al gore on curbing the powers of the executive

You may have seen it elsewhere already, but Al Gore took the occasion of the Martin Luther King holiday to give what’s probably going to go down in history as one of his most important speeches. The speech, which connects the recent wiretapping of Americans to the government surveillance of Martin Luther King, is significant not only in that calls for a special counsel to look into the impeachment of President Bush, but that it lays out specific measures which can be taken to pull back the powers that have recently been seized by the Executive branch. Of course, none of this is really being covered by the corporate press, so if you agree with me that it’s worth sharing, be sure to send the link to the speech on to your friends. Here are a few long, but very good, clips:

…A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution – our system of checks and balances – was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: “The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.”

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution – an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, “On Common Sense” ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America’s alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that “the law is king.”

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint….

A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We have had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive Branch has violated other laws.

Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President.

Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing — especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security.

Third, both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive Branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.

Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.

Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.

It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.

I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, “Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.”

And I don’t give a damn what anyone else says, I think the man (Gore) would have made one hell of a President, especially in the wake of 9/11. I don’t want to go spiraling off on a tanget that I’ve bored you all with before, but I really do think that Gore would have used the global goodwill that had been extended toward America, and the willingness of Americans to come together after the attacks, to achieve something truly great with regard to weaning us of our dependence on foreign oil, research into alternative energy, and the democratization of the middle east (instead of tying us closer to the Saudi royal family and squandering the goodwill of the world in Iraq).

And here’s an interesting aside. At one point in his speech, Gore mentions that, “today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming.” Well, I was just reading Metafilter and someone there confirmed the story, saying that they know someone at NASA who is aware of the situation and almost resigned because of it. I’m not sure who the scientist is, but I’ll be doing some more searching tonight, if I can stay awake.

And, as for the impeachment of the President, it seems as though (at least according to the most recent Zogby poll) most Americans feel it should at least be looked into.

And, I couldn’t fit it in anywhere above, but this link will take you to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. (It makes me terribly sad to listen to it and to imagine how much better the world might have been had he been given an opportunity to keep pursuing his dreams.)

(This post was brought to you by the Famous Friends of Jack Abramoff, with the cooperation of the Committee to Imprison Translators .)

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  1. chris
    Posted January 18, 2006 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, Gore (voice trailing off into a whisper). I dunno, I just feel so conflicted about it all.

    I mean, his eloquence and speaking points have been so spot on post election. Kind of like Giuliani after 9/11. It was like, “Dude, where were you in 2004?”.

    Did anybody alse get a sense that the administration was trying to turn the attention away from MLK jr and on to Lincoln (who was after all a Republican) w/ respect to championing the civil rights of hte black community? Not that Lincoln is not deserving but doesn’t he already have his own federal holiday?

  2. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted January 19, 2006 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Why not just re-write history to make MLK a Republican? Wouldn’t that be their best bet?

  3. It's Skinner Again
    Posted January 19, 2006 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Why stop there? Why not make J. Edgar Hoover black?

  4. schutzman
    Posted January 19, 2006 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    …and while we’re at it, let’s dress j. edgar hoover up like a woman. oh, wait….

  5. Theodore Glass
    Posted January 19, 2006 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Well, if Jesus can be white…

  6. chris
    Posted January 19, 2006 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    The Freedom of Information Act allowed the revelation that back in the day MLK jr was being investigated as a suspected communist. To this day I would like to know what such government suspicions such as this actually meant.

    You like cheap vodka? you wear shoes whose soles fall off three days after wearing them? you wear furry hats in the winter? All fruit you eat must be grown on cooperative farms? You belong to the Teamsters? You are making interballistic missiles in your back yard?

    I hear they’re making plans to turn President’s day into Strom Thurmond day.

  7. mark
    Posted January 20, 2006 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    If the Republicans said that someone was a “Communist” in the 60’s, I think, ususally, it just meant that they were Democrats with the kind of popular support that scared them. It was an easy label to attribute to those individuals they were afraid of.

  8. schutzman
    Posted January 20, 2006 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    this is somewhat off subject, but does anyone know when “blue” as in “blue states” became associated with the democratic party? I’ve been reading a book about late 19th century politics in michigan, and at that point blue meant republican, while red was democrat…and the republicans were definitely associating “Red” derisively with socialist/communist/labor etc at that point. So, my question is when did the colors change, or “Flip-flop” if you will?

  9. Anonymatt
    Posted January 20, 2006 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    I believe “blue” and “red” states as currently understood came into vogue after the 2000 election. The networks were using Blue for Democrats and Red for Republicans, apparently they used to switch the colors each election, but after 2000 the labels stuck.

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