If you watch no other 2000 debate I’ve linked to, watch this one.
Saddam Hussein. Bush mentioned him once in the previous debate, but here you see him really hammer the point in, even talking about his supposed “weapons of mass destruction.” Bush outright lies, saying if he were to ever involve himself in a foreign war, that soldiers should be focused purely on winning wars and getting out, not nation building. He outright says he would never use our troops for nation building, and that he would empower other peoples to build their own governments. Considering what ended up happening in Iraq, this is really important to take note of. Everything Bush says here he either did the opposite of, or failed to accomplish with regards to Iraq. The fact that he even focuses on Saddam at all proves the invasion was on his mind even back then.
I also think Gore made a great point that 2000, with the end of the Cold War and beginning of a new Century, was the time for America to lead the way in the world. Not in a neoconservative, coercive, “fire and blood” way. But rather in using our massive surplus at the time and our superior position to invest in other countries, show the way through example, and build a more trustful, interconnected, positive world. Bush II threw it right back in Gore’s face, painting HIM as the would-be warmonger and neocon nation builder, and saying America ought to leave other countries to their own devices. What a bald faced hypocrite Bush turned out to be in hindsight. And the sad thing is, we will never get the opportunity again to do what Gore was talking about. We completely squandered our surplus and goodwill, and now our infrastructure and people’s standards of living are so far behind other first world countries that our immediate priority going forward has to be bettering ourselves, not trying to be the leaders of a freer world. We were on top of the world and we blew it, basically. And don’t blame 9/11; we received an unprecedented outpouring of grief and support which we could have built upon to an interconnected, Pax Americana globe. Instead, we used it to justify an illegal war which squandered all that and showed other countries, like Russia, China as well as the dictators of the Middle East and Africa that they better arm themselves because we could invade anytime.
Some other highlights: they talk about gay rights. Neither are in favor of gay marriage, but Gore supports Civil Unions. As far as gun laws, Gore wants to control them, Bush doesn’t. Columbine comes up and I actually agree with Bush II when he talks about school shootings being primarily a cultural problem not strictly a gun problem. When talking about hate crime laws to protect against police brutality towards black people and gays, Bush plays dumb as Gore brings up some Texas law which died in committee about it. “Well, we care about our laws in Texas” he says in obvious deflection. They both seem to agree that “the new Civil Rights issue is education” which I personally think is nonsense. Not that education reform isn’t important but I don’t see it as a Civil Rights level issue so much as an understaffed, over administrated, over-worked teachers, over-burdened students and zero tolerance problem. I’d say LGBTs are the new Civil Rights, especially the last year with State laws promoting hate and discrimination.
Gore doesn’t sigh in this second outing, and based on the commentator’s comments in the beginning, I’m guessing it had been discussed and lampooned enough by then that someone talked to him about the bad optics. A minor point of interest comes in the end when the moderator chastises them for breaking their own rules of the debate multiple times and ends with “people care about this stuff” and Bush retorts “a’course they care about it. Oh, did you mean the rules? laughs.” Maybe I’m reaching for ‘scandalous’ moments to point to with Bush, but I also found that remark pretty telling in hindsight as well.