— The Erimtan Angle —

Political analyst and “all-round good guy” Jeff Greenfield talk about his new book 43*: When Gore Beat Bush, available for just $1.99.  

As counterfactual history and alternate realities go, this book seems like an ultimate warning against a vote for Mittens, the successor George W. Bush would like to call his own. The reviewer Barton Swaim opines that, given an ability to ignore “some of the author’s unstated assumptions, Mr. Greenfield’s book is easily worth a couple bucks. His best recurring gag is that public figures still say the sorts of things they’re known for saying, only in dramatically altered circumstances. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, for instance, writes the words: “As my cabdriver told me, in an age when the world is flat, any report of discord in our wounded land will only inspire our enemies.” But any satirical edge is undermined by Mr. Greenfield’s rather too facile faith in Mr. Gore’s abilities. Here President Gore has the most prescient lines, none of the humorless angularity of the actual Al Gore, and makes all the “right” decisions, including heeding the counsel of Richard Clarke—who appears almost as heroic as he portrayed himself to be in his own book, “Against All Enemies”—by assassinating Osama bin Laden before the attacks. Surprisingly, though, the planes are still hijacked on Sept. 11, and by sheer bad luck United 93 even leaves on time and reaches its target. Blame President Gore, who had improved airline efficiency”.[1]  

Here’s an excerpt: 

“President Gore strode into the House chamber as the senators, representatives, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, chiefs of staff, and a gallery of notables stood and cheered. It was February 27, 2001, and the new president would be making his first appearance at a joint session of Congress since presiding over the counting of Electoral College votes that had made him president seven weeks earlier. He had come here with a message, and a presentation, designed to put him squarely within the broad middle of American politics. 

The president’s box was dotted with “Skutniks,” guests the president could point to as living representatives of the points he was making. (They were so named because in 1982 President Reagan had invited Lenny Skutnik, who had rescued one of the passengers of an airplane that had crashed in the Potomac River, to sit in the gallery during the State of the Union address.) Some had served the same purpose during Gore’s 2000 acceptance speech at the Democratic convention: Jacqueline Johnson, from St. Louis, burdened by the cost of prescription drugs, and Mildred Nystel, who left welfare for a job, aided by the Earned Income Tax Credit. Others were new faces: Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco executive who had blown the whistle on the industry’s efforts to hide the impact of cigarette smoking, and one more person, whose identity was not disclosed until the speech itself and who would shortly come to symbolize the Gore administration’s most singular, least celebrated achievement.

Most of Gore’s speech was a study in caution. The president proposed a half-trillion-dollar tax cut, directed at the business community and all but the wealthiest; another half-trillion from the impending surplus went to shoring up the Social Security and Medicare trust funds; four hundred billion more went to paying down the national debt. (This last triggered a dustup among Gore’s economic team, with chief economic advisor Paul Krugman warning, “If we wipe out the debt completely, we have no lines of credit; you guys need to go back and see what Alexander Hamilton had to say about that.”)

The president proposed a health-care policy that was distinctly small-bore, lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to sixty-two—God knows he could afford that, with trillions of dollars in surpluses incoming in the next decade—and if Ted Kennedy was caught by the cameras grumbling to Senator Chuck Schumer about “another damn Eisenhower Republican posing as a Democrat,” well, that was just fine with Gore’s political team.

And, just as he had promised members of the Congressional Rural Caucus, there was a $10 billion down payment to make broadband a national reality.

“My dad was the chief Senate sponsor of the Interstate Highway System,” Gore reminded the Congress, “and I intend to be the champion of the Interstate Information Superhighway. Maybe I didn’t invent the Internet, but I darn well intend to improve it.”

It was toward the end of his speech when Gore turned to a subject that had not been mentioned in the daylong briefings given to prominent journalists by White House staffers.

“Our eyes have been focused here at home,” he said soberly. “An understandable focus with the Cold War gone and the specter of nuclear war a fading memory. But we must never forget that there are forces around the globe that wish us ill and are prepared to kill as many as they can, with no regard for innocent life.

“Terrorism is the enemy of our generation, and we must prevail against it. America will remain a target, because we are uniquely present in the world, because we have taken a tougher stand against terrorism, and because we are the most open society on earth. But that very openness demands vigilance—the kind of vigilance demonstrated by a brave, determined customs inspector, Diana Dean, who stopped a man named Ahmed Ressam as he was on his way, in an auto loaded with explosives, to attack the Los Angeles airport on Millennium Eve. Diana,” Gore said, gesturing to the gallery, “we owe you and your colleagues a profound debt of gratitude.” And when the applause died down, he added, “I want to say to anyone, anywhere in the world, with malevolent intentions toward our country or any of our friends and allies: We will protect ourselves by finding you before you can turn your evil intentions into evil deeds. This is not a threat—it is a promise.”

The applause that greeted this statement was loud but compulsory, reflecting the belief of the audience that the president was offering up a platitude with all the heft of cotton candy. But in the packed House chamber, barely half a dozen knew that this was one promise President Gore fully intended to keep”.[2] 


[1] Barton Swaim, “E-Reading: President Gore: A Look Back” The Wall Street Journal (14 September 2012). http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444709004577649553834708574.html.

[2] “43* (Excerpt) by Jeff Greenfield” Byliner (September 2012). http://byliner.com/jeff-greenfield/stories/43-excerpt.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: