Should we amend all of the test books in America to explain to school children that what has been taught for more than two centuries about checks and balances in no longer valid? Should we teach them instead that the United States Congress and the Courts are merely advisory groups that make suggestions to the President on what the laws should be, but that the President is all powerful and now has the final say on everything? Should we teach them that we are a government of men, not laws? Should we teach them that we used to be a democracy but now only pretend to be?
The above quote should get you a little fired up. Now I know that all the blame for the inflation of the executive branch of our government can not be laid at the feet of the current resident of the White House, but this administration has increased the power of the executive more than any administration in recent history. However, Gore does not just use this book to attack Bush. He discusses a wide range of topics that directly influence American politics and life. The book is chalked full of quotes to further bolster the case that Gore is making. The man is well read.
He begins the book by addressing the loss of public interest in democracy, the general lack of public knowledge about our nation's history and system of government. If you don't take ownership of your history, you run the risk of your future being stolen out from under you. Gore details the change that came with television taking the role of primary source of information away from the printed press. The printing press allowed people without wealth, such as Thomas Paine, to contribute to public discourse, and even, as is the case with Paine, change the course of history. An extremely lucid and thought-provoking chapter.
This is easily the most important book that I have read this year (I am currently reading Dianetics, so watch out Assault on Reason!). It helped me solidify some of the ideas that I already had about the current administration and the current state of politics. The detailed description of the imprisonment of "enemy combatants" was eye-opening. If Bush labels anyone, even an U.S. citizen, an "enemy combatant" than that person can be imprisoned for an indefinite amount of time, without being told what crime they are being accused of. That should make any American citizen worth their salt livid, if not that, than at least a little nervous. As to the "enemy combatants" who are not U.S. citizens (the majority of those being held), I personally I feel that if you were serious about spreading democracy, you would start with Article One of the Constitution. This quote sums up my feelings quite nicely:
"Israel's highest court was asked to balance the rights of individual prisoners against dire threats to the security of its people. Here's what the court declared, 'This is the destiny of democracy. It's not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemy are open before it. Although democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the rule of law and recognition of an individual's liberty constitutes and important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day they strengthen its spirit and allow it to overcome its difficulties.'"
I cannot do justice to the many important topics Gore addresses in this book. I would advise you to read it. It did not take me long to finish. I will leave you with this quote:
"The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."