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Gore talks of Iraq, al Qaeda -- and what he'd do differently

Gore said he doesn't believe there is a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
Gore said he doesn't believe there is a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Former Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday he is not bitter about the disputed outcome of the 2000 presidential election but explained that he would do some things differently than the current president -- especially regarding a possible war with Iraq and the fight against terrorism.

Gore said President Bush's administration lost focus on the war on terrorism in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

"I think that the goal of removing Saddam Hussein from power is a worthy objective, and I support that," the former Democratic presidential candidate told CNN's "Larry King Live," adding that he believes there will be a war with Iraq.

"I do think that we should have built the international coalition first, instead of distracting attention and shifting time, effort and energy away from the war on terror," Gore said. "If you're going after Jesse James, you ought to organize the posse first, instead of riding off by yourself."

He said the shift in focus has had bad results.

"Look what's happened now: Osama bin Laden is back making threats at us; al Qaeda is back, posing just as serious a threat as it did during the weeks leading up to 9/11, according to our intelligence agencies; the warlords are back in power in Afghanistan; and the Taliban is back in Afghanistan," he said.

Gore called finding bin Laden and getting rid of his al Qaeda terror network the most important goal.

"If you've got a group of people out there trying to kill you and publicly threatening to do so, don't you think that ought to be the No. 1 priority? I do. Saddam Hussein is a bad guy and needs to be removed from power, but he didn't attack us and isn't publicly threatening to destroy us."

start quoteActually, the family already voted [on his decision] ... and we're waiting for the recount.end quote
-- Tipper Gore

Gore said he doesn't believe there is a connection between the Iraqi president and bin Laden.

"The president said they're virtually the same," Gore told King. "Well, they're not."

Gore did praise Bush, though, for how he handled things just after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"I thought the president did an excellent job and I was not skimpy in my praise of him," he said. "I thought he rose to the occasion and pulled our country together in a magnificent way."

But again, Gore said he would have used that national unity in other ways, possibly to reduce the country's dependence on oil from the Middle East.

He criticized Bush's economic advisers -- "there's not a strong one in the bunch" -- and questioned a tax cut that he said should have mainly benefited middle-class Americans.

Gore also criticized himself -- or at least his performance in the 2000 campaign.

"I made a lot of mistakes. One thing I learned from the campaign was it's always a mistake to hold back in any way," he said, adding that he should have "just let it rip and let the chips fall where they may."

"At least, whether I'm a candidate again or not, that's what I intend to do the rest of my life, and I hope to be able to play a public role in some way," Gore said, with his wife, Tipper, at his side.

So will he run again? Gore said he would decide on that issue over the holidays.

"Actually, the family already voted [on his decision]," Tipper said. "And we're waiting for the recount."

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