I had high hopes when "Going After Gore" appeared in my inbox just in time to make the 11 a.m. pickup for my final changes in the manuscript this morning. The piece is by Evgenia Peretz -- but I don't hold the sins of anyone's fathers against their daughters -- and the intro to the piece promised that "[f]or the first time, Gore and his family talk about the effect of the press attacks on his campaign -- and about his future plans -- to the author, who finds that many in the media are re-assessing their 2000 coverage."
Alas, while the piece is a solid one, and may have a salutary effect on 2008 coverage, it does not begin to fulfill the promise of those words. In the first place, Gore does not open up at all. He makes the same comments he made when asked about it in the past, including when I asked him about it at a dinner following a screening for An Inconvenient Truth at Harry Evans' and Tina Brown's house last year. In the second place, the reporters who criticize the coverage of Gore, like Jon Alter, have also been criticizing it for quite a long time. The guilty parties -- the people who should be banned from political coverage forever for what they wrote -- do not reassess anything. They either refuse to speak to Peretz or issue bland self-justifying statements that ignore all specifics. And with regard to the coverage itself, Peretz does not address any incidents that I did not read previously in Bob Somerby's obsessive coverage, in Eric Boehlert's excellent articles in Rolling Stone and Salon.com, and in the chapter I wrote -- in many respects based on their previous research -- in What Liberal Media?
Then again, a big piece on the topic in Vanity Fair is not chopped liver. If reporters have to worry about being embarrassed in the future as Ceci Connolly (now a Fox News contributor), Maureen Dowd, Frank Bruni, and others surely must be, then it might be a useful piece.
Alas, it ignores the fact that while the "Gore-acle" stock has undoubtedly risen considerably in the past few years, much the same phenomenon of irrational (and embarrassing) Gore hatred in the media remains with us today, something I sought to address here and here.
On August 22, breaking into his Crawford vacation, President Bush addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention, giving what is already known as his "Vietnam speech." That day, Bush, who, as early as 2003, had sworn that his war on Iraq would "decidedly not be Vietnam," took the full-frontal plunge into the still-flowing current of the Big Muddy, fervently embracing Vietnam analogy-land and offering the first official presidential body count of the Iraq war.
The president's Vietnam speech was a clever (neocon) historical montage, if you assume that no one remembers anything about the past. As it happens, almost every line of the speech has since been analyzed and dismembered by critics, pundits, and historians who do remember. But in all the commentary, one line -- perhaps the most striking -- slipped by uncommented upon. And yet it was the line that offered an entry ramp onto the royal road to understanding what exactly has changed in our country over the post-Vietnam decades, not to speak of the seven-plus years from hell of the Bush administration.
Here's what the president said to applause from the assembled vets: "I'm confident that we will prevail. I'm confident we'll prevail because we have the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known -- the men and women of the United States Armed Forces."
Tom Engelhardt uses this breathtakingly messianic line, which it is impossible to imagine any other American president saying, to explore what's changed in the U.S. in the 40-plus years since the Vietnam War ended, to consider the strange form of militarization ("think teutonic without the Teutons") the country has undergone, and what it's meant for a cult of fundamentalists -- born-again militarists, believers in the efficacy of force as embodied in the most awe-inspiring, high-tech military on the planet -- to have commandeered the heights of power and blindly run us off an imperial cliff.
Remember not so long ago when the neocons and supporting pundits were hailing the planet's "sole superpower" as a "New Rome"? Now, think: The Roman Empire on crack cocaine.
I read the letter below in the Times this morning and I thought it summed up so much on this day-after-Labor Day, I'm stealing it and using it as the entire Correspondence Corner; apologies to those who wrote in over the weekend.
To the Editor:
Yesterday I was offered a tech-support job for a publicly traded company. It pays a paltry $9 to $10 an hour. When I squawked that this is not a livable wage, I was hesitantly offered $11.75.
There are no benefits, other than the fact that this is a "great company" and would look "good on my résumé." Oh, did I forget to mention a company picnic each summer?
I added up the cost of the two-hour-a-day commute, a mortgage on an average home, health insurance that kicks in only if I am at death's door, home and auto insurance and utilities. The break-even point was $10.35 an hour. Take into account laundry, groceries, clothing and other basic expenses and I am working at a deficit. No more movies, concerts, sporting events, family or friends because I simply cannot afford them.
Why are some in this prosperous nation of ours so challenged when it comes to comprehending something as simple as paying workers a livable wage? Pay workers sufficiently and they will be loyal and dependable. Stiff them with low wages and they immediately begin to look for something better. Workers are this nation's greatest asset.
Or is this all a ploy to hold workers hostage between their low-pay jobs and debt so they don't interfere with the lifestyles of those who have more?
Stoughton, Wis., Aug. 29, 2007