And there's also no question that Gore has more backbone than Bush, and would have responded to any terror attack with more strength and resilience.
Why Terrorism Does Not Work: "If target countries systematically resist rewarding terrorism, the international community is armed with a powerful message to deter groups from terrorizing civilians. The prevailing view within the field of political science, however, is that terrorism is an effective coercive strategy." When Bush and Cheney gave in, when politicians used terrorism as a political sledge hammer, the terrorists won.
America didn't always cave to terrorists. When Islamist students following Ayatollah Kkhomeini's anti-American rhetoric took 52 hostages in Tehran, Jimmy Carter held fast. He isolated Iran, keeping much-needed funds out of their hands until Poppy Bush released them and kept up the political pressure. This was widely seen as weakness by the right here in the US, and it helped cost Carter the 1980 election. Still, when the dust cleared, no hostage taken on Carter's watch was harmed.
Reagan made a deal with the Iranians, and got the hostages released minutes after he became president. Part of the deal became the Iran-Contra Scandal.
Reagan's willingness to kowtow to terrorists led to emboldened suicide bombers killing 299 American and French servicemen in Beirut. (Reagan had to cover up his disastrous failure with the Grenada invasion, a real Wag The Dog photo op done more to make people forget Beirut than to do anything positive. After the 1983 Grenada invasion, the Army awarded more medals than the total number of soldiers who landed on the island.) The meek, conservative, news media just went along with it. The dog had been wagged.
Meanwhile in Lebanon, 98 foreign hostages, mostly American and Western European, were kidnapped and held captive for months. At least 8 died. Iran and, to a lesser extent Syria, played a major role in the kidnappings. The hostage takers demanded, and got, no retaliation for the killing of US marines in Beirut.
On Ronald Reagan's watch, our brave soldiers were slaughtered without any attempt at reprisal. Hostages were held for a very long time and many died.
Further: Reagan armed the mujahadeen who would become Al Qaeda, notably Osama bin Laden.
9/11 proved that Jimmy Carter was right and Ronald Reagan was wrong. The response to terrorism is strength and resolve. Carter had both; Reagan had neither.
And the parallel to 9/11 comes full circle. The Democratic response to Pearl Harbor: "You have nothing to fear but fear itself". The Republican response to 9/11: "Run away, and bring your credit cards."
As Paul Krugman said on the tenth anniversary:
What happened after 9/11 and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.
Republicans from Reagan on stopped even trying to govern. The permanent campaign, a product of television news and instant worldwide communications, became a permanent mud slinging contest. People who were right were ignored. People who scared the most Americans were elected.
The object of terrorism is to create terror. The Republicans pandering to the worst fears of Americans guaranteed that the terrorists would win. Terrosists got what they wanted in Lebanon, and from 9/11.
Part I: The Terrorists Have Won
Part II: Justifying lies by other people's paranoia
Part IV: Bush blew his chance to be a uniter
Part V: The American Taliban is proud to pander to gullible morons