In a galaxy far, far away… and yet…
INTERVIEWER: Mr. President, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me on the eve of your State of the Union Address. Five years into your administration, what do you see as your greatest accomplishment?
PRES. GORE: Well, as a fellow Tennessean, I would LIKE to say my greatest accomplishment was in carrying my home state in two presidential elections, ha-ha, given the mess in Florida five years ago, but of course, that would be disingenuous (laughs).
INT: So, seriously, sir….
PRES. GORE: Oh, there's so much to choose from. Election reform, the hydro-solar initiative, which has cut our dependence on foreign oil by 12 percent; the Healthy Children Act, resulting in reduced diabetes and asthma rates for the third year in a row. The progress we've made toward universal healthcare. The resulting decline in abortion rates due to increased childcare and nutrition options. A decade of federal budget surpluses, going back to President Clinton, reforming social security, the compromise we reached permitting increased medical stem cell research, which holds so much promise, the corporate reform act… On the international end, stopping the genocide in Darfur has to rank up there. Empowering the Nunn Commission to purchase all those leftover Soviet nuclear missiles, which were just waiting to be sold on the black market. The fact that we've yet to lose a single American in armed conflict on my watch. Then there's the dramatic worldwide reduction in AIDS. It's hard to narrow it down to just one thing (laughs modestly).
INT: OK, choose three.
PRES. GORE: Well, I was going to say, at the close of the day, the thing Tipper and I both find most gratifying is bringing our country back together after the Florida election mess in 2000. Tipper is constantly reminding me that I'm the president of all the people, not just the majority who voted for me.
INT: And the other one?
PRES. GORE: That would have to be our success in foiling the plot by al-Qaida—I trust you're familiar with that term--to hijack those airplanes back in September of 2001. People scoff, because it's easy to write off the whole episode as much ado about nothing, and I've been accused of exaggerating the threat, but I really believe stopping that plot was our finest moment.
PRES. GORE: Yes, people tend to forget that al-Qaida actually had plans to fly jetliners into the World Trade Center, the White House, the Pentagon and possibly nuclear power plants, but we stopped them, and there's so much credit to go around. From those gumshoe FBI agents in Utah and Minneapolis and Florida who alerted us that Saudis had enrolled in flight schools—to the whistleblowers in the CIA who sniffed out insider elements to this scheme, to the Treasury Department, which noticed the stock market anomalies in early September. Richard Clarke's anti-terrorism group here at the White House deserves a lot of credit, and the generals at NORAD, who scrambled jets to escort the one passenger plane back to safety after it was temporarily hijacked—they all deserve our heartfelt gratitude. Every time I fly into New York, I feel a bracing sense of affirmation when I see those twin towers rising there against the Manhattan skyline. People have a hard time believing a handful of Arabs and a few disgruntled politicos could've actually pulled this off, but ours would be a very different world today had they done so. Not only might thousands of Americans have been killed, but our way of life, our civil liberties, our economy, indeed the harmony of our planet would be at risk. It's still going to require lots of good police work and intelligence to keep America safe, but eventually we'll win by winning the hearts and minds of the people who formerly provided aid and comfort to terrorists.
INT: What else?
PRES. GORE: I'm gratified we were able to reach a compromise on the Kyoto Accords on Global Warming and get that ratified. Who knows, had we not acted when we did, we might one day be watching as oceans swallowed entire cities, particularly around the Gulf of Mexico, where the water absorbs so much heat from the sun. Already our skies and waters are getting cleaner, and there's evidence global warming is measurably slowing. This is something for which future generations will sing our praises.
Next: Part II.