Writing for a 5-4 majority of the divided court, Justice Anthony Kennedy, a former Professor of Constitutional Law, upheld the Florida Supreme Court’s decision that a vote was legal if there was a "clear indication of the intent of the voter." Following the recount of all "undervoted" and uncounted legal ballots, Florida’s 25 electoral votes were awarded to Al Gore giving him victories in both the popular vote and the Electoral College.
Justice Kennedy continued as the Court’s "swing" voter until 2005 when, following the death of William Rehnquist, President Gore appointed Senator Hillary Clinton as Chief Justice and his Attorney General, former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. With Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the three female justices have had a collaborative influence on the Court, causing even Justice Thomas to concur in several of their decisions.
In a clear reversal of its conservative drift, the Supreme Court has not only continued to uphold a woman’s reproductive choice as a matter of constitutional right, but it has also generally supported President Gore’s administrative regulations and the federal laws intended to protect the environment, workers, and the economy.
With the appointments of former Senator Sam Nunn as Secretary of Defense and retired Army General Colin Powell as Secretary of State, Gore’s first serious foreign policy and national security challenge was the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorist organization.
Heeding warnings by the CIA that bin Laden was determined to strike America, Gore brought intense pressure on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to cut off all funding and support of al Qaeda. He secured an UN Security Council resolution supporting military action inside Afghanistan, if its Taliban government continued to provide aid and comfort to bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Under the "Powell Plan," the United States dedicated $25 billion over a five-year period to stabilize Afghanistan and to reduce the threat of war in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. With the extradition of bin Laden in 2001 and his murder conviction for complicity in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, organized terrorist activities were substantially reduced worldwide.
Once President Gore reaffirmed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, terminated development of the ballistic missile defense system, implemented a detailed and shortened schedule to reduce and ultimately eliminate the nuclear stockpiles of both nations, and increased the funding and support of Secretary Nunn’s Nuclear Threat Initiative to safely dispose of Russia’s nuclear weapons, he and Secretary Powell focused their efforts on the elimination of nuclear weapons in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Recognizing that the recession that struck the European Union in 2000 and 2001 could affect the United States, President Gore took immediate steps to deflate the "dot com" bubble and to secure the well-paying jobs of manufacturing and professional workers through high-tech initiatives. Although there was some economic contraction, it was far less severe than anticipated, and job creation quickly resumed.
The Republican Congressional majority had been narrowed in the 2000 election, and using Vice President Lieberman as his Congressional Whip, President Gore had been able to maintain the Clinton tax reforms and to push through indexing of the Alternative Minimum Tax, relieving pressure on middle-income taxpayers.
Although the Clinton budgetary surplus was reduced by the recession, Gore came very close to balancing his first two budgets.
The 2002 Congressional elections were a judgment on Gore’s leadership and his continuing application of President Clinton’s mantra, "It’s the economy stupid!" Overall, the economy was doing well and voters responded by electing Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.
Acting with public and Congressional support, President Gore commenced the series of the bold initiatives that have come to characterize his administration. Despite the initial opposition of Vice President Joseph Lieberman and the intense lobbying of AIPAC, Gore reasserted the principles of the 1993 Oslo Accords and brought extreme diplomatic and financial pressure on Israel to abide by the agreement and to publicly acknowledge its nuclear weapons program, which it did early in 2003.
Secretary Powell organized and chaired a roundtable conference at the United Nations exclusively focused on the nuclear weapons programs of Israel, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India and North Korea. Threatening an international boycott, economic quarantine and diplomatic isolation, Powell applied unrelenting pressure until Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea agreed to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and Iraq and Iran agreed to abide by its conditions.
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