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Charles Cutter

The Best President America Never Had
By Charles Cutter (www.cuttersway.com)
Jul 29, 2005 - 4:42:00 AM

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Americans have not yet begun to pay the price for the Bush presidency. The global ramifications of his foreign policy, the long-term impact of his budgetary excesses, our depleted military, the ongoing erosion of civil liberties and church/state separation, the unprecedented acquiescence to corporate power…all these factors, and more, will dictate the course of this nation for decades to come.

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.

George W. Bush, on the other hand, has worked feverishly to exacerbate virtually every problem confronting America and the world. The differences between these two men - on policies both foreign and domestic - are surprisingly black and white.

Mr. Gore had proposed using the now-nonexistent budget surplus to strengthen Social Security. He also backed a Medicare prescription drug program that used the government’s buying power to yield volume discounts - a tremendous savings to taxpayers. 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. His Medicare prescription drug program was not structured to benefit the elderly, but rather the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.

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.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Gore would likely have carried over a Clinton administration focus on terrorist cells and Osama bin Laden. On the other hand, the Bush administration was actually dismantling America’s anti-terrorist infrastructure at the time of the September 11 attacks. Bush & Co., of course, totally ignored a written warning proclaiming "bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." Would a Gore administration have connected the dots and prevented the horror of 9/11? That, of course, is impossible to assess. What is crystal clear: No administration could have done worse than Mr. Bush and his people.

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. During the 2000 campaign, you’ll recall, Bush & Co. - with the media’s assistance - became fixated on every minor inaccuracy stated by Al Gore. (Remember the flap about whether or not Gore actually flew in the same plane with the director of FEMA?) History, apparently, has a strong sense of irony, for we’ve since been treated to the criminally deliberate deceptions of Mr. Bush-fairy tales about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and an Osama-Saddam connection.

Mr. Gore’s misstatements amounted to meaningless minutiae. Mr. Bush’s web of lies has resulted in the ongoing slaughter of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. This war will have cost the American taxpayers well over $200 billion, added to the national debt. And for what? A country reduced to bloody chaos, a training ground for a new generation of terrorists.

The difference between a Gore administration and the Bush administration is a stark reminder of what America could have been, and what it has become. Barring a political miracle, we still have more than three years remaining of Bush’s second term, with an impact horizon extending decades beyond. 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.


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