Just two guys in a room

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Rick Horowitz
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dana Perino said it, so it has to be true.

“This president does not harbor any resentments,” she said. “He never has.”

And the particular person against whom “this president” harbors no resentments, Ms. Perino insists, is one Albert Gore, the former vice president and, for a few short hours on a November evening in the year 2000, the next president of the United States.

It didn’t turn out that way. (Maybe you heard.)

But at least George Bush doesn’t harbor any resentments about it. Darned sporting of him, don’t you think?

He’s the guy who got the Oval Office, the presidential seal, the State of the Union speeches, the nuclear codes, the veto pen, the judicial nominations…

And he’s not resentful?!

Al Gore is the guy who got, at best, the most excruciating near-miss ever, and a lifetime of might-have-beens. Who got, at worst, the shaft.

And George Bush isn’t resentful?

That must have been quite the get-together Monday afternoon: Al Gore, Nobel Prize winner, standing there in the Oval Office right next to George Bush, Presidential Election winner. (Sort of.) There was the photo op—Bush with Gore and the other American Nobel laureates, shoulder to shoulder, smiling their perfectly awkward smiles. And then there was the private meeting, a half hour or so, no reporters invited.

Admit it: You’d have paid plenty to be hiding under the desk.

“This president does not harbor any resentments,” says the White House press secretary. “He never has.”

Not even a teeny-tiny little resentment? After all, Al Gore certainly complicated George Bush’s life, didn’t he, with the way things played out back in 2000? If Gore had simply lost in a landslide, it would have been over, short and sweet, and George Bush would have been president without an asterisk.

But that’s not how it happened, is it? That’s not how Al Gore played it, did he? Getting a half-million more votes than Bush did nationwide; that certainly complicated things. So did conceding the election and then not conceding. So did coming so close in Florida that people would always wonder whether Bush could have won without all those butterfly ballots and befuddled voters and hanging chads, not to mention a determined Supreme Court and his very own brother in the governor’s chair.

Resentments? I could certainly understand it. After all, you’re the president of the United States; you’d prefer not to look even vaguely illegitimate.

Then, of course, there’s the other possibility. Not that George Bush might resent Al Gore for losing by so little, but for not winning! For not winning, and sparing him all the grief of the past seven years.

If Gore had just smiled a bit more, or sighed a bit less. If he’d remembered to carry his home state of Tennessee. If Bill Clinton had remembered to keep his pants zipped. If…

If any of those things had gone differently, Al Gore would have been president. And then it would have been Gore having to wrestle with terrorist attacks, and the threat of more. Gore having to figure out what to do about nuclear proliferation, and immigration, and hurricanes, and health care, and the housing crunch and the economy. It would be Gore watching his poll numbers go down the toilet, and feeling the hot breath of history’s judgment.

And George Bush? He’d still have his brown hair, and his reputation and a life. He’d have gone back to Texas, to whatever future fate and Daddy’s Rolodex had lined up for him. He could have been happy with that.

Resentments? Dana Perino says no.

I say maybe.

Last updated: 9:45 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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