My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Too Frightening to Contemplate

Some on the Left, in light of the numerous (if slightly hollow) GOP victories in Congress this week, have taking to musing about what would happen if Al Gore had won in 2000.

No, seriously.

This was too fertile a soil for me to just let it slip past, so enjoy my ruminations. Feel free to contribute other thoughts, as well.

Had Al Gore assumed the presidency in 2001, he would have confronted the same challenges - a nation, and world, simmering in a mix of cultural/religious extremism and declining resources. Realistically speaking, Mr. Gore could probably not have solved any of these problems, but he would have worked in the direction of long-term solutions - and by doing so, minimized the overall impact.

Actually, if memory serves, the legacy of Clinton/Gore was one of NOT confronting challenges, but obscuring them, signing meaningless treaties, and moving right along to the next "challenge." The reality, for the most part, was that stability and comity were more valuable than progress and reality (see: Iraq arms inspections; North Korea; the Balkans)

Mr. Bush has been a spendthrift of historic proportions - he first engineered huge tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, then started screaming about how Social Security was "bankrupt." Bush’s "privatization" scheme for Social Security was designed to benefit Wall Street, not retirees.

Well, first of all, I am far from being the "ultra-wealthy," but I gotta say I liked the tax cuts. And I can't tell you how important it was to my family to get that child tax credit rebate check in the few weeks after we finally made the decision to have the bewitching Mrs. BestDestiny stay home with the children. And, if I'm not mistaken, the Social Security bankruptcy issue was identified by a bipartisan commission during the Clinton administration, which proposed as one of its solutions a privatization component, and the President's 2001 Commission had three possible solutions, ALL OF WHICH INCLUDED PRIVATE ACCOUNTS. So this is not just "President's Risky Scheme," nor is it exclusively tied to Wall Street Fund Managers.

Not to mention the effect that the President's stimulus has had on the economy. Imagine a Gore Presidency: inheriting a recession, taxation remains high, and then we get hit by Sept 11 and take a multi-hundred-billion dollar hit to the economy. What then? How would we have come out of the recession then? Is it not equally conceivable that instead of the sharp downturn we took in 2002 that the resulting chaos and instability could have slipped us into a full-blown depression? Perhaps we should have modeled our economy on the European model, like Clinton/Gore would prefer: then we, too, could be completely stagnant with unemployment hovering around 10% for two, three years at a time.

Mr. Gore supported conservation and fuel-efficiency, touting the emerging technology of hybrid automobiles. Mr. Bush ridiculed those vehicles and allowed energy companies to set America’s energy policies in secret meetings with Dick Cheney. (Mr. Cheney, of course, also ridiculed the idea of using energy conservation as an aspect of a national energy policy). The result, of course, is that the foreseeable oil needs of China and India are skyrocketing, demand is at an all-time high, and domestic gasoline prices are over two dollars a gallon.

Of course, never you mind about the Energy Bill which has languished in Democratic obstructionism for four years. You remember the Energy Bill?--which includes billions for new research, hydrogen technology, alternative fuels? Maybe those would have been useful in the last four/five years. And maybe, just maybe, with overseas demand for fuel being so great, we ought to--I know, this sounds crazy--FIND A WAY TO PRODUCE OUR OWN DAMN OIL!

But then, the fun really starts.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Gore would likely have carried over a Clinton administration focus on terrorist cells and Osama bin Laden. . . . It’s not so difficult to assess the different responses to 9/11 we would have seen. Mr. Bush launched what has turned out to be a fairly minor excursion into Afghanistan - with surprisingly little focus on Osama bin Laden - then turned all his attention toward Iraq and Saddam Hussein. It is a fair speculation to say that bin Laden would have been Mr. Gore’s primary focus - and that we would have seen Osama brought to justice. Instead, it is now almost four years since September 11, 2001, and Osama bin Laden continues to send his taunting messages. Again, to this point, no administration could have done worse than Mr. Bush’s in capturing or killing Osama bin Laden.

It is virtually certain that Mr. Gore would not have become fixated on Bush’s wasteful, unnecessary, and illegal venture into Iraq.

Actually, I tend to believe the advisors of Al Gore who spoke thankfully that he was not President when the Towers fell. But beyond that, let's consider whether there even would have been a response to 9/11. Perhaps Gore would have gone after bin Laden--I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he would have pursued bin Laden at great length. But there's very little to suggest that he would have been more successful in the hunt, nor is there anything anywhere in his history to suggest that he would have been inclined to remove the Taliban at all. Was it not during his tenure that the Taliban came to power and began its display of hatred by demolishing centuries-old Buddhist statues? Wherefore the administration then? Hell, that administration didn't even bother to finish a job it had started in Somalia after it got punched in the nose.

But let's look at the ripple effects of Iraq. Let's start with Zarqawi. Why would such a man flee to Baghdad after being injured in Afghanistan? and to what end would it be for him to open terrorist training camps in Iraq. More importantly, imagine what he alone might have accomplished in the two years since the invasion of Iraq if he had not been fighting in Iraq. If such a man can elude the US Army and Marines, all the while finding new and odious ways to kill the same, WHAT KIND OF HORROR COULD HE HAVE VISITED UPON THE U.S. IF HE WASN'T FIGHTING IN IRAQ?

Then, of course, there's the issue of Lebanon. And Libya. Even Palestine. I would go so far as to say the Orange Revolution felt the ripples of the invasion of Iraq. Had President Gore not "become fixated on Bush’s wasteful, unnecessary, and illegal venture into Iraq," it is safe to assume that a great many regimes around the region would still be comfortably ensconced in power with little to motivate them to liberalize or modernize.

But, maybe, just maybe, Al Gore might have undertaken an agressive and far-reaching military response. Or attempted to. Just imagine this: the Commander-In-Chief giving orders to his military to undertake difficult and dangerous missions LESS THAN A YEAR AFTER HIS CAMPAIGN HAD ATTEMPTED TO DEPRIVE THE MILITARY OF THEIR RIGHTS TO HAVE THEIR VOTE COUNTED.

As we seek to endure the times we now live in, it’s worth speculating on the man who might have been the best president this country never had.

I agree that such speculation has worth . . .

to remind us of how lucky we are.

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