Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 2000 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan 5761
one time too many
Interviewed by TAS the next morning, Dershowitz reiterated his quite possibly slanderous remarks. "She is bought and paid for by the Bush campaign. If that's not the definition of a crook I don't know what is." But Harris's only crime is that she may keep Gore from "winning" Florida.
The current election results give Bush a 300 vote lead in the sunshine state. The plain reading of the law -- plus a Florida judge's decision -- affords Harris wide latitude to certify those results, without further recounts. Last night, she rejected requests by four Florida counties for more time to modify their official results. She is everything we feared, groaned the non-partisan Geraldo Rivera on CNBC. He meant, of course, that Harris's decision proved her a partisan hack. Actually, Harris really is the left's worst nightmare.
She is unswayed by their politics of personal destruction.
Dershowitz's broadside against Harris bordered on character assassination.
Dershowitz, who represents some of the voters who have filed lawsuits charging voting irregularities in Florida, declared "She's a crook. She's had all kinds of corruption allegations about expenditures of money. . . She's not one to exercise discretion" about which votes should be recounted. Giving her discretion is "not the American way." There's a new one -- a Republican called un-American by a liberal.
These comments proved too much for anchor Wolf Blitzer, who corrected Dershowitz: "We want to point out some of the things you were saying were allegations." Dershowitz, however, wasn't about to stop. He mentioned an insurance company's donation to Harris's 1994 campaign for state senate. "She returned the $20,000 after it was proven she laundered it. That was proof."
The New York Times reported November 14 what actually happened: "Ms. Harris accepted more than $20,000 in contributions that prosecutors later said had been illegally 'bundled' together by executives of Riscorp, an insurance company based in Florida. Executives with the company, federal prosecutors charged, funneled money to Ms. Harris and several other Florida politicians through their employees, relatives and associates in order to evade laws limiting the amount of money that companies can donate to candidates.
"Ms. Harris -- who had pressed for legislation favorable to Riscorp -- was never charged with any crime. The founder of Riscorp, William D. Griffin, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge and was sentenced to a five-month prison term."
"'In hindsight,' she was quoted as saying by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 1997, 'I wish I had been more aware of how much money they were giving me.'" Well, that certainly rings more true than Gore's excuses for the Buddhist fundraiser.
Dershowitz's key assertion -- that "it was proven" that Harris had laundered money -- was manifestly false. As Dershowitz and other defense lawyers endlessly remind us, there's a big difference between being accused and actually convicted.
Dershowitz also likened Harris -- an elected official -- to a Republican "functionary." On the "Today Show" Nov. 15 David Boies, the latest of Al Gore's lawyers to descend upon Florida, continued on that theme. He asked if "Harris stops the process now will anyone believe she did it for anything but a partisan purpose?"
Two can play this game, counselor. If she allows the recounts to go forward will anyone believe she acted impartially, when it would certainly appear she had succumbed to the partisan wishes and high-pressure tactics of Democrats? By what measure is only Harris's reading of the law tainted by ideology? Are the Democrats who claim she must allow the recount to continue impartial? Can only Republicans be biased?
Yes, Harris is a Republican and even campaigned for George W. Bush. But her obvious sympathies don't necessarily mean her forthcoming decision about the election is necessarily biased or otherwise illegitimate. To claim that she is animated by bias rather than a strict reading of the law is a self-serving assertion which Democrats have yet to prove.
The real political functionaries here are liberal lawyers, who have descended upon the Sunshine state to handcraft the election results.
Dershowitz tells TAS his remarks were entirely justified. "I was very consciously making a personal attack on her integrity. I see what's going on in Florida . It's a scam. " He says the controversy over her prior campaign contributions is relevant because it speaks to her integrity. But by what logic can he assert that money laundering allegations against Harris were proved? "Of course it was proved. She returned the $20,000. She admitted she took the money in error. The allegations of money laundering were proved. She got money laundered for her by Riscoff . She acknowledged" that.
Returning money is by no means an admission of wrongdoing. Don't savvy defense lawyers remind us of that constantly? "I was not speaking as a defense attorney," Dershowitz now says.
He wasn't? Dershowitz, who represents some of the voters who have filed lawsuits alleging voting irregularities in Florida, made his name as a celebrity defense attorney. His whole claim to fame is his defense of big name accused criminals. He certainly would not let a prosecutor play as fast and loose with the facts as he does now.
But this is the man who (literally) wrote the book on chutzpah. His 1991 book by that title urges American Jews to have more of it. Whether they need more is debatable. But the GOP certainly does. How else to counter the naked demagoguery of a defense lawyer who pronounces the GOP guilty of crimes for which conceding the election is the only acceptable punishment?
It's clear Al Gore has read Dershowitz book. Yesterday, he offered the Bush campaign a "compromise": Swell guy that he is, Gore 'would have Bush agree to everything Gore has so failed to obtain. Gore proposed the two sides agree to either a complete statewide recount or accept manual recounts in a handful of Florida counties. Gore also suggested that he and Bush meet in person "not to negotiate but to improve the tone of our dialogue in America."
Notice the progression: Gore keeps quiet as Chris Lehane, his official spokesman, likens Harris to a "Soviet commissar" and his unofficial spokesman, Dershowitz, unilaterally convicts her of money-laundering. Then, the veep suddenly emerges to propose a meeting with Bush to foster civility, as if both men are equally culpable for the poisonous atmosphere or just above the fray. Sounds like an arsonist offering to discuss fire safety.
11/13/00: Gore's biggest missing Florida bloc