Vice President Al Gore’s hair’s breadth carrying of Florida in the 2000 presidential election meant that when terrorists attacked the United States in September 2001, the former highly experienced vice president and senator was in control of the nation’s defences, as opposed to Governor Bush. President Gore spent the following months assembling an international coalition at the United Nations to support the US invasion of Afghanistan and the destruction of both the Taliban and Al Quaeda. His defence secretary (and former Reagan administration official) Robert Gates was criticised for his strategy of utilising a large scale invasion force, with former Ford chief of staff Donald Rumsfeld regarding the large amount of resources used as wasteful, saying that he was “Shocked and awed at the amount of troops committed”. Calls for an invasion of Iraq from former defence secretary Dick Cheney and neo-conservative think tanks were dismissed as a distraction, and didn’t get much traction in the media.
The Gates strategy was vindicated by many, however, when in March 2002, Al Quaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, fleeing advancing US forces, was shot dead by French Special Forces in caves on the Pakistan border, triggering an outbreak of Francophilia in the US and cheering crowds for President Chirac when he visited New York and Washington the following month. British prime minister Tony Blair was lambasted in the British media for not keeping the UK as close to the US as France.
In 2004, President Gore was easily re-elected, defeating Senator John McCain, and causing serious reversals for the GOP in both the house and senate as the Democratic party surged ahead in the polls on national security issues, and the Republicans opposed a Patriot Act which included increased measures to combat white collar crime and money laundering. The collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, however, meant that the Lieberman-Bayh campaign based around a platform of national security and prosperity disintegrated, ending the sixteen year Democratic domination of the White House.
The new Bush-Palin administration immediately began spending the large budget surplus left by the Democrats on pork barrel projects for key GOP districts mixed with tax cuts for the wealthy, in an attempt to stimulate the economy. It didn’t work, as wealthy taxpayers immediately moved their new found cash abroad to seek better investment returns. At the same time, the administration refused to assist large businesses in difficulty, resulting in the collapse, amongst others, of General Motors, which was promptly bought at a bargain basement price by the Chinese government.
In foreign policy, President Bush had greater success, especially with the outbreak of large scale dissatisfaction in the Middle East, and tyrants being toppled by their own people. When President Bush ordered US aircraft based in Saudi Arabia to support Iraqi protesters and rebel Iraqi army units attempting to overthrow Saddam Hussein, he was welcomed by cheering crowds when he arrived in Baghdad following the lynching of the dictator and his sons by a mob the previous week. The former governor of Florida had been looking forward to the 2012 contest, and the Democratic lineup, including a young and charismatic black second term US senator from Illinois, when an oddly shaped pretzel lodged in his throat and he was found dead on the floor of his living room. America’s first female president was sworn in 35 minutes later.