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The Gore Administration, 2001-05 (The Gipper Goes Down)

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Gore started his term on a shaky footing, owing to the unprecedented closeness of the 2000 election (some Republicans believed fraud had been committed against their candidate, or that somehow the election was stolen from them, as Bush had led, if barely, for most of the summer and fall ... question: this would have been with a recount in Florida, right? It would have been determined that Gore won that state by multiple recounts if it were really that close. If that is true, this branch of the Republican Party would have been relatively small, and they would have not had much of an argument, as multiple recounts confirmed a Gore presidency. This might have affected the Republican nomination and/or Gore's reelection loss). Worse, the economy began to sour and gas prices increased, bringing about recession-like conditions in 2001. Congress was still in Republican hands, and in no mood to co-operate with a Democratic president. Gore's efforts to bring environmental concerns to the forefront were met with scorn. The country was muddling through a malaise when Islamic terrorists struck America on September 11, 2001, bringing down the World Trade Center in New York and attacking the Pentagon itself, in Washington. Immediately, the American public and Congress closed ranked around Gore when he announced plans to invade Afghanistan to root out Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the September 11 attacks, and topple the Taliban regime, which was shielding it. The invasion went on as planned, but Osama Bin Laden and the bulk of the Al Qaeda leadership managed to escape.

The wave of support for the Gore administration began to erode as 2002 rolled around; the larger objectives of the Afghanistan endeavor had been achieved (the overthrow of the Taliban, the forcing of Al Qaeda to run and go underground, and the establishment of a U.S.-friendly democratic regime in Kabul). But there was no wider "War on Terror" nor a demonizing of Islam, much to the consternation of security-centric Republican politicians and members of Congress. Gore refused to wrap himself around the flag and use the unprecedented unity of the country as an opportunity to invade countries and topple regimes. Efforts were redoubled to secure American airports, flights, and entry harbors, and a color-coded scheme warning of impending of terrorist activity was instituted. Moreover, a cabinet-level department of "Homeland Security" was created (the brainchild of Vice President Lieberman), to coordinate all activities centering on the defense of the nation from terrorist attacks. But that was it.

Most galling to hardline Republicans was the administration's refusal ( don't keep this obviously, but suggestion: what about Syria and Slobodan Milosevic? Surely that would have affected Republican opinion...) to invade Iraq to overthrow the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein, who had survived the 1991 Gulf War (fought with the limited contribution of American troops under then-President Mario Cuomo) and was a sworn enemy of the U.S. and the West. Hussein had been personally funding, as well, terrorist activity against Israel, with attendant deaths of many U.S. citizens residents in that country as part of the so-called "Second Palestinian Intifada" (2000-2005). Gore ordered the aerial bombardment of Iraqi military facilities (anything that could be used against the West or Israel) coupled with a stricter enforcement of the no-fly zones above Iraqi skies. He also recognized the "autonomy" - although not quite independence - of the Northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan (much against Turkey's opposition) and secured the rights to install American bases there, from which Saddam's actions were closely monitored. But there was to be no outright invasion of Iraq. Sensing a weakness in Gore's stance, Iran, meanwhile, expanded its influence, taking over from Saddam Hussein the mantle of official Islamic spearhead of anti-Israeli and anti-American efforts.

As Republican venom against Gore was unleashed, oil prices continued to sour, and nothing the administration tried could succeed lowering them. According to Republicans, this was due to President Gore's refusal to simply drill for more oil on American soil. In particular, great pressure was exerted on the environmentally-conscious Gore to open up protected wildlife areas of Alaska to energy exploration. This he refused to do.

In the end, Gore was simply a victim of widespread fatigue with Democratic leaders and ideas after 16 years of Democratic control of the White House. The sense of having been wronged in the 2000 elections only heightened many Republicans' resolve to at long last put an end to Democratic rule. Their Golden Hour finally came in 2004. As expected, the GOP renominated the "aggrieved" Bush as its best choice to recapture the presidency. This time free of the constraints of office - he retired following three terms as Governor of Texas in 2002 - Bush dedicated himself solely to raising money and to criticizing Gore's "lukewarm" response to the threat of international terrorism. Bush also blamed the sluggish economy on Democratic mismanagement. After securing his party's nomination in early 2004, Bush patched his differences with Senator McCain and selected him as his running mate in a strong pro-security ticket. Meanwhile, Gore and Feinstein were renominated as the Democratic standard-bearers, although not without internal challenges: Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, and pacifist Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio entered the Democratic primaries against Gore (probably not... he was incumbent, and why would a pacifist see a reason to run against a president who started no wars? In addition, Lieberman, at least in our timeline, said that even if not chosen to run as vice president, he would have endorsed Gore... I doubt he would have run. And in his 2004 campaign, Gore endorsed Howard Dean. These people all liked Gore honestly, they likely wouldn't run against him) . In November 2004, Bush-McCain beat Gore-Feinstein by 53% to 45% of the vote, ending 16 years of Democratic hegemony at the helm of the country.

Key members of the Gore administration were:

  • Secretaries of State: Madeleine Albright (2001-2003; Joseph Biden (2003-2005)
  • Secretary of Defense: Wesley Clark (2001-05)
  • Attorney Generals: Jaime Gorelick (2001-03); John Conyers (2003-05)
  • Secretary of Education: Jim Hunt (2001-05)
  • Secretary of Homeland Security: ? (2001-04), Anthony Zinni (2004-05)
  • National Security Advisor: Sandy Berger (2001-03); Strobe Talbott (03-05)

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