November 18, 2006

Good Saturday Reads

The Sideshow points to an excerpt of an interview with Al Gore in GQ where he gets righteously angry for our sakes.

Do you feel that we would be safer today if you had been president on that day?
Well, no one can say that the 9-11 attack wouldn’t have occurred whoever was president.
Really? How about all the warnings?
That’s a separate question. And it’s almost too easy to say, “I would have heeded the warnings.” In fact, I think I would have, I know I would have. We had several instances when the CIA’s alarm bells went off, and what we did when that happened was, we had emergency meetings and called everybody together and made sure that all systems were go and every agency was hitting on all cylinders, and we made them bring more information, and go into the second and third and fourth level of detail. And made suggestions on how we could respond in a more coordinated, more effective way. It is inconceivable to me that Bush would read a warning as stark and as clear [voice angry now] as the one he received on August 6th of 2001, and, according to some of the new histories, he turned to the briefer and said, “Well, you’ve covered your ass.” And never called a follow up meeting. Never made an inquiry. Never asked a single question. To this day, I don’t understand it. And, I think it’s fair to say that he personally does in fact bear a measure of blame for not doing his job at a time when we really needed him to do his job. And now the Woodward book has this episode that has been confirmed by the record that George Tenet, who was much abused by this administration, went over to the White House for the purpose of calling an emergency meeting and warning as clearly as possible about the extremely dangerous situation with Osama bin Laden, and was brushed off! And I don’t know why—honestly—I mean, I understand how horrible this Congressman Foley situation with the instant messaging is, okay? I understand that. But, why didn’t these kinds of things produce a similar outrage? And you know, I’m even reluctant to talk about it in these terms because it’s so easy for people to hear this or read this as sort of cheap political game-playing. I understand how it could sound that way. [Practically screaming now] But dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!

And to think one of the most critical times for our nation, we could have had this man as our President. It still makes me mad when I realize what the Supreme Court stole from us.

The difference between hypocrisy and human failings explained beautifully by Fred Clark.

Getting back to Paul and that argument he had with Barnabas, I should mention that Barnabas was right. Paul was wrong. Paul was being impatient and unhopeful. He was too easily angered and was keeping a record of wrongs. He was, eventually, reconciled with the young disciple he had written off. And that young man turned out OK, going on (probably) to write the Gospel of Mark.

Does this make Paul a hypocrite? He clearly failed to live up to the standard he himself sets forth, the standard of perfect, unfailing love. Here I think it's worthwhile again to note the distinction between hypocrisy and akrasia, or simple moral weakness. This is an important distinction, albeit one made more difficult by the fact that "hypocrite" has entered the English language in a way that akrates has not. That word tends to get translated as "incontinent, lacking self-control," but it's literal meaning has more to do with powerlessness. Those of us who are not all-powerful sometimes fail. Such failure does not always, or even usually, entail the insincerity that is the hallmark of hypocrisy. It also does not involve the duplicity of hypocrisy -- the notion that standards exist for thee but not for me.

Reading Clark sometimes feels like a blessing to me.

David Neiwert got to meet one of my favorite fiction writers: Ursula K LeGuin. As she's a Portland author and a regular at the Portland Audubon WildArts Festival, I was fortunate to shake her hand myself while volunteering in the book room one year. David has posted her whole speech when she accepted the Maxine Cushing Gray Award at the the Washington State Book Awards. Congratulations to David for having his Book Strawberry Days named as finalist to the nonfiction category.

Posted by Mary at November 18, 2006 04:41 PM | Recommended Reading | Technorati links |

If Al Gore had been president, the Republicans in congress probably would have crucified him by now, with the media's help.

Posted by: KathyF at November 19, 2006 01:30 AM

Kathy, the republicans can't crucify anyone. All they can do is shout and call names, then, if you back down, you crucify yourself.

You have a great blog here Mary. I don't know why more people don't comment but that seems to be something that needs it's own momentum to get started. Great post about torture earlier. Your point about good people leaving a government that engages in torture really struck me. I had not really thought about it. I know there are still good people in govt. today, struggling against the system, but between people being rooted out for ideological and loyalty reasons and people leaving because they cannot stomach what Bush is doing, that number must be dangerously small by now.

Keep up the good work. By the way I am also a big Le Guin fan and also met her once years ago at a convention in Portland. Wonderfull woman and Portland was a wonderfull town when I lived there. I have since moved south, far south.

Posted by: Paul at November 19, 2006 08:52 AM

Paul, I miss Portland too - but I didn't move too far south, just down to the Bay Area. I hope to get back up there for good next year.

I also worry a lot about what will be left of the federal government when Bush is gone. He's done tremendous damage to the institutions of government. We'll be years cleaning up after him.

KathyF, one thing different now than in 2000, is we finally have a net roots and independent media that can fight the VRWC and help get the back of our representatives. It sure worked great on supporting Howard Dean this week. :-)

Posted by: Mary at November 20, 2006 11:09 PM