Punditic politics in alternate universe
Few political observers anticipated the widespread resentment that followed Al Gore’s controversial assumption of the presidency in December 2000.
“The U.S. Supreme Court merely adhered to the Constitution when it refused to hear Bush’s appeal of the Florida ruling,” notes a Harvard law professor now living in exile in France.
“Federal courts have no jurisdiction over election disputes, which in the United States are a state matter.”
Although the ensuing recount ultimately gave Florida to Gore by a comfortable 1,000-vote margin, Republicans refused to accept the results. Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh continued to refer to Gore as “Vice President Gore” and “Resident-in-Chief” and listed the time remaining in Gore’s first term as “days left in captivity for the American people.”
Republican candidate George W. Bush, meanwhile, refused to concede defeat. “Make no mistake,” the former Texas governor declared from self-proclaimed “internal exile” in Crawford, Texas, “that man will never be my president.”
The GOP filed a slew of lawsuits challenging the election results, and right-wing militia groups issued dark threats about overthrowing Gore’s “illegal junta.”
Despite Gore’s attempts to govern from the center – he appointed several Republicans to his cabinet, including Secretary of Defense Colin Powell – Congressional Republicans and their conservative Democratic allies stonewalled early Gore administration attempts to deliver on key campaign promises.
The Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto treaty on global warming. Bills to slash federal taxes for poor and middle-class workers, ban oil drilling in national wildlife refuges and crack down on corporate crime failed to make it out of Republican-controlled committees in the House.
Senator Trent Lott let the President know that he could expect more of the same in the future: “It is my party’s duty to represent the 48 percent of the voters who did not support Al Gore, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” he said.
Gore’s polls, already falling due to the lagging economy, hit rock bottom in the weeks after the September 11 attacks.
“People rightly blamed the Commander-in-Chief for not doing anything to intercept planes that had clearly been hijacked and for ignoring warnings of an imminent threat,” says a GOP pollster. “But concern about incompetence quickly segued into the ‘wimp thing.’ Disgust at Gore’s cowardice became widespread when he abandoned Washington to the terrorists and flew off to hide in that silo under Nebraska. Diligent journalists then reminded Americans how he’d wussed out of Vietnam by joining the Tennessee Air National Guard and then going AWOL, and for many voters that was that.”
In a bizarre and cynical ploy to exploit 9-11, the President attempted to turn things around by dispatching troops to one war after another – and made a mess of each one.
Choosing to ignore Pakistan’s role as chief host and financier of Al Qaeda, Gore waged a strange too-little-too-late bombing campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden escaped. Night after night David Letterman mocked Gore’s pledge to capture the Saudi dissident: “Dead or alive? Shuck and jive is more like it.”
Gore’s lack of military experience led him to go along with CIA schemes to bribe Afghan warlords. “From the Afghan perspective, the warlords were even worse than the Taliban,” says an expert on Central Asia. “They should have bombed both.”
In 2002 The New York Times revealed that oil companies with close political connections to the Democratic Party had schemed with Gore to run an oil pipeline across Afghanistan from Turkmenistan to Pakistan – and that this was why he had attacked Afghanistan and cozied up with the Pakistani dictatorship. Tens of thousands of veterans marched on Washington, screaming “no blood for oil” and Sen. Orrin Hatch suggested that “a president who wages war to line the pockets of his golfing buddies merits impeachment.”
Incredibly, the next move of the man dubbed “Gore out of control” by Fox News was to declare an unprovoked war on Iraq.
“Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, he’s an evil dictator and he’s a threat to world peace,” Gore railed to a joint session of Congress.
When the United Nations refused to support Gore’s request for an international coalition, even Congressional Democrats decided that they had had enough of their bellicose leader, and joined their counterparts across the aisle.
“There’s no proof that Saddam Hussein has WMDs,” declared Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. “Until that changes, we have no grounds for a pre-emptive strike – an act that violates every precept of international law.” Nonetheless, Gore relied on the War Powers Act to order in the Marines.
As we know, Saddam Hussein didn’t use nuclear, biological or chemical weapons to defend his dying regime. American forces never found any. And news soon began leaking that Gore was awarding lucrative Iraqi rebuilding contracts to oil companies that had contributed to his 2000 campaign.
A Gallup poll showed that 88 percent of Americans considered Gore a liar, and that 79 percent favored his removal from office and prosecution for the wanton murder of thousands of Iraqis. As Iraq degenerated into sectarian violence amid growing signs of a possible radical Islamic revolution, Gore brazenly categorized the mayhem he had wrought on an innocent people as liberation. “They don’t know it yet,” he proclaimed, “but they’ll thank us for this someday.”
When it comes to Teflon, recent events demonstrate that Ronald Reagan had nothing on Al Gore. It turns out, for example, that among the more than 600 Afghans illegally held at a U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are three children, aged 13 to 15.
Meanwhile, Democrats have just announced plans to hold the latest national convention in their party’s history, in early September in New York, so that President Gore can capitalize on the memorials for the third anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.
The 2004 confab will end on September 10, allowing Gore to shuttle back and forth between Ground Zero and Madison Square Garden. True, Gore’s behavior has given him single-digit popularity ratings – but he’s still president.
What will it take for the American people to turn this madman out on his ear once and for all? It’s impossible to say. As things stand now, he could put babies on the White House menu and claim he was fighting overpopulation.
Ted Rall is a columnist and cartoonist who writes for a generation unjustly maligned as a group of lazy slackers. A New York City resident, Rall was a 1996 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Contact him at 4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111. His column appears every Thursday in The Aspen Times.
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The past sneaks up on us in the strangest of ways, and I don’t mean bounty hunters flashing those “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters in our faces.