader than just to be entertained.

At that point, Gore gets out a scalpel and dissects the many missteps of the Bush Administration. And thankfully, he does a thorough and persuasive job of it. He contrasts the role the Republic’s founders had for the Presidency with the unilateral, unaccountable, and highly secretive administration of George W. Bush. He pulls no punches and articulates the degree to which this administration has violated the law , dismembered the U.S. Constitution, pursued aggressive pre-emptive war, engaged in the promotion of torture and illegal detainment of people without recourse, sought world domination rather than cooperation, etc.

Gore doesn’t pull any punches on a complicit Republican Congress, and on Democrats who have also bathed in the same sewage infested waters. Gore also goes into just how the pervasive use of fear was used to encourage Americans to give up more and more of their personal liberties in the name of national security. Replacing reason with fear rarely results in good policies and Gore contrasts rightly how America’s great leaders have in the past sought to help America’s citizens overcome their fears with resolve, not to magnify them in a callous and corrupt way to grasp additional powers.

Gore goes on to articulate the conservative assault on an independent judiciary and its implications for our Republic. Reading the book at the same time as watching a 5-4 vote on habeaus corpus underscored Gore’s point, and how fragile and at risk our Constitution is currently. You can tell that Gore has a deep affection for the judiciary and the role they play in preventing abuse of power. He also has a deep appreciation for the brave members of the judiciary and legislative branch that stepped in during Watergate to reign in an imperial President, and laments the lack of current will to do the same in our current Congress.

Gore does touch on one of his most favorite topics, climate change, and likens the role played by Exxon/Mobil with the Tobacco Company propagandists who so successfully argued the lack of link between tobacco smoke and cancer despite the overwhelming evidence.

Surprisingly, much about Gore’s book is hopeful. What Gore ultimately argues for is not agreement with Al Gore, but open and free discussion and careful reasoning. Gore’s solution isn’t more politics, but more discussion between leaders and the public. He sees the internet, blogs, and other modern communication means as positive developments which have the potential to help us undo the damage the Bush Administration has done to our Republic. He also plugs his own current project "CurrentTV."

Gore’s optimism in the face of the rise of American conservative authoritarianism is the kind of hopeful thing you expect from our leaders. Gore showed that he still is a force to be reckoned in our national debate about the future of our country. The fact that a former Vice President and a man who nearly ascended to the Presidency has so articulately addressed our most pressing national crises is refreshing and overdue.


Jason The said...

I had much the same reaction to the book as you did.

If you would like to follow the same topic even further, I recently finished a book that was a great extension of the "Reason" topic, but more technical and in-depth on the points Gore makes in his.

A Short Course in Intellectual Self-Defense by Normand Baillargeon.

Obi wan liberali said...

Thanks for the recommendation Jason. I'm currently reading Fareed Zakaria's book on Liberal Democracy. But I go through books pretty quickly.

I gained alot of respect for Al Gore for his book. He showed so succinctly what a major mistake our Republic made in 2000 as a nation.

rmwarnick said...

I'm pretty rue I read the same book, and Gore definitely pulls his punches. He never calls for impeachment of Bush and Cheney, and even stipulates that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, according to all U.S. intelligence agencies.

rmwarnick said...

Um, make that "pretty sure." :-(

Obi wan liberali said...

I wouldn't call not pushing for impeachment pulling his punches. I didn't pick up his claim that Iran had a nucleur weapons program. I remember he did imply that U.S. saber rattling only ensures that Iran feels threatened and would more likely seek to obtain nucleur weapons.