JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As we face a growing catastrpohic crisis in the form of global warming, and economic hardships from policies that benefit billionaires while working Americans struggle to pay for basic necessities, I can’t help thinking about Al Gore and how different things would be under his leadership after Bush followed by years of broken promises.
Let’s remember that Al Gore won the popular vote and the state of Florida if the votes had been fully counted, despite the legal evidence proving that there was plenty of cheating going on for Bush in 2000, and last but not least, let’s not forget how the Supreme Court Justices unjustly ruled to stop counting the votes in Florida.
Predictably, the industrial oligarchs would never have allowed an Al Gore victory.
In 2000, we were at the crossroads or as President Clinton liked to say to “building a bridge to the twenty-first century, the New Millennium.”
Whatever Clinton's neo-liberal flaws, he was light years ahed of Bush and Obama on the environment. Over four hundred toxic waste dumps across the country were cleaned up. Regulations were tightened on oil drilling. The Arctic was preserved, and millions of acres of forest land were protected from the claws of fossil fuel industrialists.
Plans for a major shift from dirty energy to clean and sustainable energy supported by a new high tech market was in the making and ready to go under a Gore administration.
In retrospect, Clinton made some regrettable decisions such as lifting the Glass Steagal Act. (Barack Obama campaigned to repeal it in 2008, which became another broken promise in a long chain of empty promises.)
On the other hand, the wealthiest members of society were not in the least burdened by a slight tax increase which helped to pay for essential public services: police, fire fighters, schools, infrastructure, that in turn fortified the middle class economy.
To top it off, the Clinton-Gore administration left a hefty surplus that Al Gore, had he been made President according to the people’s election, and not sidelined by the Supreme "Oil Industry" Court, would have likely put that surplus to productive use for new jobs in the rebuilding of America’s infrastructure based on a sustainable energy vision.
We all know the ending of this story.
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Bush moved to the White House and cheerfully gave away the surplus to his billionaire friends via a tax benefit for the wealthy. The oil industry won. The oil wars began. The Constitution was shredded. The country was sinking in trillions of dollars of debt while Bush and Cheney associates became multimillionaires from war profiteering.
Unfortunately, this dark chapter in our history is not over by a long shot.
Americans were swept away by a Democratic candidate that pledged in 2008 to reverse the Bush policies, but either out of weakness, inexperience, or being an oil industry pawn himself, President Obama advanced the Bush policies beyond recognition.
In 2008, Obama told us that it was time to heal the earth. By 2010, what we got instead were offensive speeches about exploiting America’s wilderness lands and oceans for oil and gas, including drilling in the fragile Arctic: “You have my word that we will keep drilling everywhere we can,” announced Obama. Regardless of climate change warnings, he boasted, “Under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years.”
Can you imagine a President Gore boasting about opening up more high-risk oil drilling than even Dick Cheney?
Like a lightning bolt from the angry heavens, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico exploded the day after Obama gave that boastful oil drilling speech.
The Greeks were right: Beware of hubris. Beware of violating the laws of Nature.
How would a President Gore handle the BP catastrophe? Unlike Obama who chose to protect BP’s Macondo well worth billions of dollars, by contrast, Gore would have probably called in national and international experts, including the Navy to save the Gulf from becoming a toxic dead zone by burying the Macondo well within weeks of the explosion.
For decades, Al Gore has been researching the science of climate change data; his articles, books and profound documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, well deserved—I might add.
Few can figure out why Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize, except to say that the committee also made the big mistake of believing that he would make good on his campaign promises. Perhaps the committee should have given the prize to the enthusiastic college students who wrote Obama’s speeches for him.
In fairness, Obama deserves credit for providing subsidies for start-up solar and wind companies, but his premise that we can “do it all” is dead wrong. As it stands, wind energy is predicted to provide 30 percent energy and solar only 5 percent by 2017. Both wind and solar should provide 70 percent energy by 2020.
Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines, tops the list of cataclysmic global warming episodes that are bound to grow worse as emissions accelerate pushing the limits of survival on earth beyond our control. Life cannot be sustained on earth once we cross the threshold of those limits. It is not hyperbole to say that we are facing extinction of life as we know it once the Arctic ice melts and releases trillions of tons of methane.
No other politician understands this man-made climate crisis more than Al Gore. “An Inconvenient Truth” should be mandatory viewing at all public and private schools. If you’ve seen this documentary, watch it again if only to examine how the predictions that were made in that film are all coming true before our very eyes:
Katrina, Sandy, Haiyan, glacier and Arctic ice melts, severe droughts and floods...it’s all happening alarmingly faster than what scientists predicted. What we are witnessing now was predicted for 2030. A typhoon at the catastrophic powers of Haiyan, for example, was predicted to happen around 2020. Thus coastal cities may be underwater as early as 2030.
Gore tried desperately to convey the seriousness of the crisis to President Obama. But just as Obama prefers the company of oil execs on the golf course to former President Bill Clinton’s friendship, Obama also kept Al Gore off the White House invitation list.
Gore uses his jounalistic ability, nonetheless, writing a lengthy piece in Rolling Stone entitled: Climate of Denial: Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison?
Moreover, Gore foresaw the environmental and agricultural problems of genetically modified foods (GMO) and wrote about Monsanto’s monopoly of seeds back in the early 1990s articulated in his book Earth in the Balance. By contrast, Obama appointed numerous people associated with Monsanto to high-level positions.
In addition to being the best suited candidate to take on the crisis of global warming, Gore is also a brilliant defender of the U.S. Constitution, our Bill of Rights. In his book, "An Assault on Reason," Gore provided a clear explanation of how the Bush-Cheney administration violated national and international laws beginning with the preemptive attack against Iraq launched on lies about Iraq harboring weapons of mass destruction, the use of torture, and stripping habeas corpus.
But the worst blow to our country, as Gore explained, was how the Bush administration shamefully promoted methods of torture in the name of the American people.
By Executive Action or excessive abuses of power, what the Bush and Obama administrations have done to our Constitution and to the morale of our soldiers is beyond the pale. It is criminal. It is unconscionable. It is illegal. And it is perhaps one of the darkest periods in our history on record.
Some 8,000 veterans are thought to die by suicide each year, a toll of about 22 per day, according to a 2012 VA study.
Check out one of Truthout’s new Progressive Picks, Ann Jones’s book They Were Soldiers, How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars.
Bush-Cheney’s illegal practice of assassinating individuals without due process was continued and expanded under the Obama administration’s CIA directives. Innocent civilians, children and women, have been unnecessarily killed from drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East region.
Pop quiz: Who allegedly said “I’m really good at killing people.”—President Bush or President Obama? The answer: President Obama.
Can you imagine a President Gore uttering such an appalling statement?
Regarding the surveillance operations, Gore has rightly criticized the Obama administration for committing excessive abuses of power. In his Guardian UK article "Revealed Evidence" of Crimes against US Constitution, he argued that the NSA's efforts to monitor communications had gone to “absurd lengths” and that “Snowden has revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States."
By contrast, Obama wants to sentence Snowden to intensive interrogation (code for torture) and to life in prison. Indeed, President Obama holds the record for conducting the most prosecutions against ethical whistleblowers than all U.S. Presidents combined.
Meanwhile, Bush’s lies led to mass extermination of families in Iraq.
Noam Chomsky would simply respond by saying, “What did you expect? The U.S. is a rogue state.”
I feel embarrassed about bringing up the 2016 Presidential election, and Hillary Clinton, after reading Truthout’s William Rivers Pitt’s Please Don’t Take the 2016 Bait. Pitt makes an obvious and significant point that the mainstream media is perhaps intentionally ignoring: that we should be focused on the congressional mid term election less than a year from now. He's right, congress plays an exceptionally important role in shaping the direction of the country, and it should be the highlight of political discussion as far as election talk goes.
But—yes, that infamous “however”…I’m just going to slightly nibble around the edges of the bait, Will—because it goes to the larger theme of this piece: the threat of global warming, which is inseparable from the threat of a growing, out of control U.S. military and surveillance state (i.e. that the military consumes millions of gallons of oil a day). These decisions are primarily made at the executive level.
Which brings me to Hillary Clinton possibly running for the presidency in 2016.
We know from the 2008 campaign that Hillary Clinton aligns herself with the industrial military complex, which is to say that the billions of Pentagon dollars flowing into the weapon contractors’ accounts at the expense of the middle class working economy will go unchanged, that is, until it implodes.
As for global warming, Hillary won’t have a problem approving the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline, an oil deal that she helped to orchestrate as Secretary of State.
And predictably another oil-industry-owned Republican will run for the 2016 Presidential race as well.
This is the critical point that must be made: the emergency crisis of global warming cannot continue to fall on mute ears. If leaders of the world, particularly the United States, do not act now, it is the equivalent of nuclear “methane” annihilation in the not so distant future. That’s why Al Gore’s warnings about dramatically lowering emissions and getting off fossil fuels completely must be acted on. If Sweden can do it by 2020—so can the rest of the world.
Jacqueline Marcus is the editor of ForPoetry.com and EnvironmentalPress.com. Author of Close to the Shore by Michigan State University Press. Her E-book Man Cannot Live on Oil, Alone / Time to end our dependency on oil before it ends us is available.