Editor's Note: In the current issue, Ryan Lizza speaks with Al Gore about his new book, The Assault on Reason, and the former vice president explains what went wrong with democracy. The following is a transcript of the interview, which was conducted on May 30. Ryan Lizza: Explain what the book is about. Who did you write the book for? Who is the audience for the book? Al Gore: Principally Americans, although it's selling well in England as well, and there is interest in translations.
In 1985, Barack Obama traveled halfway across the country to take a job that he didn't fully understand. But, while he knew little about this new vocation--community organizer--it still had a romantic ring, at least to his 24- year-old ears. With his old classmates from Columbia, he had talked frequently about political change.Now, he was moving to Chicago to put that talk into action. His1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, recounts his idealistic effusions: "Change won't come from the top, I would say. Change will come from a mobilized grass roots. That's what I'll do.
These days, the diplomatic energy spent on Iraq isn't coming from Foggy Bottom or the Pentagon, but from an office building near Dupont Circle, where the 76-year-old Baker and nine other Washington establishmentarians have spent the last eight months working on Iraq policy options to be presented sometime before February. Technically, Baker is merely the co-chairman of the commission, which is officially known as the Iraq Study Group.
Mark Warner and I had each had a couple of cocktails. They say up in the air one drink feels like two, and so things were, as Warner would later remind me the day he announced he wasn’t running for president, “a little foggy.” We were aboard a campaign donor’s jet, flying back to Virginia after two intense days of New Hampshire politics. Democrats who show up to listen to presidential hopefuls stump in the dead of August two years before the election are a tough crowd.
THERE’S NOTHING MORE fun in politics than good, old-fashioned hate. How would LBJ screw Bobby next? To what depths would Ken Starr sink in his crazed pursuit of Bill Clinton? Sadly, however, the days of pure, unabashed malice have faded. Hillary Clinton now clamors to sponsor legislation with the people who voted to impeach her husband. Dishonest civility has replaced honest hatred as the ruling ethos in the capital. People who despise each other pretend to get along just fine.
LAST SUMMER, AS other potential 2008 presidential candidates were making their first sojourns to Iowa, Hillary Clinton did something a little different. She brought Iowa to Washington. In June, the senator, who is up for reelection this year but who has yet to draw a Republican challenger worth fretting about, entertained several key caucus-state activists and donors at her five-bedroom brick home on Embassy Row. Known to Hillary aides simply as Whitehaven, the 4,700-square-foot mansion is the site of the senator’s regular Washington fund-raisers and strategy sessions.
Cracking down on lobbyists is a hot issue in Washington these days, but it hasn't quite made it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. On day one of his confirmation hearing, Samuel Alito introduced America to his fine-looking family, spread across a row behind his right shoulder. But that tall, chinless man who could be frequently glimpsed over Alito's other shoulder wasn't some Alito brother-in-law.
Scott McClellan walked into the White House briefing room Tuesday with the solemn expression of a man about to deliver some very important presidential news. And, indeed, he had an update on a crisis the president of the United States was monitoring: the miners trapped in Upshur County, West Virginia. "The president continues to be kept informed about the situation," McClellan reported. "He was briefed this morning." McClellan made clear that all of the Bush administration's resources were being mobilized.
In at least one Washington law firm this July, the summer associates are earning their keep. Their boss is one of the lawyers involved with the Rove- Plame scandal, and he’s keeping them busy with a surprisingly thorny task: Tracking the public comments of Robert Luskin, Karl Rove’s attorney. Over the last two weeks, Luskin has flummoxed Washington’s Fourth Estate with spin and legalisms. He has embarrassed reporters who ran with the cleverly worded denials he dished out. He has contradicted himself, sometimes within the same news article.