It was December. In a move that stunned the country and his four conservative colleagues on the bench even more, Justice Kennedy held to his legal beliefs in states rights and broke with the other conservatives on the court to allow Florida to recount all the votes in the Bush/Gore election. They were counted every which way they could be, using every standard of hanging chads, spoiled ballots, intent, every measure that satisfied both sides of the aisle. And every which way they were counted, Gore won by at least 130 or so votes (this part isn’t a dream; it’s just that the votes weren’t recounted until almost a year later by a newspaper consortium).
The week after President Gore was inaugurated, Richard Clarke got a meeting with him and begged for a high level meeting on Al Qaeda. Gore said to make it so, and after the meeting required that the various intelligence agencies share all information on Al Qaeda between themselves.
In August President Gore saw his daily briefing saying that Al Qaeda was determined to attack inside the United States. Gore ordered all hands on deck and a doubling down on listening for chatter. Someone suggested they check flight schools. Someone asked what to look for. Someone else said, I don’t know, people from the Middle East who only seem to care about how to fly planes and not to land them.
Two weeks later several tips came through, and the FBI raided two terror cells and captured 11 of the terrorists, finding plans in their apartment, along with box cutter knives. Airports were put on alert to be extra careful with screening, particularly for box cutting knives. The morning of September 11, the remaining terrorists were captured in the airports before they got on airplanes. Plans and box cutters were found, and when their residences were searched they found additional incriminating evidence.
In the following days reports leaked out of a thwarted terrorist plot to fly planes into the White House and Pentagon. The reports went largely unnoticed by the public, and the country was never really aware of what had been averted.
The economy sputtered for a while, and then President Gore went to work on the core accomplishment of his presidency; sweeping climate change legislation. With government incentives (just as had worked to build the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century) solar and wind farms began to spring up, a smart grid started to take shape. The economy boomed with all the new jobs around clean energy. By the first year of Gore’s second term, the levels of carbon in the atmosphere had stopped increasing and showed signs that they could start to come down to the survivable level of 350 ppm.
Tensions in the Middle East began to ease as the price of oil went down, diminishing the power of those oil rich countries. Saddam Hussein was forced out by a populace uprising. As our economy boomed, the deficit was paid down and the Republicans lost their favorite talking point.
China even took notice and following America’s lead scaled back their use of coal (still growing, but they were starting to move in the right direction) and joined in full force the new renewable energy economy, turning their attention to building wind and solar farms.
Then my alarm went off and I awoke. Over breakfast I flipped on the news and saw clips of Dick Cheney recounting how desperately he had wanted to go to war with Iran, and how bitterly disappointed he was that he couldn’t convince Bush or anyone else in the administration to go along with him.