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Jewish World Review Dec. 8, 2000 / 12 Kislev, 5761

Paul Greenberg

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Consumer Reports

Hold that metaphor -- WHY DO LAWYERS have to think of themselves as warriors?

Here, if you can stand it, is a word from W. Dexter Douglass, one of Al Gore's mouthpieces. He was explaining how things looked for his side after a circuit judge in Florida rejected every single argument Team Gore made. To hear Counselor Douglass tell it, it was the Battle of the Bulge all over again:

"We won, and then we were told to surrender. But if we're in that position, we're there to win. We may be surrounded by the enemy, but we still have a court that is willing and unafraid to decide a case on the law.''

By which he must mean Florida's supremes, who now have been told by the real Supreme Court: Explain yourselves.

Or to freely translate the more politic language that the Supreme Court of the United States used in its message to Florida's: How in the world did you reach the conclusion you did? What were you thinking? And you better tell us forthwith.

To which W. Dexter Douglass, Esq., responded by comparing his legal team to the 101st Airborne at Bastogne.

There is of course a small difference: After his day's arguing, Mr. Douglass can retire with his colleagues for a decent martini, a steak to match, and review the day's events over cigars and brandy. This he compares to the Battle of the Bulge.

Words fail.

Lest we forget: The surprise German offensive of 16 to 26 December 1944, popularly known as the Battle of the Bulge, was launched across an 80-mile front against an overextended American line composed mostly of troops yet to face combat. The attacking German armor advanced 50 miles, just 4 miles short of the River Meuse, before it was stopped.

The Germans had to flow around the stubborn resistance of the American garrison at the vital crossroads of Bastogne. Valuable time was lost. Not to mention petrol, lives and other resources. It was most awkward. But for reasons incomprehensible to Fifth Panzer Division, the GIs refused to surrender. They would not be relieved till the day after Christmas, 1944, and it would take almost a month of hard fighting to re-establish the Allied line in the Ardennes.

American casualties in the Battle of the Bulge totaled 77,000, including 8,000 killed, 48,000 wounded, and 21,000 captured or missing.

It is because of those dogfaces, and millions like them, that today Americans can exchange these polemics and argumentations in clean, well-lighted courtrooms in peace and freedom.

It is because of such men, and kids who died as men, that we can now get all excited about which of two not-all-that-different politicians will get to be president for the next four years, after which somebody else will have a chance to replace him.

So, please, a little perspective.

And, please, no more military analogies from some lawyer. Especially from a representative of a presidential campaign that has, if ever so discreetly, tried to throw out military ballots.

And if W. Dexter Douglass et al. are the surrounded heroes of this story, who's the enemy? It must be the judge who threw out every one of their complaints: the countrified, easygoing but clear-ruling, honorable and Honorable N. Sanders Sauls.

Tell us another.

Agree or disagree with Judge Sauls, his combination of patience and dispatch was admirable, his integrity unmistakable, and he himself impossible to dislike.

Or maybe the enemy is Katherine Harris, the much caricatured and thoroughly hated secretary of state in Florida, who by now has been vilified for everything from her rulings to her mascara.

Here is Katherine Harris' grave offense: Unlike Florida's supremes, she seems to have followed the law at every stage of these circuitous proceedings, even after the ideologues on that state's Supreme Court changed the law on her.

Ms. Harris was first blamed for wanting to meet the original deadline specified in the statutes. Then, when Florida's Supreme Court dreamed up a new deadline, she was blamed for meeting it. If I were the sort who put bumper stickers on my car, I'd get me a big one saying:


If the lady had been allowed to certify Florida's votes when she was supposed to, not just the country but the Gore campaign would have been better served. The Democrats would have had more time to contest the results properly, instead of triggering this 12-ring circus.

Paul Greenberg Archives


©2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate