One day at work as I was stepping out of the elevator I saw a co-worker of mine carrying a copy of Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason. I’ve been wanting to read Gore’s 2007 book ever since I read its review in the New York Times. In addition, I had just finished reading Susan Jacoby’s similarly titled The Age of American Unreason so one might say I was in the mood for more of the same. Therefore, when she asked me if I wanted to borrow her copy after she was done, how could I say no ?
Perhaps inspired by the spirit of Thomas Paine, Gore has written a “call to action” type of book. While his book addresses a number of America’s ills, I found favor with his views regarding the general public’s reliance upon television news and talk radio over print media. How can a “well-informed citizenry” make intelligent and well-reasoned political decisions if the available information is superficial and biased ? While watching something like TV is an intellectually passive pursuit, reading newspapers, news magazines and books from a cognitive standpoint is both active and engaging. Print media can also show the depth of a news story far better than the above mentioned electronic media and is an excellent platform to deliver competing opinions in the form of op-ed pieces and letters to the editor. According to Gore, this active and diverse market place of ideas is necessary if America wants to hold our leaders accountable and prevent them from manipulating the populace as a whole.
Naturally, Gore blasts the former Bush administration for a number of reasons, chief of which would be its decision to invade Iraq. While we may never hear the full story of why and how this reckless decision was made, I thought Gore did a pretty good job “connecting the dots” and laying the blame at the Bush administration’s eagerness to invade despite any compelling evidence of Iraq possessing nuclear weapons or a willingness to assist Islamic terror groups in acquiring them.
Gore also blames the previous administration for enlarging the power of the Executive branch at the expense of both the Legislative and Judicial branches, thereby subverting the original intent of the Constitutional Framers which was to prevent the concentration of power in one particular branch of government. So much for checks and balances I guess.
I found Gore’s book good, but not great. Some parts were interesting and revealing. Some parts angered me. But some parts put me to sleep. While just three years old, the book already felt a bit dated. I would welcome an updated edition, addressing such recent developments as the new Obama administration, the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to contribute to election campaigns without government regulation and increasing power of the Internet to connect and inform citizens.