The Assault on Reason
By Al Gore
Press, 320 pages
The Last Temptation of Al Gore
By Eric Pooley
Time, May 16, 2007
Edited by Andy Ross
The perfect stealth candidate for 2008 would be someone like Al Gore — the
improbably charismatic, Academy Award–winning, Nobel Prize–nominated
environmental prophet with an army of followers and huge reserves of
political and cultural capital at his command.
It's the Last
Temptation of Gore, and it's one reason he has been so careful not to rule
out a presidential bid. Is it far-fetched to think that his grassroots
climate campaign could yet turn into a presidential one? As the recovering
politician himself says, "You always have to worry about a relapse."
Gore is working mightily to build a popular movement to confront what he
calls "the most serious crisis we've ever faced." He has logged countless
miles in the past four years, criss-crossing the planet to present his
remarkably powerful slide show and the Oscar-winning documentary that's
based on it, An Inconvenient Truth, to groups of every size and description.
I spent some time with Gore, 59, in his hotel room in Buffalo, N.Y.,
during a break between two slide-show events at the state university. "I
feel like the country singer who spends 30 years on the road to become an
overnight sensation," he said with a smile. "And I've seen public interest
wax and wane before — but this time does feel different."
is sometimes accused of profiting from the climate crisis, it's worth noting
that he donates all his profits from the Inconvenient Truth movie and book
to the alliance. He can afford to: he's a senior adviser at Google and sits
on the board of directors at Apple. "I'm working harder than I ever have in
my life," he says. "The other day a friend said, 'Why don't you just take a
break, Al, and run for President?'"
"I'm trying to say to you, be a
part of the change," he told the crowd. "No one else is going to do it. The
politicians are paralyzed. The people have to do it for themselves!"
Right on cue, a bright-eyed Buffalo student named Jessica Usborne stood up
and asked the Question. "Given the urgency of global warming, shouldn't you
not only educate people but also help implement the changes that will be
necessary — by running for President?" The place erupted, and Usborne dipped
down onto one knee and bowed her head. "Please! I'll vote for you!" she
cried above the crowd's roar, which sounded like a rocket launcher and
lasted almost 30 seconds.
Gore's response: "I'm not planning to run."
Al and Tipper Gore's home in Nashville is laid out a bit like Gore
himself. Al Gore props his black cowboy boots on a brightly painted folk-art
coffee table, scratches his mutt Bojangles behind the ears and talks about
The Assault on Reason.
"The real reason I wrote the book," he
begins, "is that I've tried for years to tell the story of the climate
crisis, and it has taken far too long to get through. When the best evidence
is compiled and there's no longer room for dragging out a pointless
argument, we're raised as Americans to believe our democracy is going to
respond. But it hasn't responded. We're still not doing anything. So I
started thinking, What's going on here?"
The Assault on Reason will
be hailed and condemned as Gore's return to political combat. It is a
patient, meticulous examination of how the participatory democracy
envisioned by our founders has gone awry. "I think this started before 9/11,
and I think it's continued long after the penumbra of 9/11 became less
dominant," he says. "I think it is part of a larger shift driven by powerful
forces"—print giving way to television as our dominant medium for examining
ideas, television acting on our brains in ways that scientists are just
beginning to unlock. It's not the sort of problem that legislation is going
to fix. Gore hopes that the Internet will be the key to restoring American
Gore often compares the climate crisis to the gathering
storm of fascism in the 1930s, and he quotes Winston Churchill's warning
that "the era of procrastination" is giving way to "a period of
consequences." To his followers, Gore is Churchill — the leader who sounds
What would this Gore be like as a candidate? This Gore is
just not all that tempted to find out.
Al Gore's Assault on Reason
Thinker, May 19, 2007
Edited by Andy Ross
An Aptly Titled Tome
By Christopher J. Alleva
Audacious must be Al Gore's middle name. How else can you describe someone
that would publish a book that calls for a complete reordering of the world
and then follows it up with a book with the premise that if you don't buy it
you're assaulting basic reason. The self-important catalog description of
the book reveals Gore's inherent conceit. "A visionary analysis of how the
politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism, and blind faith has combined with the
degration of the public sphere to create an environment dangerously hostile
Al Gore's new book is downright turgid and the writing
style is akin to congressional testimony. In other words, bring the No Doze.
Unintended irony oozes from every paragraph. The writer vainly attempts to
be profound but comes off looking trite instead. The media may think Al Gore
is a god but I think history will judge him more harshly.
Flabbergasting in Chutzpah and Misdirection
Al Gore gives us 320 pages on his fears about the demise of American
democracy. Relentlessly, Mr. Gore uses the word "democracy" to identify our
polity. He goes to great lengths to pound the term democracy into as many
sentences as he can as if we're unfamiliar with the word. He is right to be
Jessica Nappi in Capitalism Magazine (Jan 2001):
"Contrary to what so many said, ... America is not a democracy. It is a
constitutional republic, a system where the U.S. Constitution is the supreme
law and citizens elect representatives to government. Democracy, by
contrast, designates a system of government where the will of the majority
rules, unrestricted by any law. The Founders of the United States of America
went to great measures to ensure that our new nation was not a democracy.
An Inconvenient Truth
By Alan Ehrenhalt
Washington Post, May 24, 2007
Edited by Andy Ross
Al Gore possesses a skill that no other American politician can match. He
has a consistent ability to express fundamentally reasonable sentiments in
ways that annoy the maximum possible number of people.
In the seven
years since his narrow failure to become president, Gore has been an active
and admirable public servant. Even as a citizen activist, however, free from
the burdens of office and campaigning, Gore nearly always manages to sound
Something rather similar might be said of Gore's ambitious
new book. Gore argues that there have been two major assaults on reason in
recent years: a gradual, insidious one brought about by structural change in
the public media and a deliberate one foisted on the electorate by an
administration insensitive both to individual rights and to honest public
Gore blames television for what he sees as an alarming
decline in the quality of political discourse in America. He blames George
W. Bush for just about everything else. Gore's attack on the Bush
administration is scathing.
Gore also laments that "paid
disinformation — in support of candidates and ballot initiatives — is
polluting America's democratic discourse." Anybody who has been around a
congressional campaign lately will have little inclination to dispute that
The Assault on Reason is essentially truthful. It is also the
apparent product of a man desperate to display his erudition at every
possible moment, appropriate or not. The Bush administration, Gore says, has
not only lied to the voters about its intentions, it has damaged the
nation's capacity for judgment by stimulating the "affect heuristic" and
generating fear responses in the portion of the brain called the amygdala.
In a book by a Nobel laureate neurophysicist, some of these ideas might
strike the reader as odd but provocative speculation. In this book, they
simply come off as pedantry.
The Assault on Reason is a serious work
by an intelligent man with an incurable habit of calling more attention to
himself than to the ideas he wishes to communicate. Only Al Gore could
possibly have written it.
Is It Wise to Be So Smart?
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post, May 29, 2007
Edited by Andy Ross
Even if Gore were speaking at Verizon Center, he would still be the smartest
guy in the room. He reminded his listeners of this repeatedly last night. He
waxed esoteric about the ancients. He waxed erudite about the Enlightenment.
And he waxed informed about the Information Age.
Gore's jeremiad against Bush has fed fervent hopes among environmentalists
and others on the left that he will run again for the presidency. Yet
reading Gore's book, or listening to his speeches, may remind some of those
same supporters what they liked least about him the first time he ran, in
2000. Gore is usually smart and sometimes prophetic, but all too frequently
Gore's main points are powerful, if not obvious: The Bush
administration has manipulated the facts on the Iraq war and a range of
other policies, the public has been easily manipulated, and Americans watch
too much television.
The New York Review of Books, 54(14), September 27, 2007
Al Gore has cast caution aside and told the truth on Iraq, on executive
power, on the corrosive role of television in politics, and indeed on the
need to give science priority over faith in public deliberations.
Assault on Reason opens with a rumination on the sad state of our body
politic: "More and more people are trying to figure out what has gone wrong
in our democracy and how we can fix it."
He fixes the blame on the
power of television. His lament is that a discourse dominated by television
inherently corrupts the Founders' notion of the reasoned deliberation in the
civic forum that they judged essential to a republic's survival. Gore
asserts that a citizenry so reliant on such a medium is susceptible to any
kind of manipulation and falsehood.
Gore places his hopes in the
Internet as the source of a new civic forum with the potential to change the
way we talk to one another: "Generally speaking, bloggers are concerned
citizens who want to share their ideas and opinions with the rest of the
Gore equates the potential of a free and open Internet with
the "democratization of knowledge" brought about through the print medium
during the Enlightenment.
AR (2007) Gore is amazing.
During his early years as Vice-President, I wrote to him about my
Globall Hyperatlas initiative and he
took the trouble to reply personally. Since then I have been a fan. I am
delighted by his global warming activism and I agree with his critique of
the state of American democracy. I also like the way he brings brain science
into a discussion of the television generation's attention span. As a
candidate for President, he would have even more appeal for me than Hillary.
But he harkens to a higher calling. Good for him.