The man who might have been—and could still become—President

David Remnick in The New Yorker:

Al_gore_snl“Saturday Night Live” is erratic in middle age but rarely cruel. An exception came late last spring, when, at the stroke of eleven-thirty, an NBC announcer gravely told the American people to stand by for a “message from the President of the United States,” and Al Gore, surrounded by Oval Office knickknacks, came into focus to deliver what could best be described as an interim report from a parallel, and happier, galaxy. President Gore reviewed some of his actions and their unintended consequences:

In the last six years we have been able to stop global warming. No one could have predicted the negative results of this. Glaciers that once were melting are now on the attack. As you know, these renegade glaciers have already captured parts of upper Michigan and northern Maine. But I assure you: we will not let the glaciers win.

Nor was this the only problem. Although Social Security had been repaired, the cost had been high: the budget surplus was “down to a perilously low eleven trillion dollars.” The price of gas had dropped to nineteen cents a gallon, and the oil companies were hurting. (“I know that I am partly to blame by insisting that cars run on trash.”) After winning the plaudits of a grateful world—and turning Afghanistan into a premier “spring-break destination”—Americans could no longer risk travelling abroad, for fear of “getting hugged.” Even the national pastime was in danger. “But,” Gore added hopefully, “I have faith in baseball commissioner George W. Bush when he says, ‘We will find the steroid users if we have to tap every phone in America!’ ”

The cruelty here was not to Gore, who probably requires no prompting to brood now and then about what might have been, but to the audience. It is worse than painful to reflect on how much better off the United States and the world would be today if the outcome of the 2000 election had been permitted to correspond with the wishes of the electorate.

More here.

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