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Saturday, August 16, 2003


in defense of Gore

posted by Aziz P. at Saturday, August 16, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Back in July, John Kerry advised the Democratic base to "stop crying in your teacups" about the 2000 election. Fair enough. But the statement does indicate a disconnect between Kerry and the genuine emotion of the democratic base about Al Gore. It's not surprising therefore to learn that Kerry has also bought into the GOP-seeded false conventional wisdom that Gore claimed to have invented the internet:

"The Dean campaign is saying you're kind of stealing their thunder on this on-line petition," Dave Price, a reporter for Des Moines-based WHO-TV 13, to which Kerry responded with a smirk: "Well, the last person I heard who claimed he had invented the Internet didn't do so well."

The response earned restrained yucks from the gaggle of reporters. But Dean's staff hadn't said they invented on-line petition drives, and Kerry didn't refute that Dean's started at the same time.

As an attack on Dean, it's a clumsy one. The well-known Urban Legends page debunks this false claim:

Gore did not claim he "invented" the Internet, nor did he say anything that could reasonably be interpreted that way. The derisive "Al Gore said he 'invented' the Internet" put-downs are misleading distortions of something he said (taken out of context) during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition" program on 9 March 1999. When asked to describe what distinguished him from his challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, Gore replied (in part):

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

Clearly, although Gore's phrasing was clumsy (and self-serving), he was not claiming that he "invented" the Internet (in the sense of having designed or implemented it), but that he was responsible for helping to create the environment (in an economic and legislative sense) that fostered the development of the Internet.

Note that Vint Cerf, the actual technological father of the Internet (co-designer of the TCP/IP protocol), also credits Gore with political fatherhood:

VP Gore was the first or surely among the first of the members of Congress to become a strong supporter of advanced networking while he served as Senator. As far back as 1986, he was holding hearings on this subject (supercomputing, fiber networks...) and asking about their promise and what could be done to realize them. Bob Kahn, with whom I worked to develop the Internet design in 1973, participated in several hearings held by then-Senator Gore and I recall that Bob introduced the term ``information infrastructure'' in one hearing in 1986. It was clear that as a Senator and now as Vice President, Gore has made it a point to be as well-informed as possible on technology and issues that surround it.
While it is not accurate to say that VP Gore invented Internet, he has played a powerful role in policy terms that has supported its continued growth and application, for which we should be thankful.

And Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web (which runs on the Internet) also credits Gore with a leadership role:

In response to a question, Berners-Lee said, all jokes aside, Al Gore did play a role in the Internet. "In the early days of the Web, Al Gore had a vision of the information superstructure," he said.

"You have to give credit to Clinton and Gore for pushing that the Internet should move from an academic system to a commercial system connecting industry," he added.

The real lesson is that Gore was held to a false standard of truth, whereas Bush was given a free pass. By recycling the "invented the internet" talking point, Kerry has demonstrated an indifference to that reality. It's important that his campaign fulfill its responsibility as a Democratic campaign and retract any suggestion that the media spin on Gore and the internet was correct. What he has done is entrench the lie into the conventional wisdom - and that CW will come back to haunt the Democratic nominee, regardless of whether it's Kerry or Dean.

Polite emails to the Kerry campaign may persuade them to exonerate Gore's record.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.