Yes, President Gore would likely have gone to war against Iraq
People often ask me, the so-called "alternative history" guy, "What would have happened in the US and world if Gore had actually become president after the 2000 election?"
I often respond that there are a few different scenarios about whether the events of September 11, 2001 would have occurred. I think not because Gore would have listened to Richard Clarke and John O'Neill, based upon Gore's previous trajectory and the fact that even Clinton found them compelling after the Al Queda attack on the USS Cole in December 2000. Gore would certainly have hardened the airport security around the nation, as European governments did in the summer of 2001. And Gore would certainly have reacted affirmatively to the National Intelligence Estimate of August 2001 that said Bin Laden was "determined" to act against the US inside the US. Therefore, the events of 9/11 would have likely been avoided and the Al Queda guys largely caught or foiled.
However, had Gore been as negligent as Bush Jr. in not listening to Clarke/O'Neill, not hardening airport security and not listening to the NIE, the Republican Congress would have impeached Gore and possibly Lieberman, though Lieberman would have likely turned on Gore early in those proceedings. Dramatic, yes? But the first Jewish president, President Lieberman, is definitely within the realm of possibility. That's doubly funny because Lieberman was the first to push Gore to concede the race against Bush, and would not give up his Senate seat in Connecticut to run hedge-free with Gore.
Anyway, and either way, though, President Gore more likely than not invades Iraq in 2002 or 2003. Why, you scream? He opposed that war. Yes, the Gore who was bearded, bloated, depressed-and-thinking-about-Dad's idealism and anti-war stances, did oppose that war. But the Gore who becomes president keeps hanging with and listening to hawks in official DC, who were bloodlusting to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Marty Peretz as a Gore adviser, and again...Lieberman and people like Woolsey and other neo-cons. Gore was an original neo-con in terms of foreign policy, going back to the 1980s and all through the 1990s.
Some differences with Bush, though: I think Gore would have fought off and eventually agreed to lower tax cuts, and maybe more targeted tax cuts for the top 2% of income earners. With lower deficits, and less accumulated debt during most of his years as president, he would have better protected Social Security--kept that institution in the much ridiculed "lockbox" he talked about during the 2000 campaign. He would not have crafted or sold the Medicare Part B debacle. That is another thing that would avoid lots of government red ink, though the Iraq War is a giant sucking cost.
President Gore would announce support for more environmental regulation, but would not fight for it any harder than he did during his Vice Presidency years under Clinton--where fuel efficiency in motor vehicles went down for the first time since the enactment of such laws in the early 1970s.
Remember, under President Gore, the Republicans maintain control of Congress. Even in 2006. For Gore had learned to be a Clintonian triangulator, running as much against his own base and Democrats in Congress, as Republicans. And that means, "Well, the Republicans keep me from doing good things, so you'll just have to vote for me compared to those other guys..." We know the drill, Mr. President, we would say with our eyebrows etched in a face full of sarcasm.
The housing bubble would continue unabated because the financial industry will have its hooks deep into Gore, the way they have it into Obama, Hillary, Biden, you name 'em, they got 'em. And Greenspan would remain the Federal Reserve Board Chairman, so that means not much structural change in terms of our economy.
I decided to blog about this because of this new article in Salon.com where the author agrees with me about President Gore likely invading Iraq. He notes the same names, starting with Lieberman and Peretz, though he could have added Woolsey, who would quickly ingratiate himself with President Gore in most any scenario.
In short, President Gore would have been an improvement over Bush Jr. in terms of basic bankers' oriented stewardship of our nation. And we should give President Gore kudos for stopping the 9/11 hijackers, even as Republicans would continue their drive for Arab-American votes that had begun in earnest in the late 1990s--so they would have been screaming about the innocence of the guys arrested in the multiple plots scheduled for September 11...You know, the way the Republicans in the Congress sounded like Chomsky when attacking Clinton for bombing Serbia and Kosovo in 1998.:-)
This is a fun exercise, but it has less portent than analyzing alternative scenarios for the focal point year of 1968 and with as charismatic and transformational a guy as RFK...