Gore supports, criticizes Bush in speech
Democrat gives first major policy address since election loss
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former Vice President Al Gore supported and criticized President Bush Tuesday night in his first major policy speech since losing the 2000 election for president.
Appearing before the Council of Foreign Relations in Manhattan, the Democrat reaffirmed his support for Bush's handling of the military campaign in Afghanistan.
"Indeed, President Bush deserves tremendous credit for the way he has led our nation in a highly successful opening counterattack in the war against terror," Gore said.
But Gore challenged the Republican president to keep the United States engaged in Afghanistan, even after the last remnants of al Qaeda terrorists are vanquished.
"It isn't enough to destroy what is evil and then seek to leave by the nearest door. We must make the commitment to work with those who we have rescued until they can stand on their own feet," he said.
Gore called for increasing the international security force in Afghanistan and broadening its mandate beyond Kabul, the capital, to the whole country. He urged Bush to pay greater attention to the views of NATO allies, and criticized him for pursuing a more unilateral foreign policy than President Clinton.
"The administration in which I served looked at the challenges we faced in the world and said we wish to tackle these 'with others, if possible; alone if we must.' This administration sometimes seems inclined to stand that on its head, so that the message is: 'with others, if we must, by ourselves, if possible,'" Gore said.
Gore endorsed Bush's reference in last month's State of the Union speech to Iraq, Iran and North Korea as "an axis of evil."
"There really is something to be said for occasionally putting diplomacy aside and laying one's cards on the table. There is value in calling evil by its name," Gore said.
He compared Bush's "bold words" to President Ronald Reagan calling the Soviet Union as "an evil empire" and President Jimmy Carter's emphasis on human rights.
Gore agreed Iraq remains a "virulent threat in a class by itself" that is pursuing the development of weapons of mass destruction, as are Iran and North Korea.
"They all hate the United States and profess it at every opportunity," Gore said. He said most Iranians "seem to disagree with the policies and actions of the small group of mullahs" who run the country.
Gore, who as a senator broke Democratic Party ranks and supported the resolution empowering Bush's father to use force against Iraq in 1991, said, "We all had reason to deeply regret" that Saddam Hussein remained in power there.
Gore said if there is a new U.S. campaign against Iraq, "we must be prepared to go the limit."
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gore said he would not advise the United States to sever relations with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat but called him "principally responsible for the unfolding tragedy in the Middle East" for rejecting a land-for-peace deal in the waning days of the Clinton administration.
Gore adopted the "axis of evil" phrase to describe his own priorities.
"There is another axis of evil in the world: poverty and ignorance, disease and environmental disorder, corruption and political oppression," Gore said.
"We may well put down terror in its present manifestations, but if we do not attend to the larger fundamentals as well, then the ground will be fertile and has been seeded for the next generation of those born to hate the United States of America," he said.
Gore said stopping terrorism at its roots means "draining the aquifer of anger," particularly in the Muslim world, at the United States and other Western nations.
"The evil we now confront is not just the one-time creation of a charismatic leader and his co-conspirators," Gore said, referring to terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his radical Islamic followers. "What we deal with now is today's manifestation of an anger welling up from deep layers of grievance shared by millions of people."
Gore said the anger was fueled by economic stagnation and poverty in countries where "young men under 20" became "dedicated recruits" for terrorists.
In Saudi Arabia, where most of the 19 hijackers involved in the September 11. terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon originated, 60 percent of the population is under 18, Gore said. Three billion of the world's population live on less than $2 a day, he said.
"The United States needs to create a world made more just and more hopeful, not just a world made more profitable for ourselves," Gore said. "There are a lot of things we could do that would help us by helping the world," he said.
Gore said that if a Republican president made such commitments, "I know Democrats would stand behind him."
This was Gore's first public policy speech since Bush took office. Gore made public appearances in Iowa in October and in his native Tennessee 10 days ago.
"In the aftermath of a very divisive election, I thought it would be graceless" to speak out on public affairs, Gore explained. He spoke for a half-hour to 300 people, then took questions. He plans to speak out on the economy and the environment in the weeks ahead.