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

Charles Krauthammer

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Myths of chad -- BARRING some spectacular act of willfulness by the Florida Supreme Court, George W. Bush will be president. It is time, therefore, to lay to rest a few last lingering myths from the Time of Chad.

(1) The post-inauguration recount. Would-be Speaker Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) floated this one: We might as well recount the Miami-Dade ballots now, because surely somebody will count them later under Florida's liberal Sunshine Law. Imagine the crisis of legitimacy if we discover after Bush is inaugurated that he really lost Florida.

The central myth here is that there is a discoverable "truth" about this election. Given the furious disagreements over what should count as a ballot during the official recounts, imagine how lacking in authority and credibility will be any private post-inauguration recount.

The American public is already deeply aware of the capricious subjectivity of hand recounts. They have had their trip inside the sausage factory and seen the chaos. Garbage in, garbage out. They know that the results you get depend on the counting rules you adopt.

If the post-inauguration recounters don't count "dimples," Al Gore won't gain anything. If they adopt the Palm Beach County "limited dimple rule"--dimples count only if all other entries on the same ballot are dimpled too--Gore might garner an insignificant few more votes.

If they adopt the scandalous Broward County rules--counting as a Gore vote any scratch next to Gore's name if the voter had otherwise gone largely Democratic--then they can manufacture whatever Gore margin of victory they desire. Who is going to believe such results? And why count just Miami-Dade? There were 180,000 spoiled ballots in Florida; 2.5 million nationwide. And what of the 1,400 overseas Florida ballots that were thrown out? Any post-inauguration recount purporting to discover how Florida "really" voted would have to return to these.

The fact remains that we will never know how Florida "really" voted. When the margin of victory is smaller than the margin for error of our counting technology, the answer is forever indeterminate. If there are any post-inauguration recounts, there will likely be many. And the only thing we can say for certain is that they will all yield different results.

(2) Daddy's Boy. Republicans are expressing dismay, and Democrats gleeful mockery, that George W. is surrounding himself with his father's advisers. The regency has begun.

This is not just unfair, it is silly. When challengers win the presidency they routinely draw senior aides from the previous administration of the same party. When Clinton won in '92, he chose many high officials, including his secretary of state, from the Carter administration. Reagan drew liberally on Nixon appointees.

It makes perfect sense for George W. to tap the most talented people of the last Republican administration: Dick Cheney, Jim Baker and Colin Powell. The fact that W's father happened to have been the last Republican president is irrelevant. Had the Republican nominee this year been anyone else, he would have been a fool not to call on Bush holdovers of such distinction.

(3) The Gore comeback. Gore has repeatedly been advised to exit early and graciously from the election contest in order to retain the credibility and respect he will need for a comeback four years hence. There were good reasons for Gore to exit early and graciously, but preserving his "political viability" (as the young Bill Clinton might have put it) was not one of them.

Modern presidential politics is savagely unforgiving of losers, sore or otherwise. Gone are the days of William Jennings Bryan getting three shots at losing; Adlai Stevenson, two. We now instantly discard and dispatch our losing candidates: Humphrey, McGovern, Ford, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Bush, Dole.

It is hard to see why Gore would be any different. All the more so because Democrats are furious at him for blowing an election that, given the peace and prosperity and domestic tranquility he inherited, Gore should have won by 20 points.

As of Inauguration Day, the leading Democratic candidates for '04 will be Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman. The one possible scenario for Gore would be not a four-year but an eight-year strategy, a la Nixon 1960. Gore's problem, however, is that he needs to reestablish a base--say, as senator or governor of Tennessee--but he lost his home state. There is no home for him to go home to.

What to do? Do a Woodrow Wilson and become a university president. That would suit Gore's temperament and intellect and also give him a platform. And if he is as diligent in '04 in helping Democratic candidates as Nixon was helping Republicans in '64, he might still have a future. But only in '08. And not against Bush. There will be no rematch.

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11/29/99: Not for Moi, Thanks
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10/11/99: Slouching Toward The Center

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