May 23, 2007 - “It is too easy – and too partisan – to simply place the blame on the policies of George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes. We have a Congress. We have an independent judiciary. We have checks and balances. We are a nation of laws. We have free speech. We have a free press, “Al Gore writes in his new book, “An Assault on Reason”. Then he asks the rhetorical question, “Have they all failed us?”
The short answer is “Yes.” The American public was rightly aroused by the horrendous defeat that the American system of national security suffered on September 11, 2001. The aroused public wholeheartedly supported President Bush when he issued his ultimatum to the Taliban regime, deliver Osama Bin Laden or suffer the consequence of war. When the Taliban seemed ready to acquiesce and the President announced that their submission came too late some of us began to have doubts. We looked to centuries of history in which first one and then another imperial power sought and failed to subjugate the country. When we expressed those doubts we were shouted down and labeled as traitors – or worse, as Liberals with a capital L. Our free speech failed us.
We were a nation of laws and our laws were devoted to the protection of individual freedom and personal liberty. In our passion to find security in an insecure world we have left the laws of our nation lie unused in the dust of history. Disused and ignored laws would not have permitted eternal imprisonment not by the application of any law we have known but by the arbitrary application of a label. We have permitted this by our silence. Our law has failed us.
We had an independent judiciary but we have seen that judicial independence eroded appointment by appointment. No longer can we look to the courts as our final protection against arbitrary government power. That independent check upon executive excess has given way to the influence of men who fashion their opinions not by the template of Constitutional institutions of freedom and liberty but rather by a pattern designed to perpetuate a political agenda. Our Courts have failed us.
Our Congress in which we relied to protect us from the tyranny of an executive government serving itself rather than the people was stampeded. In a manifestation of institutionalized fear it became a partner in the destruction of the fabric of our democracy and individual freedom and liberties. Our Congress has failed us.
We once relied upon our free press to be the watchdog of liberty; to fearlessly speak truth to power and lay open the facts upon the table to advance the public discourse and thereby strengthen our democracy. Now we are faced with a mass media that fears to speak truth but relies on “truthiness” to preserve revenues. It is a media that twists the meaning of words until “fair and balanced” has come to mean the substitution of political position for provable fact. Our free press has failed us.
In his speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum on January 27, 1838 young Abraham Lincoln said, “Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! … At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
By failing to employ those institutions of freedom and liberty which were the legacy of those who went before us; by failing to insist that we cannot extend liberty abroad by stifling it at home; by fearing to rely upon those essential freedoms that have sustained this nation from its inception we have failed ourselves. We have become the suicides that Lincoln foresaw.