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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Documenting the Birth and Dangers of the American Age of Passively Accepting Authority
The American political scene has shifted greatly since 2000 in ways that most Republicans like and most Democrats do not. Although Al Gore's title suggests a broader topic, The Assault on Reason focuses on the Bush methods of running the government and the Republican Party. As you might imagine, Al Gore doesn't like anything about what has happened.

If you were...
Published on 23 May 2007 by Donald Mitchell

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Obvious criticism but compelling
You know you are going to get at least some mild criticism, but this is a savage indictment of the Bush administration's dismantling of democracy, transparency and the American constitution, which is somewhat terrifying. It's refreshing (for me) to hear an voice of authority from over there describe what we over here have known from the beginning - that he's arrogant,...
Published on 8 Dec 2011 by Ryan Sales


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Documenting the Birth and Dangers of the American Age of Passively Accepting Authority, 23 May 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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The American political scene has shifted greatly since 2000 in ways that most Republicans like and most Democrats do not. Although Al Gore's title suggests a broader topic, The Assault on Reason focuses on the Bush methods of running the government and the Republican Party. As you might imagine, Al Gore doesn't like anything about what has happened.

If you were to boil this book down into one single idea, it would be this: Absolute power corrupts absolutely and is a danger to us all. Gore takes the point of view that the Bush administration has been and is mostly about gaining and holding power in order to reward Republicans and those who pay for Republicans to be elected.

As examples, Gore cites the following evidence:

1. The administration always knew that there never was any connection between terrorist attacks and Iraq (nor any threat of weapons of mass destruction being produced in Iraq), but made invading Iraq a high priority for pursuing its oil-focused strategy of controlling the Middle East where major oil companies and contributing contractors have been rewarded.

2. The Bush administration seeks to maximize fear of terrorism to gain ever more power for itself, usually by ignoring the limits on government power in the Constitution.

3. Fund-raising for Congressional Republicans is now controlled by the White House so the administration hasn't had any oversight from either party in Congress, a sharp departure from past practices.

4. When the president signs a new piece of legislation, he almost always indicates that he won't follow the law that was enacted (this has occurred over 1000 times). As a result, President Bush operates as though he is free from any legal restraint, including treaties that the United States has signed and honored for decades.

5. The Justice Department has been used to punish political enemies rather than seeking to enforce the law in a fair way.

6. Judges (who are supposed to be independent) are threatened with violent rhetoric and having their courts discontinued while they are wooed by special interests at high-priced seminars that serve as vacations.

7. Special interests that support Republicans make all the Bush policy decisions in secret, often contrary to the best evidence of what's in the public interest.

Against this backdrop of raw political hardball, Gore points out that the electorate isn't in the ball game. Most people don't know that Congress and the courts are supposed to be a restraint on presidential power. About half the electorate still thinks Saddam Hussein was the guiding force behind the terrorist attacks on 9/11. People prefer to see news reports about celebrities than news reports about public issues. When the president sponsors legislation that says it's a "Clean Air Act" hardly anyone knows that the bill will actually make air dirtier.

What's the diagnosis?

1. Restore balance between the powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government.

2. Start debating major decisions with emphasis on looking carefully at the best evidence.

3. Re-establish the rule of law.

Those ideas will be appealing to those who are deeply steeped in the history of how the U.S. government evolved. But in the last 40 years, schools have done little to teach about how government is supposed to operate. Polls show that many people favor having the government run like a CEO leads a private company, with no role for the legislators, judges, and citizens.

I think the remedy has to be a lot more fundamental, starting with recreating a consensus on what it means to be a citizen of the United States, what proper government behavior is, and what the United States wants to stand for in the world.

The book has three weaknesses that you should keep in mind when you read it:

1. There's no discussion of the inherent problems of having political parties in the government system that our founding fathers created. The original idea they had was to avoid parties. The solution lasted about as long as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were able to stay friends. Much of what Gore decries is an outgrowth of greater partisan battling. What's to stop a continuing escalation of that trend?

2. In the area of public debate, Gore relies a lot on the idea that experts usually know the answers. But that's not always true. In addition, what the experts know if often incomprehensible to everyone else. How effectively can you debate such technical issues when most government leaders were primarily trained to be lawyers and the general electorate has little technical knowledge?

3. The essence of getting elected is to create a temporary coalition of voters. Voters mostly look for "someone like me." That's a pretty big disconnect between proposing an approach to having philosopher-kings (of the sort that Plato liked to write about) who even-handedly make careful decisions that benefit everyone.

You may also find yourself wanting to snooze a bit as Gore describes brain physiology to explain why television is the guilty party for many of our anti-thinking woes.

But, all in all, this is a book that should spark a lot of public discussion. That would be good.

If you don't know much about the political theory behind our methods of governing over the last 200 years and the history of the U.S. government, this book will be even more enlightening. Gore is at his best in citing sources that capture the essence of those perspectives.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Documenting the Birth and Dangers of the American Age of Passively Accepting Authority, 23 May 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
The American political scene has shifted greatly since 2000 in ways that most Republicans like and most Democrats do not. Although Al Gore's title suggests a broader topic, The Assault on Reason focuses on the Bush methods of running the government and the Republican Party. As you might imagine, Al Gore doesn't like anything about what has happened.

If you were to boil this book down into one single idea, it would be this: Absolute power corrupts absolutely and is a danger to us all. Gore takes the point of view that the Bush administration has been and is mostly about gaining and holding power in order to reward Republicans and those who pay for Republicans to be elected.

As examples, Gore cites the following evidence:

1. The administration always knew that there never was any connection between terrorist attacks and Iraq (nor any threat of weapons of mass destruction being produced in Iraq), but made invading Iraq a high priority for pursuing its oil-focused strategy of controlling the Middle East where major oil companies and contributing contractors have been rewarded.

2. The Bush administration seeks to maximize fear of terrorism to gain ever more power for itself, usually by ignoring the limits on government power in the Constitution.

3. Fund-raising for Congressional Republicans is now controlled by the White House so the administration hasn't had any oversight from either party in Congress, a sharp departure from past practices.

4. When the president signs a new piece of legislation, he almost always indicates that he won't follow the law that was enacted (this has occurred over 1000 times). As a result, President Bush operates as though he is free from any legal restraint, including treaties that the United States has signed and honored for decades.

5. The Justice Department has been used to punish political enemies rather than seeking to enforce the law in a fair way.

6. Judges (who are supposed to be independent) are threatened with violent rhetoric and having their courts discontinued while they are wooed by special interests at high-priced seminars that serve as vacations.

7. Special interests that support Republicans make all the Bush policy decisions in secret, often contrary to the best evidence of what's in the public interest.

Against this backdrop of raw political hardball, Gore points out that the electorate isn't in the ball game. Most people don't know that Congress and the courts are supposed to be a restraint on presidential power. About half the electorate still thinks Saddam Hussein was the guiding force behind the terrorist attacks on 9/11. People prefer to see news reports about celebrities than news reports about public issues. When the president sponsors legislation that says it's a "Clean Air Act" hardly anyone knows that the bill will actually make air dirtier.

What's the diagnosis?

1. Restore balance between the powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government.

2. Start debating major decisions with emphasis on looking carefully at the best evidence.

3. Re-establish the rule of law.

Those ideas will be appealing to those who are deeply steeped in the history of how the U.S. government evolved. But in the last 40 years, schools have done little to teach about how government is supposed to operate. Polls show that many people favor having the government run like a CEO leads a private company, with no role for the legislators, judges, and citizens.

I think the remedy has to be a lot more fundamental, starting with recreating a consensus on what it means to be a citizen of the United States, what proper government behavior is, and what the United States wants to stand for in the world.

The book has three weaknesses that you should keep in mind when you read it:

1. There's no discussion of the inherent problems of having political parties in the government system that our founding fathers created. The original idea they had was to avoid parties. The solution lasted about as long as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were able to stay friends. Much of what Gore decries is an outgrowth of greater partisan battling. What's to stop a continuing escalation of that trend?

2. In the area of public debate, Gore relies a lot on the idea that experts usually know the answers. But that's not always true. In addition, what the experts know if often incomprehensible to everyone else. How effectively can you debate such technical issues when most government leaders were primarily trained to be lawyers and the general electorate has little technical knowledge?

3. The essence of getting elected is to create a temporary coalition of voters. Voters mostly look for "someone like me." That's a pretty big disconnect between proposing an approach to having philosopher-kings (of the sort that Plato liked to write about) who even-handedly make careful decisions that benefit everyone.

You may also find yourself wanting to snooze a bit as Gore describes brain physiology to explain why television is the guilty party for many of our anti-thinking woes.

But, all in all, this is a book that should spark a lot of public discussion. That would be good.

If you don't know much about the political theory behind our methods of governing over the last 200 years and the history of the U.S. government, this book will be even more enlightening. Gore is at his best in citing sources that capture the essence of those perspectives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Infuriating and enlightening, 14 Aug 2008
By 
B. Capaloff "wherenext2" (Falkirk, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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Polemic? Yes. Turgid? Absolutely not! This isn't a book you would anticipate sitting down to at the airport, or reading whilst lying down at the beach sunning yourself. It doesn't tackle light and easy subjects, it addresses the very basis of the American constitution and why that is currently being subverted, so inevitably it isn't a page turner. It needs to be read at a measured pace, but is not difficult to read. In reading it though and for those of us who are relatively ignorant on the subject, it provides an excellent insight into the fundamentals of the American polity, the approach taken by the Founders of the US to ensure a degree of rationality and reason and fairness in US government and also to try to safeguard this framework from the efforts of those who might wish to subvert it.

Whilst in hindsight it might be obvious, but this book has made it clear to me how unpatriotic Dubya and his pals are, how everything they are doing runs counter to the Founders' aims and is not with a view to ensuring the primacy of the US Constitution but with a view to ensuring self-interest and to hell with the rest. So in that sense it is infuriating, it does amaze me and does make me wonder how a nation with such a strong foundation in democracy (seen in the aims of the aims of it's Founding Fathers) can allow itself to be so betrayed by those in power.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative and well researched, 21 July 2008
I can't disagree more with what the reviewer wrote below. This book is very informative and well researched - if you don't agree with what it says than research the facts yourself to see if they are the truth and then complain.

The problem I had with this book was that is was little convoluted when far more straight forward language could have been used. Saying that, Al Gore gives a very good summing of what is so wrong with modern day politics and Media - especially in the United States.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, challenging and convincing, 27 April 2008
By 
M. McManus - See all my reviews
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Gore argues that democracy is being spoiled by dumbed down news media and the concentration of power in the hands of a small number of insiders, who are keen to keep the masses dumb and misled. Gore compares this state of affairs with the previous centuries, where American public debate was noted for its intelligence and reasoned thought. He laments that now, sound bites and pandering to fears and prejudices are under cutting this, and "short circuiting" this.

Gore believes that the advent of radio and TV destroyed democratic debate. Prior to then, books were the primary medium, which required intelligence to read and also required citizens to seek information rather than simply receive it. TV and radio concentrated the power to spread information and messages in a small number of hands, namely, the TV and radio barons who snapped up a monopoly when the technology was in its infancy. As a result, Americans went from being information seekers, to passive information receivers, being fed droning, dumbed down coverage. Gore also feels that the few active citizens who were not dumbed down could not compete with the multi-million dollar budgets or expensive technology needed to challenge this lamentable state of affairs.

However, Gore feels that the internet has changed this, as it is cheap, and allows individual citizens to spread information. Crucially, it also allows for two-way communication and debate, and allows citizens to both receive and seek information. Gore is optimistic that this will lead to a revival of intelligent debate in political debate.

All in all, the book is a very good read, although Gore is perhaps slightly over optimistic about the power of the internet, and even concedes that it too could find itself coming under the control of wealthy media magnates. This book is an excellent companion to "The Political Brain" by Drew Westen, as Gore argues reason and intelligence should matter in politics, whilst Westen argues that gut feelings and emotions play a more important role. It would be useful for the reader to compare the two and draw their own conclusion.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What would Gore have done?, 23 Jun 2007
By 
Pipistrel (Oxford United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Al Gore gives a penetrating, though at times repetitive analysis of what has gone wrong with American government. By declaring perpetual war, George W Bush claims to be exempt from the normal checks and balances between executive, legislature and judiciary. Reliant on 30-second TV slots for political information, a passive public has failed to object.

Running through the book is a message: 'It would have been different with me.' This is a risky claim to make, for who can be sure of resisting the corrupting influence of power? On page 186, Gore makes a troubling statement: 'Back in 1991, I was one of a handful of Senate Democrats to vote in favour of the resolution endorsing the Persian Gulf War. I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration's hasty departure from the battlefield even as Saddam began to renew his persecution of the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south - groups that we had encouraged to rise up against Saddam. After a brilliant military campaign, our decision to abandon prematurely the effort to destroy Saddam's military capability allowed him to remain in power.' In other words, if Gore had been in power in 1991, the destruction of Iraq might have begun 12 years earlier than it did.

The Clinton-Gore Administration spent 8 years bombing targets in Iraq and enforcing sanctions which, according to UNICEF, caused the death of half a million Iraqi children. At the same time, they kept up massive financial aid and arms supplies to Israel while it continued to build illegal settlements on occupied territory, making the creation of a viable Palestinian state virtually impossible. Gore would not have invaded Iraq in 2003, but might he not have sent troops into Pakistan in pursuit of Bin Laden? At all events, America's posture in the Middle East might not have been much more comfortable, nor the attendant dangers much less, than they are now.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest President we never had, 4 Oct 2008
My Better Half bought this at the airport and by Day 3 we had both read it. It is unusual to find a book so packed with content that is so easy to read.

Gore's arguments stretch from the effects of fear on the brain and the hypnotic nature of television to the consequences of instant gratification on US democracy. He worked with leading psychologists to ensure the accuracy of these chapters.

Gore suggests that without reasoned debate, people cannot inform themselves about what is happening in the world. Watching the news is not enough, people need to talk about, and discuss what it means. Passively absorbing information allows people to be hypnotised and brainwashed by whoever is in charge of the Media. The Bush years have betrayed both the people of America and beyond.

The Internet is better and less passive. Blogging is good and may yet help save the world. Reading text, formulating an argument and interacting with other people strengthens society.

I found it difficult to follow a lot of the detail in the last couple of because I am not familiar with the US political system. Nonetheless, it is evident that Bush has done to the US, what Blair and Nulab have done to the UK. "Command and Control" "Bullying and harassment" are familiar on both sides of the Atlantic. We need a version that highlights the loss of liberties and democracy in England and the UK.

A great book. Highly recommended and someone please write a UK version!
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4.0 out of 5 stars The State of the Nation (according to Al Gore), 31 May 2010
By 
This book is Al Gore's analysis of the current political process. It is of course written with the U.S.A. in mind but many of his points are valid for the U.K. and other countries too.

His main themes through the book are the decline of rational political dialogue; the effect TV has had on politics and (in his opinion) the purposeful erosion of the founder's original vision of government by right-wing Republicans.

I found the book a little slow to start with; the first couple of chapters detail more abstract themes such as traumatisation and the psychology of fear and I felt he laboured the points a little too much. However the book gets in to more solid 'real-life' ideas and becomes a much better read.

At the end of the day, everyone knows Al Gore and his views: if you agree with him, you'll like this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Assault On Reason, 29 April 2009
By 
Spider Monkey (UK) - See all my reviews
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'The Assault On Reason' is another clear and readable book from Al Gore. It looks at how democracy in America has been gradually eroded by a variety of small changes that add up to a larger picture in the political scene. This looks at the Bush administration in great depth and a lot of what this says is both shocking and pretty damning, but he qualifies each point and cites sources. He also looks at how changes in public communication over the years has affected democracy and how this can be developed and altered in years to come. The chapters that look at what the founders set out to achieve and where the country is at now make for fascinating reading and I find that once I'd gotten into the themes of the book I was completely hooked and I found this hard to put down. I've read many political books over the years and this is one of the easiest to read and has additional gravitas considering the author and his unique insight into high level American politics. I'm sure Bush supporters will hate what this book has to say, but this doesn't stop the disturbing nature of it's content or the fact that these atrocities and crimes against democracy have occurred. A succinct, fascinating read that will leave you stunned at some of the abuses of power and inspired by those who are fighting to make a change. Well worth checking out.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The USA's Darkest Hour, 9 Jan 2009
By 
Stephen Parry "Author of Sense and Respond" (Lean Service Transformation Designer London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If you come from Europe and understand its political history you will find it shocking to find that the USA has not learned from our history and is repeating the same mistakes. That is staying silent when wrong things are being done in our name.

The insidious erosion of the mechanisms of safe government cloaked in moral superiority and political correctness has allowed the Bush administration to do the unthinkable while the majority of the electorate either don't care or cannot conceive of a modern government being so anti democratic.

Al outlines what he believes are the causes of this lack of outrage amongst the electorate and the actions needed to redress the balance. The press come in for a great deal of justified criticism, they have let the people down, out of fear, intimidation, money interests... does this remind you of Europe in the 20th Century?

As I read this book I found myself shouting out loud 'how on earth are they getting away with the erosions of democracy and assault on liberty?' I love America and what it stands for, It is an extension of what free thinking Europeans aspire to. But the Bush administration has perverted the course of history and the aspirations of its people. To paraphrase a great leader... 'If the USA should last a Thousand years, these will be its darkest hours' I hope the USA will find its way again, the rest of the world depends on it.
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