February 15, 2006
Al Gore: International Man of Mystery

By Tom Bevan

And so the saga of Al Gore continues. Gore seems to have tired of giving his regularly scheduled harangue of the Bush administration to domestic audiences, because this week he took his podium-pounding show on the road. On Sunday at a major international economic forum in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Gore decried the treatment of Arabs in the United States after September 11, telling the crowd that many had been “indiscriminately rounded up” and “held in conditions that were just unforgivable." Gore criticized America’s current visa policy as “thoughtless” and “a mistake” and then apologized for the “terrible abuses” Arabs have suffered in America since 9/11.

This is a new twist on a recurring theme. We’ve gotten used to some – usually the Hollywood set – berating the United States from the enlightened confines of Western Europe. We’ve seen low ranking elected liberals like Jim McDermott of Washington and David Bonior of Michigan show up on enemy soil in Iraq to denounce the United States. And we’ve also watched members of the Democratic leadership at home compare the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to Nazi concentration camps and Soviet Gulags.

But Gore’s remarks set a new standard. Al Gore is the former Vice President of the United States and one of the most recognizable American political figures in the world. His accusation of the “indiscriminate” abuse of Arabs in the United States is disgracefully irresponsible not only because it is a grotesque misrepresentation of fact but because it was delivered in the country that is the epicenter of extremist Wahabbism, and the home of Osama bin Laden as well as 15 of the 19 hijackers responsible for killing more than 3,000 innocent Americans four and half years ago.

As with most things in politics and diplomacy, context is everything. Gore didn’t need to fly half way around the world to apologize to Muslims living, working and going to school in America after 9/11. And if Gore believed America’s treatment of Muslims after September 11 to be so shameful, why hadn’t he made it the centerpiece of one of the numerous, widely covered speeches he’s given in the last few years?

But the bigger mystery is this: did Gore really think his comments were beneficial to the United States of America? Was he putting the interests of his country first? Did he believe making an exaggerated claim of U.S. abuse of Muslims and then apologizing for it on Middle Eastern soil would somehow help build goodwill for the United States in the Islamic world?

To the contrary, the damage done by Gore’s willingness to stand in the heart of the Islamic world and confirm the most deeply held fears and prejudices of Muslims against the United States by grossly exaggerating the treatment of Arabs after 9/11 far outweighs any goodwill he may have generated with an apology.

There has to be another calculation involved: namely, that Gore was trying to build goodwill for himself (both in the Muslim world and with crucial constituencies at home) by claiming rampant abuse of Muslims in America and then offering a personal apology. Simply put, Gore took the opportunity to make himself look good by making his country look bad.

And what about the substance of what Gore said on America’s current visa policy? Last month he ripped the Bush administration over a program designed to eavesdrop on conversations between suspected terrorists overseas and persons in the United States. Now Gore bemoans the tighter restrictions placed on visitors traveling to the United States from countries that have a higher likelihood of producing terrorists.

Gore is against eavesdropping on potential terrorist communications and he’s against tighter screens for visitors originating from Islamic countries. So exactly what would America’s national security policy look like under a Gore administration? For the sake of the country, that’s one mystery best left unsolved.

Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics.

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Tom Bevan

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