PortFolio Weekly

PortFolio Weekly
January 24, 2006

Five Years On

by Jim Newsom

Still think it’s unimportant who wins? Maybe you were one of the many who said during the election of 2000 that it didn’t really matter whether George Bush or Al Gore was elected president, because there wasn’t much difference between the two anyway. And maybe you didn’t think it too important when the Supreme Court handed the victory in that election to the guy who came in second place. You probably figured that as a president who lost the popular vote, Bush and his administration would govern from the center, trying to build a broad-based coalition that would give him legitimacy. What do you think now?

As we pass the five-year mark of George W. Bush’s presidency, we should take a moment to consider the position he has put our country in. Just to let you “no difference” folks and Ralph Nader voters off the hook somewhat, there was probably no way to predict or foresee how this crowd would veer so far off track and out of the mainstream. In fact, most people thought W would be a light-hearted, small-brained version of his father---not much of a leader, but no real threat to democracy either.

Instead we are faced with a genuine threat not only to our democracy, but to the stability of the world. Do you think Al Gore would have taken us down this path? Let us envision what would have happened had the candidate who received the most votes actually won.

First of all, it is unlikely that a Gore administration would have championed tax cuts for the wealthiest half-percent of Americans as its first priority. It is reasonable to assume that if such a bill came to his desk, President Gore would have vetoed it. Since he served as Vice President in the first administration to actually balance the books in a generation and a half, it is probable that he would have done all in his power to keep the nation’s fiscal ball rolling in the same direction. We would not have had five years of escalating, record breaking deficits.

Assuming the 9/11 attacks would have happened no matter who was in charge, how do you think President Gore, a Vietnam veteran, would have responded? Considering that he was a bit of a policy wonk derided for his seriousness, it’s a realistic guess that he would have focused the nation’s military forces on the actual terror threat--- Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda network, the Taliban.

I doubt he would have deflected the nation’s military resources into the deserts of Iraq. Since he actually believes in the United Nations, he probably would have worked with the UN to insure that weapons inspectors did their job (which they were doing prior to W’s adventure), but as a man who had seen what combat really is, and as an intelligent individual capable of grasping details, I suspect he would have kept the country’s eye focused on genuine Islamic terrorism, its roots and sources. He certainly wouldn’t have had a cabal of neocons advising him to “take out Saddam, it’ll be easy.”

Imagine a President Gore dealing with environmental issues. That was one of his strongest suits, wasn’t it? Didn’t the right wing mud machine try to tar him as a “tree hugger?” I think it’s safe to say that, rather than standing alone in refusing to acknowledge the impact of global warming, the United States would be leading the way toward a greener world, with tougher emissions controls, higher gas mileage standards, and support for alternative sources of energy. There is no question that a Gore administration would not have created its energy policy by meeting secretly with, and following the dictates of, the captains of the oil industry.

Who do you think President Gore would have nominated to the Supreme Court? I am sure that neither Harriet Miers nor Samuel Alito would have been on his short list. As his record and his testimony---or avoidance thereof---indicate, Judge Alito is a reactionary deconstructionist who will tip the balance of the Court against many of the individual freedoms and liberties we now take for granted.

And we all know that Al Gore, being a constitutional goody two-shoes, would never permit or condone warrantless spying on American citizens.

So what do you think: Does it matter who wins an election? The type of society we live in, the image and ideals we present to the world, and the shape, nature and future of our republic hang on the choices we make and the votes we cast.

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