Politics & Policy

Republicans Love It When Gore Gets Mad

The more screaming, the better.

For the record, Republican officials are denouncing the speech that former vice president Al Gore gave yesterday condemning the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq and the larger war on terror. But privately, GOP strategists say they are “delighted” that Gore, whose speeches include rhetorical extremes and are delivered with vein-popping fury, has apparently taken a high-profile role as a surrogate for the Kerry campaign. Such performances, GOP insiders believe, will eventually alienate all but the most dedicated Democratic base voters.

Gore’s speech was delivered under the sponsorship of MoveOn.org PAC, the political action committee formed by the anti-Bush Internet-activist group. In his remarks, Gore blasted the American treatment of “helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners” at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The abuse scandal, Gore said, was not just the fault of the low-ranking soldiers who committed the acts, but of the highest levels of the Bush administration, “who approved a policy of establishing an American Gulag.”

“How dare the incompetent and willful members of this Bush/Cheney administration humiliate our nation and our people in the eyes of the world and in the conscience of our own people,” Gore said, his voice rising to a shout and his face taking on a strained, angry expression. “How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace. How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein’s torture prison.”

Besides calling for the defeat of President Bush and Vice President Cheney this November, Gore called for the immediate resignation of six top administration officials: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, along with top Rumsfeld deputies Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Stephen Cambone. Altogether, Gore accused the administration of implementing ” twisted values and atrocious policies at the highest levels of our government.”

In response, the Republican National Committee released a statement saying Gore had been vice president for eight years in which “Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States five times and terrorists killed U.S. citizens on at least four different occasions.” The statement continued: “Al Gore’s attacks on the president today demonstrate that he either does not understand the threat of global terror, or he has amnesia.”

However, speaking privately, some in the GOP were not at all unhappy with Gore’s speech. “We’re delighted by it,” said one GOP strategist, “because what you see now is a coalescing of the ‘blame America first’ wing of the Democratic party that has been largely absent from the stage since 1984.”

The strategist explained that Gore’s emotional performance, like earlier speeches the former vice president has given assailing the Bush administration, will not appeal to the great majority of voters. “It was an anger-filled speech before an angry audience belonging to an angry group,” the Republican insider continued. “All these things are a turnoff to people.”

Finally, Gore singled out one non-government official for attack: conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. The former vice president called on President Bush to “condemn” Limbaugh, whom Gore called “perhaps [the president’s] strongest political supporter.”

Limbaugh, speaking on his radio program, said he found it odd to be included among the administration officials named by Gore. “I have never seen a media figure targeted much the same way the president of the United States is being targeted,” Limbaugh said, “and now the president of the United States, who’s got really important things to do, has been told or challenged by Gore to condemn me.”

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