There's been a growing phenomenon of people looking back on a certain election in a way I've never experienced. Take this, for example, from Richard freakin' Cohen (c/o mcjoan at dKos):
There were so many reasons not to vote for him -- none, in retrospect, much good...
Gore would not have taken the United States to war in Iraq. He would have finished the job in Afghanistan -- it was al-Qaeda and its Taliban enablers who were responsible for the attacks on us on Sept. 11, 2001, not Saddam Hussein, no matter how vile he might have been. Gore would not have dealt with the Iranians and the North Koreans in such a juvenile fashion -- axis of evil, after all -- and all over the world, wherever you and I went, we would not detect such anger toward America. The last time I saw Gore was at a screening of his now-acclaimed movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." I wrote at the time that, on paper at least, he was the near-perfect Democratic presidential candidate -- right on the war, above all. This observation, hardly original with me, is being echoed elsewhere, and it would be impossible for Gore to ignore it. Jimmy Carter said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that he thought Gore ought to run and had told Gore so insistently. "He almost told me the last time I called, 'Don't call me anymore,' " Carter said. What Gore told me was something similar: "I think there are other ways to serve."
And what about this, from an SNL opener several months ago?
It's weird: in both of these pieces (and countless other references to Al Gore in public and private discourse) there's an underlying sense of sadness, a national understanding that we, enticed by the siren songs of W's faux folksy everymanness and Nader's angry righteousness (or perhaps, self-righteousness), made a horrible mistake in 2000. It's not just that we allowed a vindictive, arrogant man-child to take the presidency (and inexplicably re-elected him with the first honest-to-God majority in 16 years) or that we allowed an election to be essentially subverted. We've seen buyer's remorse of that stripe before. People often joked about how Clinton should've lost, or Bush Sr., or Reagan, but the difference lies in looking at their opposition. In Clinton's lowest moments, people may have wished he'd lost, but there was no widescale gazing sadly at Bush Sr. and wishing he'd won. There were no masses pining for the return of Dukakis, or Mondale, or tellingly, John Kerry, even despite the admirable fight he's been waging in the Senate over a host of issues ever since his loss.
In what has to be a truly scary moment for the current resident and his fixation on his legacy, how "history will judge his presidency," the country is starting to openly wish it had elected Al Gore instead. Perhaps even scarier, above we have Richard Cohen, no flaming lefty, implying that he wishes it had been Al Gore at the helm on 9/11, steering our military policy. My guess is that most voters aren't there yet, but more and more people are coming around every day, and with Gore getting and Oscar and potentially a Nobel peace prize, and with influential media personalities openly pining for his candidacy in 2000 and hoping for the same in 2008, we could someday, perhaps before this administration is even over, see a poll indicating just such a sentiment.