Thursday, October 4, 2007


I took my freshmen students to go see Al Gore at the Denver Convention Center. He was delivering one of his "Inconvenient Truth" talks. He was quite good. It was similar to the material in the film, only he had a few years more data to throw in.

As depressing and fascinating as the talk was, though, the highlight for me was when one of my students got to ask him a question at the end: "What would you have done differently from President Bush after 9/11?"

Gore took a deep breath, and then friggin' unloaded.

He first complemented Bush for uniting the nation, and expressed support for the Afghanistan invasion. But then the important differences came out:
  • Gore wouldn't have invaded Iraq. (Duh.)
  • If he had invaded Iraq, he wouldn't have diverted troops from Tora Bora to do so. (Duh.)
Gore then drew the interesting comparison between global warming and the Iraq war. In both cases, he noted, the truth was ignored. Policymakers ignored scientists and other experts and instead listened to ideologues. He pointed out that he and Bill Clinton received national security briefings every day when they were in the White House, and any sort of memo that began with the words "X determined to attack U.S." sparked dozens of meetings with every intelligence-gathering organization in the government, in which the principals would demand more information. Bush, by comparison, replied to the CIA official who handed him the August 2001 PDB, "Well, you've covered your ass." Similarly, Bush was briefed days before Katrina made landfall about the potential for devastation, and he asked no questions whatsoever.

Gore didn't come out and say it, but he seems to think that he or Clinton could have prevented 9/11 had they been at the helm. Obviously, you can't know something like that, but it's clear that there was enough information out there to derail the attacks, and no central figure had taken the leadership role of putting the information together.

Gore sounded pretty pissed off at this point, different from his more jovial, scholarly tone from the rest of the evening. I found it incredibly powerful.

Oh, by the way, he said he's not interested in running for president. He seems to think he can do more to help the world in his current role.

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