"We cannot afford their blunders"

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 26, 2004 7:55PM (EDT)

In the first 30 seconds of Al Gore's scathing hour-long speech at New York University, he mocked a slogan George W. Bush used in 2000 to show America how his administration would represent a clean ethical break from the Clinton-Gore-Lewinsky years: "Restoring honor and integrity to the White House." Far from it, Gore said. Instead, Bush "has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon."

It will be time for Bush and Cheney to go in November, Gore said, but to tide us over until then, Gore demanded the immediate resignations of "those immediately below Bush and Cheney most responsible for creating the catastrophe in Iraq," namely Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George Tenet.

Occasionally finding that growling, gutteral voice he's been known to lapse into in black churches, Gore gave a defiant and fiery speech against the failures of the Bush administration.

Here's a choice excerpt: "President Bush offered a brief and half-hearted apology to the Arab world -- but he should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions. He also owes an apology to the U.S. Army for cavalierly sending them into harm's way while ignoring the best advice of their commanders."

"Perhaps most importantly of all, he should apologize to all those men and women throughout our world who have held the ideal of the United States of America as a shining goal, to inspire their hopeful efforts to bring about justice under a rule of law in their own lands. Of course, the problem with all these legitimate requests is that a sincere apology requires an admission of error, a willingness to accept responsibility and to hold people accountable."

"And President Bush is not only unwilling to acknowledge error. He has thus far been unwilling to hold anyone in his administration accountable for the worst strategic and military miscalculations and mistakes in the history of the United States of America. He is willing only to apologize for the alleged erratic behavior of a few low-ranking enlisted people, who he is scapegoating for his policy fiasco."

"In December of 2000, even though I strongly disagreed with the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to order a halt to the counting of legally cast ballots, I saw it as my duty to reaffirm my own strong belief that we are a nation of laws and not only accept the decision, but do what I could to prevent efforts to delegitimize George Bush as he took the oath of office as president. I did not at that moment imagine that Bush would, in the presidency that ensued, demonstrate utter contempt for the rule of law and work at every turn to frustrate accountability."

"So today, I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the character and basic nature of the American people and at odds with the principles on which America stands."

"I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable -- and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, 'We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility.'"

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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