By MARC McDONALD
I've often wondered: if Al Gore had been allowed to assume the presidency that he won in the 2000 election, how would he have responded after the 9/11 attacks? Actually, I think it's pretty likely 9/11 would never have happened in the first place under President Gore.
Gore was (and is) a reader and a scholar, you see. One of those dreaded "Liberal book learners." Unlike Bush, Gore didn't make decisions "based on his gut." Gore read about and studied the issues. He listened to experts. Oh, the horror!
And on Aug. 6, 2001, when the CIA hand-delivered a Presidential Daily Brief to President Gore, he would have actually read the goddamn thing (particularly after glancing at the alarming headline, "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in U.S.")
Unlike Bush, Gore wasn't fond of endless 5-week vacations on the taxpayer's dime. So it is entirely possible that Gore wouldn't have been on vacation at the time. I'm think it's also highly likely that if Gore had been on vacation, he'd have cut it short to deal with the PDB.
What's important, though, is that President Gore would have take action. For example, it's a virtual certainty that he would have called a meeting of his top security people. (Maybe such a high-level security meeting would have brought attention to issues like the FBI's July 2001 reporting about suspicious Middle Eastern men who were learning to fly passenger airliners at U.S. aviation schools).
I'd also suspect that President Gore would have ordered possible terror targets like airports to step up security a notch.
Sadly, none of this actually happened. Of course, that's because in the previous year, a blatantly pro-GOP Supreme Court in 2000 awarded Bush a presidency in an election that Gore won by over half a million votes.
And so when Aug. 6, 2001 rolled around, Bush was handed the fateful Bin Laden PDB and took no action, as he continued to enjoy his 5 week vacation.
And so 3,000 Americans died on 9/11. And later, hundreds of thousands of civilians were slaughtered in the trillion-dollar fiasco called the Iraq War.
Of course, Bush and his supporters have long maintained that, "No one could have predicted the Sept. 11 attacks."
That, of course, is utter bullsh*t.
As David Plotz explained in a piece on Slate, there were in fact, "tons of warnings of exactly this kind of attack."
"The (2003) congressional report on the 9/11 intelligence failures lists a dozen pre-9/11 indications that terrorists were plotting a suicide hijacking. For example, in 1994 Algerians hijacked an Air France airliner with the intention of crashing it into the Eiffel Tower. (They were tricked by French officials into landing in Marseilles to refuel, where they were overpowered.) In 1995, police in the Philippines uncovered an al-Qaida plot to fly a plane into CIA headquarters. (One of the plotters: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.) A year later, al-Qaida had the idea of flying a plane from outside the United States and crashing it into the White House. Two years later, al-Qaida planned to fly a plane from outside the United States and crash it into the World Trade Center. And so on."
I suppose it could be debated endlessly as to whether a President Gore could have helped prevent the 9/11 attacks. I personally believe it is likely. But in reality, we will never know.
We do, however, know that President Gore almost certainly wouldn't have marched the U.S. into invading the wrong country after 9/11. This is where Gore's "book learning" would have come in handy for the nation. I think it's likely that Gore wouldn't have been under the misconception, shared by the Bush crowd, that Saddam somehow was connected to 9/11. (In fact, he likely would have known that, in fact, Saddam and Bin Laden were bitter enemies).
I suppose, in fairness, it's possible that even this can't be known for certainty.
But there is one thing that is absolutely certain. President Gore would have taken firm decisive action to protect America (and the world) from a threat that is actually vastly larger than Al-Qaeda.
That is: the oncoming major threat to humanity called Global Warming.