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A Gore-Zinni Unity Ticket?

By Brent Budowsky
April 10, 2006

Editor’s Note: As the line-up of presidential hopefuls for Election 2008 begins to take shape, one of its most notable features is how few top prospects opposed the Iraq War from the start. Even fewer can claim both the foresight to have perceived the war’s dangers and the broad government experience to deal with other issues vital to America’s future.

Early favorites on the Republican side include Iraq War hawks – Sens. John McCain, Bill Frist, George Allen and Sam Brownback, not to mention one of the war’s architects, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The list of top Democrats features Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John Kerry and former Sen. John Edwards, all of whom voted for George W. Bush’s resolution to use force against Iraq.

Two Iraq War critics – Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel and Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold – are mentioned as possible presidential candidates, but neither is believed to have broad support within their respective parties.

So who might the American people seek out as seasoned public servants who have both the ability and the experience to pull together a national unity campaign that would combine common sense, a commitment to democratic principles and political courage? In a guest essay, longtime political strategist Brent Budowsky offers his opinion:

In my judgment, the unity ticket with the strongest potential would have former Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat, in the top spot, and retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, a politically independent military man who supported George W. Bush in 2000, in the second slot.

In 2002, when many elected leaders in both parties joined Bush in his rush to war, Gore and Zinni had the clarity of vision and the political courage to go against the grain and propose alternative strategies, such as staying focused on fighting al-Qaeda, that would have better served American security.
 
With more than 50 years of national security experience between them, Gore and Zinni could be trusted in office to pursue strategies that would unite Americans, resolve the war in Iraq, rally U.S. allies, and wage an effective battle against global terrorism.

In part, that’s because Gore and Zinni know from experience what President Bush and his neoconservative allies have never learned: that the surest guarantee of U.S. security is when military force is backed by the power of American ideals and the unity of a well-informed citizenry.
 
Gore's experience in national security policy dates from his service in Congress working on advanced weaponry and nuclear arms control during the Reagan years and extends through his eight years as Vice President.

In those endeavors, he demonstrated a commitment to bipartisanship, treating congressional leaders of both parties with a respect that America has not seen from President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

General Zinni is one of America's most respected military leaders. Like most officers and enlisted men and women, he knows that military power must always be accompanied by creative diplomacy and must never become the single-minded tool of ideologues or the polarizing weapon of small-minded partisans.

Pre-War Warnings

Amid the war hysteria that swept the United States in fall 2002, Zinni faced down the disdain that Bush administration hawks displayed toward critics, including military officers and longtime U.S. allies, who warned against Bush’s Iraq War plans.

Having served as U.S. military commander for the Middle East and as President Bush’s envoy on Middle East diplomacy, Zinni understood the region’s history and culture. He stressed the importance of winning hearts and minds as well as the danger of a poorly conceived military mission.

On Oct. 10, 2002, responding to those eager for war, Zinni said, “I’m not sure which planet they live on, because it isn't the one that I travel in.” Warning that President Bush and Vice-President Cheney were underestimating the difficulty of establishing a new government in
Iraq after an invasion, he said, “God help us, if we think this transition will occur easily.”

Gore was equally prescient, warning in a speech on Sept. 23, 2002, “that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.”


Gore added, “To put first things first, I believe that we ought to be focusing our efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on Sept. 11. Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another. We should remain focused on the war against terrorism.”

Global Warming

Gore also has a record of providing farsighted leadership on other major issues, such as environmental dangers and global warming. He has long demonstrated one of the most entrepreneurial minds in national politics on issues ranging from financial markets and global economics to new technology and new media.
 
In addition, a Gore-Zinni ticket could promote a patriotic reform agenda against the petty corruption that now infects one-party Washington. They could present a red-white-and-blue vision of America that honors the Bill of Rights, faithfully executes the laws of the land, and unites the American people against the partisanship, extremism, intolerance, division, polarization and cronyism that have become the hallmarks of the Bush-Cheney era.

Imagine an American President and Vice President who believe that America is a great national family; that America is a house with many rooms in which we should all treat each other with patriotic respect, where we honor our common commitments and shared purpose, not tear at each other's throats.

Imagine a Commander in Chief who, like virtually all previous Commanders in Chief, treats the Loyal Opposition with respect and takes into account their opinions when crafting security policies that truly make the nation safer, instead of treating opponents with the contempt shown by the current administration toward those who warned against a rush to an unwise war.

Imagine an American President and Vice President who would reject a strategy of using war as a partisan weapon – and instead work to unite the nation the way Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower did or to inspire the freedom-loving people of the world the way John F. Kennedy did.
 
A Gore-Zinni ticket also could win politically – and possibly win big. It would have the potential to rally the Democratic base, attract the vast majority of political independents and appeal to many Republicans alarmed at today's course of events in Washington.
 
A victory for Gore-Zinni would represent a national determination to end the politics of personal destruction and partisan vendettas. It would uplift Americans who are tired of the politics of anger, fear and polarization and want leaders who work together with mutual respect.
 
Patriotic Reform

A Gore-Zinni administration could inaugurate a new era of American politics based on patriotic reform and national unity.

There also would be new respect and support for multilateral institutions, broad democratic alliances and strengthened international agreements. America would no longer be isolated in war nor viewed as an obstacle to international efforts to address the grave danger of climate change. 

Gore and Zinni could make the case to the world that Americans are not a people of endless wars, culture wars, partisan wars and preemptive wars. In their administration, there would be no place for torture memos and theories about unlimited presidential powers more in line with King George III than Jefferson, Washington and Madison.

A Gore-Zinni administration’s respect for constitutional values could gain the support of all Americans who treasure the Bill of Rights, bringing together principled conservatives with principled liberals, indeed all those offended by the Bush-Cheney administration’s concept of an all-powerful President operating beyond the law, without checks and balances.

A Gore-Zinni Administration also would promote a pro-American energy policy that could stand the light of public scrutiny, not have to hide in the shadows; would create new competition from new energy sources; and would make sense for American consumers and businesses rather than oil barons, futures speculators and Middle East royal families.

There would be a breath of fresh air in Washington, where the world’s scientists could be mobilized against climate change, not censored or silenced for stating facts that clash with the ruling political ideology.

At a time when Americans are telling pollsters that they are disgusted with the corrupt ways of Washington, Gore and Zinni have been outside the destructive political culture of the Bush-Cheney years.

Gore has been involved in Generation Investments, which appeals to socially conscious investors; he has spoken out about the dangers of climate change and is releasing a documentary film about global warming; he has begun an initiative in cable television.

This five-year escape from the insider world of Washington led Gore to a far more cogent analysis of the Iraq War than the vast majority of Democrats operating in Washington. He also staked out a strong defense of the Bill of Rights in the face of Bush's claims of unlimited presidential powers. 

In short, a Gore-Zinni administration would stand for the politics of bravery, not the politics of fear. It could usher in a new era of patriotic reform similar to the eras of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and JFK in which all Americans are treated as members of a great family based on the very American idea that we are all in this together.


Brent Budowsky is a former legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, and legislative director to Rep. Bill Alexander, D-Ark., when he was chief deputy majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached by e-mail at brentbbi@webtv.net.


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