Al Gore

Al Gore Wouldn't Have Invaded Iraq, Third Parties are a Threat to Democracy, and Other New York Times Delusions

Incorrect conventional wisdom never dies.


Brothers of the Military Industrial Complex
The Washington Times/ZUMA Press/Newscom

According to Gail Collins' latest column in The New York Times, Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election and thus enabled the Iraq War because unlike George W. Bush, Gore would have never invaded Iraq. "Case closed," Collins so authoritatively puts it.

While attacking 2016 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein for her quixotic campaign demanding recounts in crucial swing states lost by Hillary Clinton by very small margins, Collins outdoes herself in dispensing conventional wisdom that wilts under just the barest of scrutiny.

Collins muses that "it's definitely possible" Clinton could have received every vote that instead went to Stein and seethes at Stein's insistence that most people who voted for her would have just stayed home without the Green Party on the ballot.

Collins writes:

We had heard something similar from Ralph Nader, whose presence on the ballot in 2000 probably cost Al Gore Florida, and the presidency. On many of Nader's issues, Gore was not great. But the point of the American system of democracy is that in the end, you often have to take the responsibility for choosing the better of two unlovely options. And if Gore had been elected, we wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Case closed.

Hoo boy.

First off, Ralph Nader may have earned far more votes in Florida than Gore would have needed to defeat Bush (and thus, win the presidency) in the Sunshine State, but more than 12 times as many registered Florida Democrats voted for Bush than Nader. Further, Gore didn't even win his home state of Tennessee, which if he had, would have been enough to win the presidency and make Florida's tally irrelevant.

But just like in 2000, when Democrats and sympathetic Top Men and Top Women in media refused to consider Gore ran a terrible campaign, Collins and others want to pin Donald Trump's stunning electoral victory on disobedient voters who rejected the two-party duopoly which produced the two least popular candidates of all time.

Examining exit poll data in the wake of the 2016 election, I noted the lack of enthusiasm for either major party candidate among third party voters:

CBS News' exit poll posed the hypothetical question of who third party voters would support if the race were only Clinton and Trump, and both [Libertarian Party candidate Gary] Johnson and Stein supporters appeared to support Clinton over Trump by about 25 percent to 15 percent. But 55 percent of Johnson's supporters would have just sat out the election, as would 61 percent of Jill Stein supporters. According to New York Times exit polling, a whopping 63 percent of voters who declined to cast their ballot for the two major party candidates said they would have not voted at all in a two candidate race.

Second, it's a howler that Collins is so certain ("Case closed") Gore wouldn't have invaded Iraq, considering he was one of the few Senate Democrats to vote in favor of the first Gulf War, uber-hawk Joe Lieberman was his running mate, and he had spent his entire legislative career as a liberal internationalist consistently supporting military interventions on humanitarian grounds. Gore also defended air strikes in Iraq as Vice President and, as a candidate for president, supported the U.S. policy of removing Saddam Hussein from power which President Clinton made official with the signing of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.

Reason's Matt Welch also found some evidence straight from Gore's mouth boasting of his hawkish bona fides:

In 1996, when Republican nominee Bob Dole criticized Clinton for lobbing cruise missiles into Iraq, Gore retorted, "Sometimes the U.S. has to take unilateral action when our interests are at stake." In May 2000, speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference, Gore bragged on being an Iraq hawk and stressed that "it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone…"

We can play "alternative history" games all day, but it arguably makes less sense to insist Gore would definitely not have invaded Iraq as it would to declare the opposite.

Finally, is it really "the point of the American system of democracy" to choose "the better of two unlovely options"? If that's the point, why not ban third parties, independent candidacies, and write-in votes altogether for the sake of preserving American democracy?

"Serious thinkers" like Collins and Rachel Maddow and Joss Whedon believe that votes cast by independent and third party voters this election rightfully belonged to the Democratic candidate whose strategy for winning them over was not to seriously consider any of their policy concerns, but instead to launch a billionaire-funded multi-million dollar ad campaign meant to shame them.

It's more than a little ironic that Collins' cites the Iraq War as a consequence of those pesky Nader voters in 2000, especially since non-interventionism was a major driving force behind the Libertarian and Green Party candidacies of 2016. With regards to Clinton's campaign in particular, the former secretary of state never missed an opportunity to boast of her foreign policy experience and record of supporting every single U.S. military intervention of the past 25 years.

Perhaps the Democrats could have won a few more of those Green, Libertarian, and independent voters if they hadn't spent so much of 2016 trying to out-hawk Trump and the Republicans on matters of war and civil liberties? Collins won't engage in such nuance, she'd rather simply declare that Stein "screwed up, big time," while Clinton's mistakes go unmentioned.

NEXT: Ask Brian Doherty Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Libertarian Movement

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Why is anyone surprised that Democrat Progressives feel entitled to own what others have?

    1. WINNER in first post.

  2. This just in, Gail Collins is an idiot and a hack.

    *shocked face*

    1. Picture her in a straight jacket yelling at Fox News in an asylum and the article makes more sense.

  3. Welp, now we know who Tony gets his marching orders from.

    1. Hitler?

      1. Google says Gail Collins was born just a few short months after Der Fuhrer ate a bullet in a Berlin bunker, so if you believe in the transmigration of souls, it’s entirely possible.

  4. According to Gail Collins’ latest column in The New York Times

    You had me up to Gail.

  5. Argument by Assertion. Specialty of the house, at the NYT.

    1. They still believe they are a substantive journalistic publication. As opposed to a small minded partisan rag of no special importance.

  6. Even better than the “Gore wouldn’t have gone to Iraq” belief is the absurd notion held by most liberals I know to this day that 9/11 wouldn’t have happened at all and we would have defeated al Qaeda if Al Gore was president.

    1. It’s not like a single Democrat voted in favor of the Iraq invasion.

      Oh, wait…

    2. Since G.W. Bush was talking about invading Iraq before 9/11, something Iraq had nothing to do with, I think it’s a good bet that Gore wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, whether 9/11 happened on his watch or not. Whether Gore would have “defeated” al Qaeda or not is another story, but I think he would at least have focused his attentions on where they actually were (Afghanistan). Of course it can’t be proven, but neither can the opposite.

      1. Or Iraq would have done something else to provoke action during Gore’s tenure
        Or Iraq would have behaved completely differently the whole time, given the fact that a different individual of a different political party was in office
        Or one of Gore’s Cabinet members would have demanded an opportunity to alleviate his throbbing war-boner

        We don’t know what would have happened. Period. Speculating is pointless.

  7. Good stuff, fish.

    But it is a wasted effort. “Narratives” are what matter here. These lies they tell themselves serve a purpose. No one cares about the reality.

  8. “Serious thinkers” like Collins and Rachel Maddow and Joss Whedon believe that votes cast by independent and third party voters this election rightfully belonged to the Democratic candidate whose strategy for winning them over was not to seriously consider any of their policy concerns, but instead to launch a billionaire-funded multi-million dollar ad campaign meant to shame them.

    Hey, serious thinkers: I piss on your notion that my vote “rightfully belonged to the Democratic candidate”. My vote belongs to me.

    1. I refuse to endorse someone who disgusts me. Unless it’s in the bedroom.

    2. I was at the gym last night. The local lib had turned the TVs to MSNBC and CNN. Much to his chagrin, they were playing the Trump speech. When it ended (I wasn’t really paying attention to what he was saying but it was obvious he was having fun) the faces on both networks all looked like they had been sucking lemons for an hour. I almost fell of the elliptical machine laughing.

      Chris Hayes’ and Rachel Maddow’s sad faces were priceless. I may watch every Trump speech on MSNBC.

      1. Thats what you get when you literally think it is impossible for someone to not have exactly the same political opinions as you.

  9. “We can play “alternative history” games all day, but it arguably makes less sense to insist Gore would definitely not have invaded Iraq as it would to declare the opposite.”

    This is absurd.

    The Bush Administration was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq since the moment they got into office.

    I have little doubt but that we would have invaded Afghanistan regardless of who was President, but it is highly unlikely that Al Gore would have made the decision to go into Iraq–over UN objections, the objections of people within his party, and over the objections of countries like France?

    In addition, look to what had to happen for the American people to get behind the invasion:

    “WASHINGTON (AP) ? Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe it is likely that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, says a poll out almost two years after the terrorists’ strike against this country.

    Sixty-nine percent in a Washington Post poll published Saturday said they believe it is likely the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents believe it’s likely Saddam was involved.”…..iraq_x.htm

    That story was published on September 6, 2003–that’s six months AFTER we invaded Iraq.

    1. Heheh…”sixty-nine”…heheheh

    2. Wasn’t Saddam in violation of the UN’s inspection policies? I remember hearing about him thumbing his nose at them and basically telling them to fuck off.

  10. When we invaded Iraq, 69% of the American people believed that Saddam Hussein was personally complicity in 9/11.

    Why did they think that?

    Two reasons:

    1) The anthrax attack.

    Remember when snail mail was important and everyone was afraid to go to the mailbox?

    2) We were told by the Bush Administration that Saddam Hussein was actively collaborating with Al Qaeda and that he had an active WMD program. Bush himself told the American people this. Colin Powell showed the world photos of mobile WMD labs.

    To believe that Al Gore would have invaded Iraq, you’d have to believe that he would drum up public support more or less the same way Bush did and you’d have to believe that Gore would have ignored the condemnation of the international community just like Bush did.

    Sometimes events overtake us. If President Gore hadn’t invaded Afghanistan, he would have been out on his ass in 2004. Sometimes things are elective. George W. Bush didn’t have to bail out Wall Street, he could have just let a few more investment banks go the way of Bear and Lehman. And George W. Bush didn’t have to invade Iraq. He wanted to. It took extraordinary effort on Bush’s part to accomplish the invasion of Iraq. Someone who wasn’t as dedicated to deposing Saddam Hussein–before he even became President–wouldn’t have gone to so much effort.

    1. Bush had to invade and raid Afghanistan. He didn’t have to stay there in a never-ending occupation.

    2. Oddly enough, it was the Colin Powell photos that put me in the anti-Iraq war camp. Based on the Bush Administration’s hype, I was expecting an Adlai Stevenson moment at the U.N. I was expecting Powell to make accusations, Iraq and it supporters to deny them, and then Powell to whip out the manila folder with damning photos or even video.

      When he pulled out the photos of the “mobile WMD labs”, I knew for sure how wrong Bush was on Iraq being a WMD threat to the US.

      1. Hell, “mobile WMD lab” is the generally accepted term for any car seat on which Crusty has sat.

      2. I was as surprised as anyone to find out they weren’t real.

        We used to have arguments here at Hit & Run between opponents of the Iraq War. My opposition was always on humanitarian and pragmatic grounds–I didn’t think it was strategically in the interests of the United States to invade Iraq in 2003 for the same reasons George H. W. Bush didn’t think it was in our strategic interests in 1991.

        But there were others, many others, who really thought it was all about WMD. My response was always, “What are you going to do if and when they find the WMD? Are you suddenly going to be in favor of the war?”

        It’s a lot like Obama’s stupid red line in Syria. The question of whether the United States should invade Syria shouldn’t rest on the question of whether Assad used WMD on his own people. The question of whether the United States should invade Syria should rest on the question of whether invading Syria is in the best interests of the United States.

        Just because Assad used chemical weapons on his own people doesn’t mean it’s in the best interest of the United States to invade and occupy Syria.

        If Saddam Hussein had used anthrax to attack the American people by way of Al Qaeda, that would be more than sufficient justification for war–but not even the Bush Administration made that claim.

        1. I was as surprised as anyone to find out they weren’t real.

          Really? I can’t believe anyone believed that shit for a second. It was so blatantly obviously bullshit.

          Even if it were 100% true, it still wasn’t a cause for war.

    3. this assumes any president is really in charge. the inertia was to depose Saddam. Bush or Gore did not matter.

      1. “The inertia was to depose Saddam. Bush or Gore did not matter”

        Like said, the inertia was no such thing.]

        The inertia was to invade Afghanistan.

        The inertia to invade Iraq was created by George W. Bush.

        1. The inertia to invade Iraq was created by George W. Bush Ahmed Chalabi.

          Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress were the main suppliers of information to US intelligence that Iraq had WMDs and ties to al-Qaida.

        2. Well, Cheney and that gang. Bush was just their PR man.

    4. Yeah wasn’t Gore on the late show claiming Saddam had a wmd program?

  11. I wonder if Jill Stein can convince her useful idiot donors, after this folly is over, to donate again to the cause that if she just bows out of the results now, all of her votes can go to Hillary making Hillary the winner. *progs post dancing banana gifs and like each other on Derpbook*.

  12. “‘Serious thinkers’ like Collins and Rachel Maddow and Joss Whedon”


    Murderer’s Row of intellect.

    The ’27 Yankees of punditry.

  13. “…while Clinton’s mistakes go unmentioned.”

    See, the problem with that statement is “Hillary Clinton did everything right in this campaign…”. So, there are no mistakes to mention. Just like “The cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make. It’s really important that people understand that,” Can’t you understand that. Everything you think you know is wrong. Only the progressives know the true path to shangri la.

    1. Even before her various felonies involving classified information, it was clear that she was completely inept as a campaigner. How many missteps can you make before, hey, maybe it’s your fault?

      Trump could’ve been defeated by an intelligent bicycle. Yet she lost.

      1. Pretty much. I’ve read a few different post mortems on the election which pointed out that she did very little campaigning or canvassing in the key swing states in October, because she assumed she had those states won. For all the bellyaching and narrative that’s been spewed about it, I really wonder if the most powerful explanation for the election result wasn’t just arrogant, spectacularly misguided campaign strategy on her part.

        1. As was noted shortly after the election, her own husband, a Rhodes scholar who was able to win in a red state as a Democrat, twice, and win the White House, again twice, told her she had a problem in the “Blue Wall” states. Instead she went with the advice of a 36-year-old campaign advisor who told her that the key to her victory was to run up minority and youth votes in the major metro markets.

          1. Yep. I can’t recall the sources and I’m too busy working to look them up, but I also remember seeing tidbits like her not visiting WI at all after the primary, visiting states like MI, PA and NC far fewer times than Trump did, denying requests for funds to hire paid canvassers in PA and MI, and spending a ton of time campaigning in traditionally red states (eg, AZ, NE). The picture it all paints, for me, is of a candidate assuming she was going to win, and focusing on turning a victory into a Reagan-esque landslide.

            Which, at best, makes her look like an utter fool, and a stunningly inept campaigner. But it also suggests that, if Trump indeed turns out to be every bit as awful as the Dems think, she really should shoulder much of the blame. And thus far, she seems to be skating free from that blame.

  14. Replublicrats: We own your votes, ’cause we own you, bitches.

    1. You’d think that attitude alone would drive voters away.

      1. Half of them don’t vote for either party. I don’t know if that just makes them not voters, or properly cynical.

        1. Not voting when there’s little option isn’t completely irrational.

      2. “Deep down, he really loves me” doesn’t just apply to battered spouses.

    2. The 13th Amendment was repealed by the 16th, it is known.

  15. Alt-alt text: “Hey George, have you ever had your chakras opened by a masseuse?”
    “Check, please.”

  16. “supported the U.S. policy of removing Saddam Hussein from power which President Clinton made official with the signing of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.”

    That the part which gets me…GW Bush tries a direct and obvious approach to carry out the objectives of an Act of Congress supported by key Democrats.

    But those same democrats get to act indignant at this.

    “OMG when we said it is the policy of the United States to remove Saddam Hussein from power, we never in our wildest dreams imagined that this could involve some sort of invasion of Iraq!”

    1. What *did* you have in mind, try the old exploding cigar trick again?

      1. (or maybe it was a poisoned cigar)

    2. I have to admit I was ambivalent about Iraq, although I suppose I was more against than for. What always annoyed me was the politicians that voted for that did so for purely political reasons (John Freakin’ Kerry I’m looking at you). I’m not so naive as to think this doesn’t happen all the time, but to claim moral authority after the fact is really grating.

      For whatever reason, Bush believed in what he was doing. K

  17. Apparently you CAN take the sky from Joss Whedon.

    That dude has seriously taken a crap all over the libertarian cred he got for Firefly. Apparently we failed to realize that The Alliance were the good guys….

    1. Sounds like Tim Minear was the more libertarian force on that show.

    2. Whedon has always been an SJW shitheel who’s indicated before that he’d be an Alliance supporter in real life. Whatever libertarian cred he possessed was completely projected.

  18. The left refuses to accept that no one else was willing to ignore that hag’s baggage train.
    She was so horrible that people looked at her and pulled the Trump lever instead and the left is still hoping to find someone other than themselves and the hag to blame.
    you imbeciles; get it through your thick skulls.

    1. It’s pretty compelling argument–she lost to an empty suit and she lost to a clown. Could it possibly be that she was a big part of the problem all along?

      1. Pfft, no way! It’s quite obviously everyone’s fault except her own. White men are the most at fault, of course, but women let her down. It was her turn, goddamn it!

    2. A thousand times this. Hillary supporters will likely never accept this, especially if they live in the Bay Area where they can afford to deny it forever.

  19. Such boring and un-nunaced simpletons these cultists.


  20. But the point of the American system of democracy is that in the end, you often have to take the responsibility for choosing the better of two unlovely options.

    [citation needed]

  21. There’s a lot more variables in that alternative history.

    For one there’s the massive monkey wrench caused by calling the election while polls were still open in 3 of 4 timezones.

    There was terrible weather in the midwest which undoubtedly had a disproportionate effect on rural turnout.

    There was the November surprise of that dui charge. But we can give them earned votes for that one. Funny parallel to Clinton’s little legal troubles though.

    They want to pick and choose the factors they get to keep and the ones they overturn like it’s florida recount law that let Gore choose districts. Doesn’t prove he deserved to win.

  22. Of course, Gore might have just done something even more stupid. Once you start playing the “what if” game the door is thrown wide open.

  23. Is it about time we put the New York Times on the list of Fake News? Organizations?

  24. This narrative about how everything would be hunky dory if only Bush hadn’t stolen the election in 2000 and/or if Nadar hadn’t run is tiresome. And apparently it still doesn’t work, because enough Democrats stayed home or voted third party to cost Hillary the election.

    Let it go – we were not one election away from being the country you think Sweden is

  25. I’m pretty sure that Gore would have attacked Iraq, but I’m not sure how. I’m not so sure it would have been the same type of operation. Who knows. Maybe it would have been the same type of bullshit pulled at the UN with the same lies and the same “faulty intelligence” and the whole nine yards, but I doubt it would have gone exactly the same way. I think Gore might have gotten a bit more European cooperation because they tend to like Dems better for some stupid reason.

    Also, I wonder if de-Baathification would have taken place or the monumentally stupid Bremmer policies would have happened. Torture at Abu Graib and other places? Maybe, maybe not. Waterboarding? Maybe, maybe not. Patriot Act? Yes. Department of Homeland Security? Yes. Total informational awareness spying? Already happening pre-9/11.

    Gore and the Dems were no doves, but I do wonder how things would have played out if they were in charge during and after 9/11. I’m guessing just the same shit sandwich with different toppings.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.