Having written several books that span periods of years, I’m often surprised how patterns emerge that aren’t apparent to me in day-to-day news coverage. In Neck Deep, our new book about George W. Bush’s presidency, one of those surprises was how often former Vice President Al Gore turned up making tragically prescient comments.

Gore, whose admirers sometimes call him “the Goracle,” comes across more as a Cassandra, warning the nation of looming disasters and finding himself either ignored or mocked by the dominant politicians and media pundits.

Time and again – from Campaign 2000 to the post-9/11 “war on terror” to the invasion of Iraq to Bush’s expansion of presidential powers – Gore pointed to grave dangers when nearly all other national political leaders and media bigwigs were either running with the herd or keeping silent.

In our daily coverage of those political developments at Consortiumnews.com, we’d run stories citing Gore’s speeches, but it wasn’t until we pulled together the book that Gore’s extraordinary role jumped out.

Though there were a few other political leaders who made prophetic comments, such as Sen. Robert Byrd in his pre-Iraq War speeches on the Senate floor, none was as consistently on target as Al Gore.

Indeed, a poignant aspect of Neck Deep is the recognition that a less hostile press treatment of Gore during Campaign 2000 or a full-and-fair recount of votes in Florida after Election 2000 might have put the United States on a very different track.

Hearing Gore’s nuanced advice about how to proceed after the 9/11 attacks, why invading Iraq made little sense or what are the proper limits of presidential power, you can’t help but wonder where the United States would be now if the popular will of the American voters had been respected in November-December 2000.

There’s a good chance that more than 3,700 American soldiers would be alive today, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The United States also might not be faced with the horrible choice of either continuing an open-ended occupation of Iraq or withdrawing troops with the prospect of a sectarian war engulfing the Middle East.

Even if Gore and his national security team could not have prevented the 9/11 attacks – and there’s a case to be made that they might have – President Gore surely would have focused American retaliation on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, not left the job half done and gone after Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.

Gore didn’t buy into the neoconservative agenda of invading Muslim countries to impose regime change designed to bring those governments in line with Israel’s goals for the region. Though a supporter of Israel who picked Sen. Joe Lieberman as his vice presidential running mate, Gore kept the neocon agenda at arm’s length.

Gore also didn’t share Dick Cheney’s agenda of establishing an imperial presidency that could ride roughshod over the rule of law, the constitutional checks and balances, and the inalienable rights of American citizens.

Like no other American politician, Gore perceived the challenges and the opportunities of the 21st century. He recognized the potential of the technological revolution and understood the threat of uncontrolled climate change.

Despite some weaknesses as a politician – he certainly lacked Bill Clinton’s glibness and George W. Bush’s swagger – Gore might have been a near ideal leader for the start of the new Millennium. And one could argue that the American people made that judgment by giving Gore a narrow plurality in the popular vote.

But, as Neck Deep explores, deep-seated problems in the U.S. political process and the U.S. news media kept Campaign 2000 close enough so Bush could exploit irregularities in Florida’s balloting to snake away with its electoral votes and thus the White House.

Now, as the nation is poised at the starting line for another presidential race, the same failings are still there. The tragic lessons of recent American history remain little understood by either the broad public or the political elite.

One of the chief reasons for writing Neck Deep was to place the troubling events of the George W. Bush era in the fullest historical context possible, a perspective informed by original investigative journalism that explodes some popular myths and spotlights many crucial facts that will change how people understand these extraordinary years.

Our hope is that an American public, armed with enough information, will not tolerate the kind of distorted political process that overturned the popular will in Election 2000 and launched the nation on a disastrous course.

(Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush is available both at the publisher’s Web site, http://www.neckdeepbook.com, and at Amazon.com. If you buy the book through the publisher’s Web site, $5 will be rebated to Consortiumnews.com to help defray the costs of the site's original news articles and investigative journalism.)

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there.

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