Posted Tuesday, May 29, 11:55 p.m.
Former Vice President Al Gore slammed the Bush administration and talked about solutions to what he considers a democracy in shambles in front of nearly 1,500 enthusiastic supporters at Lisner Auditorium Tuesday night.
In a speech that referenced historical figures such as Johnannes Gutenberg, Gore discussed the deterioration of public discourse and open democracy in recent years. The topic, which is the premise of his new book "The Assault on Reason," has created "a crack in the foundation of democracy," he said.
Gore, whose event was hosted by local bookstore Politics and Prose, centered his speech on the birth of the form of government and the importance of reasoned debate within our society.
"Democracy could succeed because when people met in a public forum under terms that pushed them to exchange ideas, that within this mix of human motivations, the relative prominence of reason would begin to rise in importance," he said. "The whole design and fabric of the American constitution is based on that premise."
Gore also criticized the Bush administration, attacking it for its record on a number of issues, including the Iraq War, global warming and domestic wiretapping.
"I am certain that I am not the only one here who has had the feeling that for the past several years something has gone horribly wrong with the way American democracy operates," Gore said to thunderous applause.
The Tennessee native also criticized the media for accepting the Bush administration's case for the Iraq War, claiming that an accurate and accountable media is necessary for a stable democracy.
"Both Adam Smith's version of capitalism and Thomas Jefferson's version of democracy depended upon a virtual forum in which individuals could participate primarily by the means of the printed word," he said.
Despite Gore's fears over the many issues facing America today, he maintained that both he and his book are ultimately optimistic because of the will of the American people and the belief in a free society.
"We have available to us the new tools and opportunities that can, if we use them correctly and with passion and commitment, bring us a solution to what ails American democracy," he said.
Audience members began arriving several hours before the 7 p.m. start time in hopes of snagging a prime seat. Bob Ruhl, who attended the event with his daughter Zoe, said he began waiting in line at 4:30 p.m. and was rewarded with a seat in the first row. Ruhl later said that being able to see the event was "worth 20 times the wait."
"I think that Gore has an important message that needs to be heard," Ruhl said.
Not everyone at the event was a fan of the former vice president. Before the speech started, several members of Freedomworks.org protested Gore's endorsement of regulatory policies, as well as his own energy use. Freedomworks.org is a group that protests for smaller government, according to its Web site.
"We're trying to highlight his hypocrisy in the size of his own carbon footprint, as opposed to other Americans," said Brendan Steinhauser, one of the protestors.
Later, during the question and answer session, a follower of Lyndon LaRouche, a frequent but outsider candidate for the presidency, began yelling accusations at Gore before he was escorted away by security. Carla Cohen, the founder of Politics and Prose, took a minute to respond to the protester.
"I think that when you yell something like that, it's really an assault on reason," Cohen said.