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Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 2000/ 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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On being a statesman -- KENNEDY WON the 1960 presidential election by 112,803 votes. The evidence of fraud was so overwhelming that even mild-mannered Ike urged his vice president to challenge the votes. Most experts felt Nixon had really won by 250,000 votes. Nixon, a man with the fiber of a felon and the vocabulary of a longshoreman, declined to do so because the rest of the world was watching. Democracy doesn't set aside votes.

So strong were Nixon's position and desire to avoid a "constitutional nightmare" that he even asked the New York Herald Tribune to discontinue its twelve-part series on voter fraud. Mr. Nixon was a statesman and a gentleman. In lay terms, he had class.

In the 2000 elections, Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri lost his bid for reelection to the deceased governor, Mel Carnahan. It has been some time since I checked the constitution as well as the plan of salvation, but I don't believe a dead man is a resident of Missouri for purposes of Senate qualifications, although there are arguably a few current senators who push the envelope, definitionally speaking. Further, a Democratic judge ordered the polls in St. Louis held open until 10:00 PM in a close election (the deceased apparently run a heck of a campaign) and those precincts proved a deciding factor. If ever a candidate deserved a review for election impropriety, it is Senator Ashcroft. He has conceded and wants no part of any legal challenges. Senator Ashcroft is a statesman and a gentleman. He is a call act.

History is replete with statesmanship. Even General Cornwallis sent a lackey out with the white flag. Sylvester Stallone learned that five Rocky films were enough. But, shy of a wooden stake through the heart, Al Gore will not go gently into that concession speech.

Mr. Gore behaves as if Jimmy and Bobby just finished a close election for the prom king. The high school cliques are out in full force. There is the Palm Beach coterie, representing the less cerebral of high school, who can't figure out how to vote. There is the Jesse Jackson traveling protest show representing the high school dweebs with marginal causes. The cat fur flies, the claws are out and Warren Christopher has sacrificed his statesmanship to lead the three-ring circus.

But high school elections don't involve the Dow or national security. When Mr. Christopher and Bill Daley (isn't it ironic that someone born and bred in Chicago politics leads the charge on election irregularities?) held their Thursday press conference to rattle their sabers about litigation, the market took a near 300-point dive. Saddam Hussein is gleefully plotting seizing the leadership void moment. Milosevic must be kicking himself for not thinking of trial lawyers as a way around an election.

The spin doctors of l'affaire Monica are out and about. Their facts are as accurate now as they were then. The 19,000 disenfranchised voters, they moan. That figure represents discarded ballots but cannot be equated with a non-vote. Poll workers have indicated ballots are tossed, as 15,000 were in 1996, because others are given to voters who couldn't handle the pressure of punching on the first try. There are too many votes, they say, for Pat Buchanan in Palm Beach County. They don't disclose that third-party registrations there reveal it to be a hot bed of activism, and Mr. Buchanan earned similar numbers in 1996. My favorite spin was that in another county, 312 folks voted Libertarian and there are only 108 registered Libertarians in that county. There's a new general election prohibition on crossing party lines?

The spin never alludes to the long-term implications of Mr. Gore's sophomoric conduct and his minions' rhetoric. Imagine elections decided by the courts that have given us the McDonald's hot coffee damages, found abortion rights in the Fourth Amendment, and imposed employer liability for sexual harassment even when the employee doesn't complain. Judicial intervention makes voting moot. Judicial intervention gives one man power over election outcomes. The dynamics of an election don't permit do-overs, nor does the constitution, spin doctors' theories and assertions aside.

Absent fraud or illegality, and there is no evidence of such here, elections stand.

No one denies that the election was close. No one denies that voters made mistakes. No one denies the recount right in Florida. But recounts in Oregon, New Mexico, Iowa and Wisconsin might also yield different numbers. But this is not a student council election - this is the presidency.

We are in this jumbled mess because Mr. Gore is not presidential material. He not only lacks the stuff of statesmen, he lacks class. Like his mentor president, he finds honor in the ends, not the means. Al of the first and third debate, who wants two closing statements, shoves his way onto the stage as his opponent still speaks, raises his hand too often, and wants a win at any cost has emerged. The cost is high as he plummets markets and makes the United States vulnerable on the world stage. Be a statesman, Mr. Gore.

For once, be a statesman.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings