February 15, 2006
Al Gore: International Man of Mystery
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.
Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics.
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