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26.9.02

Al Gore's speech the other day lambasting the Bush administration's preparations for war seems to have given everyone what they wanted. It was a manifestly political move, which took on the tough task of justifying his hawkish side (he was one of the few Democrats to vote for Desert Storm, and he doesn't regret the Clinton administration's bombing of Qaida camps after the African embassy bombings) while taking the current government to task for its handling of the coming confrontation with Iraq. In the twisting required to do this, he provided both hawks and doves with confirmation of what they believe.

Those who question the war were overjoyed to have a major political figure, not to mention the guy they would rather have in the Oval Office, taking a strong anti-Bush stance. The message lately from most congressmen (Democrats and Republicans alike) has been "sure you can attack Iraq, we just want you to ask us first." The debate has been over the government's checks and balances, not its foreign policy. Gore successfully reflected many of the concerns of the nation's unrepresented "peace wing." But because he was careful to say that he supported holding Saddam to account in principle, he avoided alienating those who don't like what the government is doing, but aren't willing to go so far as to outright oppose the war.

The hawks, meanwhile, saw Gore's speech as a confirmation of lefty peacenik lunacy. Gore's continued forthright criticism of the government has confirmed his image as a sore loser to those inclined to see him that way. There was ample weaseliness in his speech (accusing Bush of using the war debate to further Republicans' electoral prospects, then claiming that others -- not him -- had made that accusation) to prove that the anti-war case was logically weak. The conclusion: If Al Gore is the best spokesman that the left can find, then we can't bomb Baghdad soon enough.

About the only people disappointed by Gore were Democratic candidates who have been trying to claim the pro-war plank in the face of Republican accusations of being soft on Saddam. If the Democrats don't reclaim the House in November, we may see Gore accused of losing his party this election as well.

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