2001: A Timeline of What Could Have Been
(This is an updated version of an old post of mine over at the old version of my blog; it lost all its formatting and links when Blogger switched formats. I decided that with all the talk of President Gore lately, it was time to revive and revisit it.)
Ever wonder how the last six-odd years might have gone, had all the votes been counted in 2000?
I'd like to think that they might have gone something like this…
December 1, 2000: After a night on the town and too much lobster in champagne sauce, Sandra Day O'Connor has a horrifically vivid dream of how the ascension of George W. Bush to the Oval Office would mean the destruction of the American economy, the senseless deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, the loss of American prestige both at home and abroad, and — worst of all — the utter dissolution of her beloved Republican Party as, upon being deserted by even the corporate media, it suffers a series of definitive electoral ass-kickings in 2006, 2008, and 2010 before giving up the ghost. She goes on to provide the swing vote that allows the Florida count to continue, thus guaranteeing that Al Gore's election is confirmed. Media pundits attack O'Connor so viciously that she decides to retire three weeks later.
January 20, 2001: Albert Arnold Gore, Jr., is sworn in as the forty-third President of the United States of America. His election is widely condemned in the press as illegitimate despite his solid majorities in both the popular and electoral votes, and despite his high approval ratings.
January – February, 2001: Not wanting to waste time trying to get his nominees past a hostile Republican Congress, and not feeling the need for much housecleaning in any event, Gore leaves in place his cabinet, as well as the entire national security team he inherited from the previous administration. He also continues the submarine watch that his predecessor Bill Clinton had set to electronically monitor the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and his group Al-Qaeda in their base in Afghanistan.
Even though Al-Qaeda has been linked to the failed 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, most media outlets choose to ignore this fact, preferring to refer to bin Laden merely as a "Saudi Arabian financier". Media pundits mock Gore for what they as his paranoiac "wag the dog" efforts to distract attention from various alleged scandals from his tenure as Vice President.
February through April, 2001: The members of the Republican Congress, with the US corporate media backing them up, start a barrage of conservative legislation — tax cuts for the rich, gutting environmental laws, et cetera — that they plan to browbeat Gore into signing. President Gore vetoes each bill and the vetoes are sustained. He is called "obstructionist" by Tucker Carlson, Robert Novak, and the spokespersons of the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth, and the American Nazi Party.
April 1, 2001: As part of the Republican Congress' campaign to sabotage the new President's legislative initiatives, former Reagan and Bush administration officials Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz are called forth from their corporate boards to attack Gore's request that Congress move to pass laws freezing Osama bin Laden's assets. Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz, who are all members of a shadowy group known as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), accuse Gore of ignoring what they claim is a grave threat emanating from Iraq's Saddam Hussein in favor of "casting aspersions against a respected member of the worldwide financial community", meaning bin Laden.
April 5, 2001: Scandal-plagued Louis Freeh, a Republican judge who Bill Clinton had appointed as FBI Director as an olive branch to the GOP, abruptly resigns from office before he could be fired. In return for Gore's not charging him with any crimes, the Republican Congress allows Gore's nominee, former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, to replace Freeh at the cost of only a week's worth of haranguing on the Senate floor.
May 5, 2001: National Security chief Sandy Berger, at the urging of his staffers John O'Neill and Richard Clarke, presents President Gore with a PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) warning of imminent plans by bin Laden to attack New York, America's financial center, with hijacked commercial jets used as flying bombs. The suspicion is that Al-Qaeda will try to succeed where they had failed eight years earlier and attack the World Trade Center. Gore consults with former Senators Gary Hart (D-CO) and Warren Rudman (R-NH), who chaired a terrorism commission formed by President Clinton in the late 1990s; they concur with the PDB's findings.
May 6, 2001: In response to the May 5 PDB, Gore orders the FAA to implement the proposals made by his 1996 commission on airport security, but which the Democratic party had backed away from after the airlines had protested. Northwest and Delta Airlines further weaken their precarious financial states by buying millions of dollars of radio ads depicting the new procedures as wasteful and costly to the air traveler. Gore, per O'Neill's and Clarke's recommendations, also orders the FAA to watch for Middle Eastern students at flight schools who are interested only in steering planes, not in performing takeoffs or landings. On his syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh proclaims that "Crazy Al Gore is out to kill off the airline industry!"
June 1, 2001: Republican Senators James Jeffords and Lincoln Chaffee, disgusted with the demagoguery of the GOP, switch parties and become Independents who inhabit the Democratic Senate Caucus. This throws control of the Senate into Democratic hands.
June 5, 2001: Jobless numbers for the month of April fall by 300,000, continuing a strong pattern of job growth that Gore inherited from Clinton. New numbers from the Office of Management and Budget indicate that Gore's fiscal policies are paying down the Federal debt faster than predicted. Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, noting that the soft economic landing of 1999 and 2000 had been followed by the dramatic rise of the stock market in the first months of the Gore term, warns yet again to beware of "irrational exuberance".
July 10, 2001: Kenneth Williams, an 11-year veteran of the counter-terrorism squad of the FBI in Phoenix, notifies FBI Headquarters that several Saudi, Algerian, United Arab Emirates and Pakistani flight school students in his area could be followers of Osama bin Laden, and that they might be terrorists learning how to fly so that they could hijack a passenger plane. After interrogating several of them and noting their hostility to the United States, he recognized that these students were suspiciously well informed about security measures at American airports. He suggested that the FBI conduct a nationwide survey of Arab students who were attending American flight schools; Director Nunn, after consulting with Sandy Berger, agrees.
August 10, 2001: Coleen Rowley, an FBI agent in the Bureau's Minneapolis offices, is contacted by John Rosengren of the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Eagan, Minnesota. Rosengren informs her that a student at the academy is not interested in learning takeoffs or landings. Rowley investigates the man's background, and discovers through French intelligence services that the student, Moroccan-born French and British resident Zacharias Moussaoui, has connections to Al-Qaeda. She orders his arrest and informs her superiors of her findings, which are passed on to Berger, O'Neil and Clarke.
August 13, 2001: Moussaoui, under FBI questioning, reveals key details of an Al-Qaeda plot scheduled for next month to attack the Pentagon, the White House and the World Trade Center. These details are corroborated by the testimony of the students Williams had interviewed in Phoenix a month earlier.
August – early September, 2001: Dozens of students at flight schools are arrested in a major FBI operation. Thirteen of these students turn out to be directly involved in what will come to be called "the September Plot".
September 11, 2001: At the Houston, LAX and Minneapolis International airports, seven Saudi and Algerian men were forbidden from boarding their flights after airport security personnel found box cutters, wire and other banned items on their persons. These men turn out to be the remnants of the band of Al-Qaeda's September Plotters; all the others had been caught in the FBI's sweep of the flight schools.
Armed with this evidence, Gore demands and gets Congressional authorization to send US troops to Afghanistan. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough ridicules the idea that "idiots with box cutters" could take over an airliner. Rush Limbaugh claims that "Gore is sending our young men and women off on a wild goose chase." Bill O'Reilly, William Kristol, and Ann Coulter demand that Gore invade Iraq, even though none of the would-be hijackers is Iraqi or has any connection to Iraq or to Saddam Hussein.
September 12, 2001: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan agrees to a call by Madeline Albright, US Ambassdor to the UN, for an international force to enter Afghanistan to root out Al-Qaeda. France and Britain, whose intelligence services have worked closely with US intelligence agencies, strongly back the Gore Administration's position as copious evidence of planned Al-Qaeda attacks in Europe has come to light. To buttress further the case for invasion, well-documented human rights abuses committed by Afghanistan's Taliban government, which is allied with Al-Qaeda, are brought forth as evidence.
PNAC's Donald Rumsfeld, while taking care not to seem to oppose the planned intervention in Afghanistan, goes onto Rush Limbaugh's radio program to complain that even though Afghanistan's terrain is ruggedly mountainous and therefore has proved to be historically less vulnerable to aerial attacks than other, flatter nations, recent developments in high-tech weaponry mean that the US need not send quite so many troops Kabul's way — and besides, the real problem is in Iraq!
September 16, 2001: 150,000 UN-led troops, 100,000 of whom are US forces, leave for Afghanistan. Saddam Hussein, who as a secularist Muslim leader despises Osama bin Laden and is in any event eager to get back in the world's good graces, assists in setting up staging areas in Iraq for the UN. In Teheran, Iran's moderate leadership, which needs the help of the world community in beating back the conservative mullahs, agrees to let UN troops and planes pass through Iran unhindered.
November 8, 2001: The first battle of the Al-Qaeda War is started.
November 18, 2001: Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants are killed at Tora Bora after a weeklong battle. Afghanistan's Taliban government, backed against a wall, agrees to step down; the UN troops will remain in Afghanistan until a civilian government is formed. This ends the Al-Qaeda War.
President Gore and the UN announce a New Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. Aid and aid workers, protected by the large troop presence, flow into the country. On NBC's Meet the Press, PNAC's Dick Cheney, while applauding the death of bin Laden and the destruction of Al-Qaeda, complains that by allowing Iraq and Iran to assist in the effort, President Gore "has weakened America's moral authority".
November 26, 2001: Federal charges are brought against Kenneth Lay and other employees of the energy giant Enron over seven deaths that occurred in California over the summer due to heat stroke. The victims, all of whom lived in parts of California which had privatized their power utilities, had stopped paying their electric bills when the charges topped $20,000 per month apiece due to deliberate and illegal price and supply manipulations by Enron and other private energy firms. MSNBC's Chris Matthews accuses the Federal government of overreaching; FOX's Sean Hannity claims that "Enron is being punished by the Socialist Al Gore for daring to prove that capitalism works."
December 4, 2001: The investigation into Enron's price manipulation reveals that, far from being a titanic moneymaker, Enron and its accounting firm Arthur Andersen relied on heavily-cooked books to create what one Enron employee would later describe as "illusory profits". Enron, which was the darling of the pro-privatization movement and which employed several prominent Republican military-industrial complex activists such as Thomas White, promptly collapses in a flurry of lawsuits.
January 22, 2002: President Gore in his State of the Union speech informs the American people that the nation is more prosperous than ever, and that more Americans than ever before are sharing in that prosperity. Gore also touts the success in foiling the September Plot and in tracking down and punishing "despoilers of the public trust" such as the crooks behind Enron.
He also announces a plan, based on the one implemented in Vermont by Governor Howard Dean, to bring universal health care to Americans under the age of eighteen, and affordable health care to all adult Americans. This plan, created with assistance from Gore's Vice President, Joe Lieberman, relies on strengthening the existing health insurance programs run by the states and uniting them into one cooperative network. Republican Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott calls the
plan "yet another example of Democrats trying the same old kinds of failed government programs." Private insurance companies immediately start a multi-million-dollar TV and radio ad campaign denouncing the plan as "something that will destroy America's high standard of health care."
March 2, 2002: PNAC member and Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney is under investigation by a Federal grand jury for using shell companies to have oil dealings with Iran despite former President Clinton's 1996 Executive Order forbidding this. Fellow PNAC member Ahmad Chalabi, who is a convicted embezzler, denounces the action as "a naked attempt to silence a great humanitarian and his calls for a free Iraq." Cheney will eventually be convicted and be sentenced to ten years in prison, while his company Halliburton will pay a $500,000 fine.
May 1, 2002: The first troop withdrawals occur as a stable civil government is formed in Afghanistan, thanks to the New Marshall Plan and its emphasis on fixing the country's infrastructure.
November 5, 2002: The Miracle of 1998 — where for the first time in nearly two hundred years, the party of a sitting president gained seats in the second-term mid-term elections — is repeated, and the Democrats gain firm control of both Houses of Congress. Among the re-elected Democrats is Senator Paul Wellstone, who chose not to go on a charter flight one day before the plane he was to have taken crashed in a snowy field in northern Minnesota. Exit polling showed that American contentment with the continuing Clinton-era prosperity, combined with a successful fight against terror and the Enron and Cheney scandals, helped put the Democrats over the top. Religious-right leader Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation laments the "pervasive immorality" in American culture that fostered such a result.
January 20, 2003: In his State of the Union speech, President Gore welcomes the new Democratic Congress and states that his first order of business will be to ask that Congress to pass "The Eisenhower Plan", which reinstates the Eisenhower-era taxation levels on those making over $200,000 a year. The resulting increase in tax revenue will wipe out all of the National Debt within five years and enable, among other things, the financing of the proposed universal child health care plan. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, reviving Newt Gingrich's 1993 anti-tax battle cry, claims that this will kill the American economy in six months if passed.
February 17-20, 2003: The Eisenhower Plan passes both Houses of Congress on party-line votes.
March 3-5, 2003: Gore's universal health care plan for children passes both Houses on party-line votes. Crossfire's Pat Buchanan decries this as "Socialism run amok."
April 5, 2003: Having waited for over two years for this moment, President Gore nominates renowned Constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe to take Sandra Day O'Connor's spot on the Supreme Court. After two weeks of hearings, he is confirmed on a party-line vote. Dr. James Dobson states that "with the nation's highest court overrun by secular humanists, the End Times must be at hand."
May 9, 2003: The final US-led troops leave Afghanistan; a token UN peacekeeping force remains to safeguard the new schools for girls from the few remaining Taliban holdouts.
The General Accounting Office releases figures showing that the total cost of the Al-Qaeda War and the subsequent occupation and rebuilding of Afghanistan was $20 billion. Congressional Republicans raise a stink about the excessive cost; Gore informs them that if he had invaded Iraq, as they had wished, the cost would have been one hundred times that, both in money and lives.
January 23, 2004: In his State of the Union Address, President Gore describes the success of both the new Afghan government and the new universal child health care plan. Public opinion polls give him a 70% approval rating.
March 8, 2004: Backed with the assurance of continued Federal money from FEMA (which President Gore kept as a separate Cabinet-level agency despite calls from Republicans to abolish it), work on the repair of the levees of New Orleans is accelerated.
September 7, 2004: Levee repairs and strengthening are completed in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities.
November 5, 2004: President Gore handily wins re-election. Democrats have solid control of both Houses of Congress. The role of the nascent progressive media, including the liberal part of the "blogosphere" and the rise of Air America and Democracy Radio, are credited with aiding Gore's chances.
December 15, 2004: In exchange for his aid in rooting out Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and his sons Uday and Qusay are encouraged by Gore and by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter to work out a plan for Iraq's transition to a secular democracy after Hussein's death, with Hussein and his sons in pivotal roles on the democracy commission. American conservatives immediately decry this as "appeasement", whereas Iraq-based observers congratulate Gore, Clinton and Carter for working on a plan to stave off the horrifically bloody civil war that would likely follow Saddam's death or removal from power.
January 25, 2005: As he basks in 75% approval ratings, President Gore's first SOTU after winning re-election focuses on the continuing Clinton Boom, the rapidly shrinking deficits, the success of the Lieberman-Dean universal child health care plan, and the steady growth of the economy, particularly in terms of jobs with living wages.
President Gore then announces a bold new initiative: He plans to expand the Lieberman-Dean plan to cover all adults as well. Insurance companies immediately roll out new "Harry and Louise" ads condemning Gore as the Antichrist.
February 5, 2005: Gore's expansion of the Lieberman-Dean plan passes both Houses of Congress on party-line votes.
March 3, 2005: Terri Schiavo, a woman left without any higher brain functions after a heart attack in 1990 destroyed most of her cerebral cortex, passes away quietly at a hospice in Florida.
From 2001 through 2004, Jeb Bush — Florida's then-governor — had blocked several court orders to remove her feeding tube. However, Jeb Bush was forced to resign in late 2004 on the heels of several different corruption and malfeasance indictments. The Schiavo case, along with the breaking news of born-again Christian Tom DeLay's corrupt involvement with prominent GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff (an Orthodox Jew and former yeshiva owner who used the public appearance of piety to facilitate his misdeeds), starts a public discussion on the hypocrisy of the religious right.
June 6, 2005: On the 61st anniversary of D-Day, President Gore announces "E-D-O-Day", marking the start of his push for ending American dependence on gasoline-fueled transportation. Republicans, particularly those from Texas and Lousisana, complain bitterly that "Gore is trying to starve us to death" even as companies like Shell and Texaco pull in record profits.
August 26, 2005: Hurricane Katrina, having hit Florida, sets its sights on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. FEMA's James Witt, with President Gore's full approval, had been in Florida since August 20; his proactive response is credited with keeping Katrina's Florida death toll to only six persons. Even as he coordinates the Florida FEMA effort, Witt directs Gulf Coast Air National Guard bases to have C-130 cargo planes filled with sandbags, food, water and other supplies to be sent to those areas in Katrina's path.
August 29, 2005: Katrina hits Louisiana and Mississippi as a Category Three hurricane. Flooding kills seventeen persons, but forecasters say that it could have had a far deadlier impact if the wetlands and marshes protecting New Orleans — marshes that under Clinton and Gore were protected and growing, after decades of shrinking at the hands of developers — did not exist. The newly-refurbished levees in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities hold firm; life is expected to return to normal inside of a week.
September 3, 2005: Chief Justice William Rehnquist dies after a long battle with throat cancer.
September 5, 2005: The port of New Orleans reopens after repairing the damage from Hurricane Katrina.
September 29, 2005: President Gore nominates Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle to replace Ginsburg as Associate Justice.
October 24, 2005: The Senate confirms the nominations of Earle and Ginsburg along party-line votes.
January 31, 2006: In his State of the Union address, President Gore touts the success of the Lieberman-Dean universal health care plan and thanks the Big Three auto makers for putting their weight behind it. (The auto makers backed the bill because it saved them immense amounts of money — $1300 per car, in Ford's case — and their support caused the rest of the business community to fall into line.)
April 1, 2006: President Gore starts his first official blog; he posts an average of once a week from his BlackBerry. Members of the burgeoning progressive part of the blogging community, or "blogosphere", are suspicious at first but later hail the move.
August 8, 2006: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 5.3% growth in real wages over the last two years since the implementation of the Eisenhower Plan. This is the first growth in real wages since 1970. Congressional and Senate Democrats, buoyed by the news, tout it in their midterm campaign literature; Michael "Savage" Weiner, on his syndicated radio show, claims that the Bureau's economists are "Communist smegma" who need "the doucheing of real capitalism".
November 7, 2006: The Democrats do well at the polls, further cementing control of Congress.
January 26, 2007: In his State of the Union address, President Gore calls on Congress to pass legislation to restore various kinds of oversight that had been lost during the Reagan and Bush administrations. Chief among his requests: The revival of the Fairness Doctrine. FOX News' Roger Ailes and most of the right-wing AM radio talk-show hosts protest loudly.
February 2, 2007: The Fairness Doctrine becomes the law of the land once again.
April 2, 2007: As the end of his last term in office approaches, President Gore, during an interview by Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake.com, states that "I wouldn't have traded these last six years for anything. I think we've got a lot done for America, and, if I might be so bold to suggest it, the rest of the world as well."