Thursday, May 18, 2006

President Gore

Al Gore is back in circulation, promoting an new environmental movie, and with him seems to have come almost a national level of buyer's remorse about the current inhabitant of the White House. It is almost like the entire nation ran into its old girlfriend who they jilted at the prom, and discovered she's thinner, fitter, smarter, and cooler than the person they DID take. The highpoint of the return of Al was last week on Saturday Night Live, where they did their cold opening with a speech by "President Gore" - Here's one of the many versions you can find on the web.

He looks fit. He looks relaxed. He looks happy. He looks like he's having fun. Where is that stiff, pedantic, grim figure that the press foisted on us back in 2000? Of course, one of the reasons he looks relaxed is that he hasn't had to lead the country for the past six years. And the SNL bit, while amusing, does underscore the mental image that "everything would have been better" if only we had taken the path less traveled.

Oddly enough, I had my own Al Gore Presidency bit written up. A local cartoonist for the PI had a "burning question" that he does every week, and a few weeks back it was "What would the Gore Presidency be like?". From the response, he mostly heard from wingnutters accusing him of treason for even thinking about it. I sent in my take, but it was a bit long, and wasn't used. So here is what I think would have happened (sorry, no glaciers in Maine).

The Albert Gore presidency (2001-2004) has been compared to both the elder George Bush and LBJ presidencies. In all three cases the chief executive had to deal with his predecessor's problems while being compared unfavorably to that predecesssor by the press and the nation at large. Inheriting a weak economy, Gore helped create a shallow recession with early recovery in 2001. However, he was pilloried in the press for the recession, for the mildness of the recovery, and for claiming credit for it.

The events of September 11 changed America, in that there were Congressional demands for an immediate and full investigation, which three weeks later exposed weaknesses in American security, for which Gore was held responsible. For the next three years, congressional opponents regularly condemned the administration for not doing enough to find Bin Laden, or complained about military adventurism when he did do something. In addition, a conservative congress and a compliant media revealed a slew of minor scandals within his administration, which tainted the office.

His approval rating hovering at a dismal 51% and gas prices approaching $2 a gallon, Gore in March of 2004 announced that he would not run for re-election. The Democratic party split between Vice President Lieberman (who had distanced himself from the president over policy while still calling himself the party's front runner) and John Kerry in a vicious battle that left the victorious Kerry weakened and easily finished off by Republican George W. Bush, who benefitted from a deep war chest, campaign director Karl Rove, and a deep-seated feeling that the GOP was robbed in 2000 and things would have been better under a Republican.

The new president has had to deal with new challenges. The sluggish delay of help arriving for victims of the Katrina Hurricane, nearly a day, has kicked off another round of Congressional hearings, which again held the Gore administration responsible. At the same time, Bush has brought to light the growing threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, and endorsed reports that Al Quaeda fled Afghanistan for Saddam Hussein's regime.

But then, call me a cynic, even in alternate worlds.

More later,