- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2006

Former Vice President Al Gore is bitterly disappointed he was not elected president. Periodically, he expresses his disappointment in ways that gives us reason to be thankful he wasn’t.

The most recent was last weekend, when he traveled to Saudi Arabia to make a speech denouncing the United States. The occasion was the annual Jeddah economic forum, sponsored in part by the family of Osama bin Laden (which claims to have distanced itself from the family black sheep).

Mr. Gore has not disclosed how much he was paid for his words of wisdom. It probably is less than the $267,000 former President Bill Clinton was paid for speaking to the group in 2002, but odds are his fee was in six figures.

Whatever Mr. Gore’s speaking fee, his hosts likely thought it a bargain, considering what the former vice president had to say.

The U.S. committed “terrible abuses” against Arabs after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Mr. Gore said. Arabs were “indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa and not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable.”

The Arab American Anti Discrimination Committee says about 1,200 Arabs were arrested after September 11. Of these, 725 were held on immigration violations, 100 on unrelated criminal charges, and 360 for possible links to terrorism.

The Census Bureau says about 3 million Arabs are in the U.S. The number “indiscriminately rounded up” after September 11 is much less than one-tenth of 1 percent of that.

Mr. Gore didn’t say what was “unforgivable” about the conditions in which Arabs were held, but his source probably was a June 2003 report by the Justice Department inspector general, or, rather, erroneous news accounts of the report.

The Los Angeles Times said most detainees were held months without charges. In fact, only 24 were held more than a month before being charged, and 59 percent were charged within three days, the IG report said.

Most Americans remember 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were Saudis, but Mr. Gore seems to have forgotten. He deplored cancellation of “Visa Express,” the expedited program without background checks through which several of the hijackers entered the United States.

In a footnote on Page 492 of its report, the September 11 Commission said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the attacks, told interrogators most of the hijackers he selected were Saudis because it was easier for them to obtain visas. Government Accountability Office statistics show that before September 11 only 3 percent of Saudi applicants were interviewed before getting a visa; only 1 percent were refused.

The Bush administration “is playing into al Qaeda’s hands” by subjecting Saudi visa applicants to special scrutiny, Mr. Gore said. “The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States,” Mr. Gore said.

Some Americans think it would be worse to let into the country terrorists bent on perpetrating another September 11.

The former vice president’s speech attracted little attention from the news media, but was condemned by Web loggers appalled both by what he said and where he said it.

“Only Al Gore could come up with the idea of criticizing Bush for not sucking up to the Saudis enough,” sighed law professor Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), a former volunteer in Mr. Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign.

“It is one thing to say such things to an American audience in an effort to change our policy…. It is another thing entirely to travel to a foreign country that features pivotally for the war for our generation for the purpose of denouncing American policies,” he said.

One wonders what possessed the former vice president to say what he said where he said it. Perhaps he is so embittered by his narrow 2000 loss he doesn’t mind saying things helpful to America’s enemies if they might also hurt George W. Bush.

Perhaps he is desperate for money and will say whatever his paymasters want in hopes of future invitations. And maybe he just isn’t all that bright. He did flunk out of both law school and divinity school.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Gore’s remarks will not help Democrats persuade swing voters they can be trusted with national security. And that may be why his remarks drew so little attention from the news media.

Jack Kelly, a syndicated columnist, is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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