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Jewish World Review Nov. 14, 2000 / 16 Mar-Cheshvan 5761

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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A potentially fateful indication of Gore's mindset -- IN 1960 a razor-thin margin of votes separated John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in the Presidential election. It was strongly felt then and now that many of the votes that put Kennedy over the top were fraudulently created by the Chicago Democratic "Daley machine." But even when Nixon was presented with evidence of voting machines being destroyed and ballots being burned he declined any kind of formal or informal appeal. He felt that it would be wrong to put America through that kind of turmoil and undermine the new President, particularly with the cold war raging.

That was an honorable thing to do.

In contrast, Al Gore seems to want to undermine a possible Bush presidency from its outset. Even as I write, the Florida recount from Tuesday's roller-coaster Presidential election is underway. It's possible that Al Gore will yet see the results change and will find himself on the way to the White House. But whether he is elected this year or decides to make another run for the Presidency in four, I think we have a hint of what kind of President Al Gore would be. His response to the close race does not suggest that he would be an honorable one.

First there is the issue of this very, very close race in all-important Florida. After an unbelievably dramatic election-night and morning, the votes were in and George Bush led with less than 2000. That triggered a recount, which a thrilled Al Gore accepted, though he'd already made his concession call to George Bush - and then, astonishingly, taken it back. (Did he even think of declining the recount, as he could have done?) This is all fair enough, I suppose, though it's virtually impossible to overturn an election with a recount. But all right, let's tear the country apart for a day or two - or more - in order to let the chips fall where the may.

But already chaos reigns, and America is the laughingstock of the world. In a hastily called press conference on the matter, Al Gore paid lip service to the importance of the "Constitutional process." But what's going on with some of his top supporters and advisors says something different. Democratic National Committee (DNC) Spokeswoman Jenny Backus on Wednesday questioned the integrity of the recount process. She said she had concerns that it was going too fast, that she wanted some "sunshine" thrown on the count in the "Sunshine State" apparently hinting at fraud.

Then there's the thousands of folks in Palm Beach County who are complaining to election officials there that their ballots were confusing, and caused them to vote for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore. Now, how they could be baffled when they are looking at the ballot but clear thinking about it moments later when they are not looking at the ballot is beyond me. But never mind. The Gore folks are on the scene charging this is just one of a number of gross election violations, legal challenges are already filed, and the campaign has flown dozens of lawyers to the scene. Jesse Jackson has demanded a federal investigation, and Gore friend and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is not ruling it out.

Then there is the all-important issue of the electoral college, the confusing but constitutional mechanism whereby individuals in a state vote for 'electors' who in turn elect the President. If Bush wins, it will be because he won Florida and thus 271 electoral votes, one more than needed, while losing the national popular vote. So already some top Democrats are bad-mouthing the electoral college, which meets December 18. But more important, many electors are not legally bound to support the candidate they pledged to support when they ran for elector. (It depends on state law.) And ominously, as CNN reported on Wednesday, top Gore aides are are at least looking at the college and the question of whether or not some votes there could be changed.

It remains to be seen whether, if the Bush vote-count holds up in Florida, Al Gore goes full throttle on technical legal challenges to the outcome. But we do know he could have stopped this preliminary, destructive madness with a word, even while going ahead with the recount, and he chose not to.

And that gives us a potentially fateful indication of Al Gore's mindset: to raise his own interests over the American people's to try to claw his way into the White House, and barring that, to mount a concerted campaign to undermine the legitimacy of a Bush presidency so that he improves his own chances for the White House in four years.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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© 2000, Scripps Howard News Service