Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bush at 36 percent...Gore reaching for the nails....

Gore: Country straying from principles
Former vice president urges Democrats 'not to take anything for granted' during fund-raiser.

By STEPHANIE MURPHY, Daily News Business and Real Estate Writer

Monday, March 13, 2006

WEST PALM BEACH — The people of "these United States are going to stand up and take our country back," former Vice President Al Gore said Sunday at a Florida Democratic Party fund-raiser at the Kravis Center's Cohen Pavilion.

"Let's start right here in Palm Beach County," said Gore, speaking to a crowd of about 450 in what became the epicenter of the hotly contested 2000 presidential election.

Before he was introduced, Mayor Lois Frankel said, "I'm not one to hold a grudge . . . but this was the scene of a crime (in 2000). I haven't forgotten it, and you haven't forgotten it."

Picking up on her sentiment, Gore urged Democrats to "not take anything for granted," because sometimes, "feeling the prospects of victory and success, you know that's a deadly error."

Citing a Bible verse, "Where there is no vision, the people perish," Gore cited issues in which he believes the Bush administration has left the country far removed from the Founding Fathers' ideals.

"How many times have we listened to the current administration and in (state and national Republican offices), and after a few years, we wake up and say that what they have been telling us is completely wrong," Gore said. "I'm not calling it a lie," but a "false impression."

He cited as "false impressions" that Saddam Hussein had a lot to do with the (terrorist) attacks on this country (on Sept. 11, 2001)"; that Hussein was preparing to give nuclear weapons to Osama bin Laden; that American troops in Iraq would be welcomed with flowers; and that the U.S. wouldn't need to send many troops, because the war would be "a cake walk."

"All those impressions turned out to be false, and we are paying a heavy price," Gore said.

During the Clinton administration, Gore and the president got regular bulletins about potential terrorist attacks, resulting in a sort of "fire-drill," a soul-searching approach to learn "what else can we do? What are our sources? And make sure we're prepared," he said.

Just like there were warning signs before Sept. 11, there were warning signs last year that the levees were in danger in New Orleans, Gore said.

"A special committee . . . all Republicans . . . studied how that could happen. In the White House, there was a blinding lack of situational awareness. Well, what is going on (in New Orleans) now? They're still finding refrigerators in front yards and bodies unrecovered," he said.

Similarly, despite warnings about legislation on prescription drugs and experts saying the program wouldn't work, he said, "Testimony was blocked from Congress," resulting in legislation that is "catastrophically flawed."

There have been warnings for many years about rising temperatures being caused by global warming, Gore said, "and hotter water makes hurricanes form stronger, increasing their destructive power."

That issue and others have "a common thread" that reflects the country straying from its institutional principles, Gore said. "The founders wanted the principles of democracy to live and breathe, by talking about the facts, by reasoning together, by putting partisanship aside as much as possible."

"How many of you have been feeling there's something badly wrong, something a little strange about the way decisions are being made, a way that is contrary to what the United States of America is all about?" he said.

Gore mentioned the nation's official policy against torturing prisoners, dating to the American Revolution, when Gen. George Washington refused to allow captured British soldiers to be abused. "Every president since, all the way through until now, has honored that principle," he said.

"I truly believe that American democracy faces a time of challenge and trials that are more serious than we have ever faced," Gore said. He pointed to the current White House, backed by a Republican Congress, which allows the government to eavesdrop on anyone's home, "sneak and peek," without a warrant. "It sounds so strange, doesn't it, so contrary to the Constitution?"

The good news, however, is that "America is waking up to their game, to what they are all about," Gore said. Although he was addressing a Democratic rally, he said, "Much more is required, much more than partisanship."

Gore spoke for a little more than 30 minutes. He was introduced by state Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman. Other speakers were Palm Beach County party Chairman Wahid Mahmood; Tim Mahoney, candidate for the District 16 congressional seat; gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith; and State Sen. Ron Klein, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The theme of the event was "Florida Democrats Win 2006."

"We're gonna win, and win big, because Florida is fed up with a culture of corruption and incompetence," Thurman said, citing former governors Bob Graham and the late Lawton Chiles as proof that "Florida knows Democrats can lead."

"We are at war in Iraq and at war to win the 2006 election," Mahmood said.

Eric Copeland of Coral Gables, running for state commissioner of agriculture, opened with an old joke: "I know the difference between government and the Mafia ... One of them is organized."

"I'm here to make sure (U.S. Rep) Clay Shaw gets his Social Security retirement, along with Katherine Harris and Tom DeLay," Klein said. "You feel it. There's a change coming."

Skip Campbell of Broward County, running for state attorney general, said he entered his first statewide campaign because, "I'm fed up lies and deceits. (In 2006), we'll create an epidemic of success for the Democrats."

Smith said the Democrats are ready to debate the Republicans, whose plan is "fine, if you're healthy, wealthy and good-looking."

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