Tag Archives: Al Gore

Watch This!

A friend sent me a link to a short–only ten minute–TedTalk by Al Gore. (If only the Supreme Court hadn’t given us George W…)

This is so powerful, I’m using it for today’s post.Be sure to watch all the way to the end.

Watch this!

I’ll be back with one of my usual diatribes tomorrow. And don’t forget to register for Women4Change’s inaugural Civic Education Conference on October 6, 2022, in the Clowes Auditorium of the Indianapolis Public Library, 40 East St. Clair Street, Indianapolis, Indiana.

You can learn more about it and register here.


Political Choices and Imperfect Information

We’re deep into presidential primary season, and Americans are taking our imperfect knowledge of the candidates to the polls.

Given the sheer amount of ink–digital or real–devoted to American presidential candidates, you’d think voters would have ample, detailed information about those competing for our votes and contributions. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. Verifiable information is “supplemented” with rumor (scurrilous or fawning, depending upon the source and its motivation), and what we do read or hear is filtered through a partisan lens.

Unless we actually know a candidate–or know someone who does–we have only imperfect impressions on which to make judgments about character and intellect. That’s one reason why, in a more perfect world, voters would pay more attention to a candidate’s positions and less to the hype. Marco Rubio’s desire to outlaw all abortions–even in cases of rape and incest–tells you more about his character than softball interviews or even hardball debates.

I remember when George W. Bush was first running for President. He came across as more personable than Al Gore, and the meme was that here was a guy you’d enjoy having a beer with. At the time, I was working with an IUPUI professor whose (very Republican) doctor husband had practiced many years in Midland, Texas. When a dinner party conversation turned to the campaign, he mentioned that he’d gone jogging three or four times a week with George W. and a couple of others for several of those years.

“Really!” I said. “What’s he like?”

The doctor thought for a couple of minutes, then said “Dumb and mean.”

I don’t offer this as irrefutable evidence of George W’s intellect or temperament; I have no idea what their relationship might have been, or how accurate the doctor’s assessment. But it is evidence that widely shared impressions of public figures do not necessarily saccord with assessments by people who actually know and work with those figures.

I thought about that conversation when I read this description of Hillary Clinton at the Political Animal.

As President Obama’s former speechwriter (including during the 2008 primary), Jon Favreau admits that he was not always a fan of Hillary Clinton. He writes about how his view changed while he worked with her in the White House.

“The most famous woman in the world would walk through the White House with no entourage, casually chatting up junior staffers along the way. She was by far the most prepared, impressive person at every Cabinet meeting. She worked harder and logged more miles than anyone in the administration, including the president. And she’d spend large amounts of time and energy on things that offered no discernible benefit to her political future—saving elephants from ivory poachers, listening to the plight of female coffee farmers in Timor-Leste, defending LGBT rights in places like Uganda.”

Given the sustained assault on her character over the years, many of us have had a less-than-enthusiastic response to Hillary’s candidacy. She is clearly the most knowledgable and experienced, but she has also been the most tarnished–sometimes fairly, often not. People I’ve met who actually know her tend to share Favreau’s impressions.

Who’s right, who’s wrong? Who knows?

At least she isn’t arguing about who has the biggest penis.

I Don’t Want to Share a Beer with my Commander-in-Chief

There has been a good deal written about the desire of many voters for “fresh faces,” outsiders with no prior experience with government. This has led to patient efforts to explain to those voters why giving someone access to the nuclear codes who doesn’t understand what they are or how government works might not be the best idea.

We Americans tend to confuse celebrity with competence, likability with ability to do the job. You would think we’d learn…

Case in point: Most commentators attributed the original victory of George W. Bush over Al Gore to the former’s “likability.” Bush seemed like the sort of person you’d like to have a beer with, the pundits explained, while Gore was stiff and “professorial.”

The rest, as they say, is history. And much of that history is still being uncovered…

Chris Whipple has written a story at Politico offering a long teaser of the upcoming Showtime documentary The Spymasters. He and two colleagues spent more than a hundred hours interviewing the 12 living CIA directors, with considerable focus on the 9/11 attacks. Although the overall picture of failure by the administration to prevent the attacks has long been known, the story and documentary provide some added details. The key detail is that the warnings the Bush White House received from the CIA in the summer of 2001 were a lot more chilling than the infamous August 6 presidential daily brief. Writes Whipple:

[George] Tenet vividly recalls the [July 10] White House meeting with Rice and her team. (George W. Bush was on a trip to Boston.) “Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.’” [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”

As we now know, the administration not only didn’t go on “wartime footing” (which may or may not have been a good idea in any event), but according to Congressional investigations and subsequent revelations, basically shrugged its collective shoulders and waited to see what would happen.

Much of the incompetence that characterized so much of W’s first term–not to mention his reliance on the counsel of Darth Cheney–can be attributed to his very thin public resume. Even though his father was President, he’d been involved in politics, not governance, and the Texas Governor’s office is notoriously weak.

He did, however, have a resume, which is more than Trump, Carson and Fiorina.

Like it or not, we need a President who actually understands how government works–not a President who shares our resentments or our religious fantasies, nor one who tells us what we want to hear, no matter how far removed from actual fact.

We shouldn’t be choosing someone to run the country because s/he is someone with whom we’d like to have a beer.