The Voice of the Democratic Party
September 26, 2002
By Monica Friedlander
When Al Gore delivered his strong indictment of the administration's
Iraq policy and its preemptive strike doctrine, he did something
very unusual for this day and age. He took a stand.
His was the most forceful and eloquent statement on the subject
made by a major Democratic figure in the country. Thereby
the winner of the 2000 presidential election did more than
challenge Bush on the war issue - he set himself up as the
true leader of the Democratic party and its grassroots members
Moreover, Gore laid out a vision for America's role as a
moral leader of the free world, a role that would place our
country back within the framework of international law. As
a member of the international community, Gore said, we must
act as we expect others to.
"An unspoken part of this new [preemptive strike] doctrine
appears to be that we claim this right for ourselves - and
only for ourselves," Gore said. "President Bush is presenting
us with a proposition that contains within itself one of the
most fateful decisions in our history: a decision to abandon
what we have thought was America's mission in the world -
a world in which nations are guided by a common ethic codified
in the form of international law."
Since 9/11 and until recent weeks, the political debate in
this country has come to a virtual halt. The political leadership
of both parties has been largely paralyzed by explicit threats
or implicit insinuations by the White House that any kind
of opposition to this administration is tantamount to being
unpatriotic and un-American.
With a few exceptions (most notably Senator Bob Byrd's outcries
against this repressive atmosphere), Congress adopted a sheeplike
mentality on all issues having to do with foreign affairs.
And debate on what may be the most consequential issue of
our times - the strike against Iraq - has been essentially
Al Gore broke the code of silence with his speech on Monday
in San Francisco. The millions of Democrats left without a
voice have now found their leader again. Al Gore speaks for
us, and at this time no other Democratic contender for the
White House comes close.
Not surprisingly, the White House immediately dismissed Gore's
speech as insignificant and at odds with the American people.
But while the leadership in Congress suffers from reduced
backbone syndrome, the country is in fact split on the issue.
And since it's not too great a leap to assume that most of
those opposing the administration are not Republicans, that
means that most Democrats are in fact supportive of Gore's
Finally, Gore's speech also represents a golden opportunity
for Democrats to pick up the baton and blow open the debate
on this issue. It may never happen. But with his bold move
Al Gore has broken away from the pack and served notice that
he's the Democrat to beat in 2004.