A reader writes:

You wrote:

"My only real regret is Bush in 2000. I trusted Bush's incompetence over Gore's insufferable ego. But I suspect that with the invasion of Iraq, the end-result would have been the same. They both would have gone in on false pretenses. And would have failed for similar reasons."

Is it possible to find a worse moment of self-justification, of self-absolution and post-hoc rationalization, than this? So Gore, the one major political figure to publicly oppose the Iraq War before its start, who had nothing to do with the neocons and had been part of an administration that focused with urgency during its waning days on the problem of Al Qaeda -- Gore is just as likely to invade Iraq as W? "The end-result is likely the same"? This is absurd on its face.

Gore would certainly have invaded Afghanistan, as any American President would have -- and then done nation-building, competently, during the critical period as was consistent with his foreign policy statements and advisers in 2000. A Gore foreign policy cabinet would have been entirely different than Bush's, and you know it. There would not have been the neocon-nationalist alliance that provided the key faction in favor of war in Mesopotamia.

I know you have some visceral dislike of Gore; you think this "ManBearPig" nonsense is somehow relevant, rather than petulant; you seem to have imbibed a meme minted c. 1999 by a bored and malignant gang of Press Courtiers, that Gore is unbearably arrogant and mendacious and a legitimate target of scorn (unlike that compassionate, would-like-to-have-a-beer-with fella' from Texas). And so it seems that you did indeed vote (or rather endorse) in 2000 based on personality. You could at least own up to this as an unmitigated error, rather than entertain us with unlikely counter-factuals.

Yes, I did endorse on personality in 2000 - along with Bush's fraudulent campaign as a moderate - and I have owned up to the error. I guess my sense is that Gore opposed the Iraq war in part out of bitterness. If you look at Gore's record - and at TNR, I was hardly unaware of it - it was full of extreme vigilance about Saddam, willingness to use military force for moral ends (as in Bosnia), and completely conventional neocon views on the Middle East. I can absolutely see him going to war against Saddam if goaded sufficiently. Maybe he would have been persuaded by the intelligence that we didn't actually have the goods on WMDs; maybe his hawkishness would have waned in office as it did in opposition. But knowing Gore, I stick with my point. In office, I suspect he would have been much closer to my position on invasion at the time than he was.

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