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Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 2000/ 17 Mar-Cheshvan 5761

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Is it even worth winning?


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AS THIS COLUMN is being written, the results of the election are still officially in doubt. But a federal judge in Miami has just denied the Bush campaign's appeal for an injunction against the ongoing hand recount. Make no mistake about it: Gore is on the brink of hijacking the presidency. It's true that Florida's secretary of state declared on Monday that all recounts must be certified by the original Nov. 14 deadline-which would exclude three of the contested Democratic counties-but what's the ruling of a mere local official compared to the Gore/Daley machinery?

Whether the presidency is now a prize worth winning remains to be seen. The polarization not only between the slim GOP congressional majorities and Democratic minorities, but also between the two Americas (the two coasts and "flyover country"), is an obstacle that an egomaniacal partisan like Gore isn't likely to overcome. In addition, the next president will inherit an economy that's heading south; a foreign policy that Bill Clinton's made a hash of; and the sour legacy of eight years of Oval Office rule that prefers litigation to honesty, a permanent political campaign instead of governance and, to invoke one of the most famous slogans of the Clinton years, "The politics of personal destruction."

Since I believe that Daley and Gore are currently the most despicable men in public life (Clinton's aw-shucks philandering, nonstop hypocrisy and acts of perjury seem almost quaint now), men who have made a mockery of this country's democracy, I can only hope that the soon-to-be 43rd president suffers an administration that will make Jimmy Carter's look like that of FDR or Ronald Reagan.

But the evidence is clear that Gore's team of Daley, Warren Christopher, Mark Fabiani and any number of Florida Democratic hacks simply arrived at the scene of the battle sooner than their Bush counterparts. By the time James Baker held a press conference on Saturday morning, announcing that the Bush campaign was filing an injunction to stop the outrageous hand-counting of ballots in a limited number of Florida counties-all Gore strongholds-the damage had been done.

Buchanan

The absurd distraction over the "butterfly" ballot that confused some voters in Palm Beach County, leading them to possibly vote for Pat Buchanan instead of Gore, garnered a lot of media coverage, but in reality it was a shrewd Daley bluff. The ballot was designed by a Democrat and approved in advance of the election. Samples of it were sent out by mail; the vast majority of voters had no problem deciphering it. The Gore team knew the lawsuits filed by allegedly "real people" were nonstarters, red herrings all, but were all too happy to have Jesse Jackson fomenting dissent in Florida for the tv cameras. When will Jackson retire? His "It's Selma all over again" routine is more tired at this point than yet another Eagles reunion tour.

The New York Post's Jack Newfield, presumably still in denial that his scrappy, working-class New York Mets failed to defeat the Yanks in the World Series, took the bait. On Nov. 10, Newfield called for a new election only in Palm Beach County. Follow this logic if you dare: "This election is not tainted just by what happened in Palm Beach County. But if Jesse Jackson is right, it was also tainted by the way black and Haitian immigrant voters were disenfranchised at the Florida polls across the state. The 50 million Americans who voted for Al Gore should feel cheated. They are the majority. Let's think about what is fair, and what is practical, and what is democratic. I think that it's an honest second vote in one county, limited to only those who voted on Tuesday-conducted on voting machines, without that cockamamie ballot that would have bewildered me."

But it's doubtful that Newfield believes a new election should be held in Milwaukee, where a Manhattan millionaire was caught by a local tv station distributing packs of cigarettes to homeless people in an attempt to gain their votes for Gore. The millionaire, Connie Milstein, said only, "My actions were those of a private, concerned citizen."

According to the Nov. 7 New York Post, Milstein has contributed $402,000 to Democrats in this election cycle, and also hosted a fundraiser for Gore at her Park Ave. apartment. The Democratic National Committee immediately disavowed any association with Milstein's illegal electioneering, but that rings about as hollow as Christopher's claim that the lawsuits in Florida were filed without any encouragement from the Gore campaign. Irony is lost on the sullied (likely) president-elect, but how fitting that one of his supporters used tobacco as an inducement to vote. I guess Gore must believe that the homeless are so far gone that a dose of lung cancer won't harm them.

Christopher

In addition, CNN reported on Nov. 10 that "Republican state Rep. Scott Walker listed a half-dozen possible cases in Milwaukee County and across the state he said required investigation from the district attorney's office. In one incident, videotape from a television news crew showed people voting after a poll worker announced the polls were closing. The tape has been subpoenaed, Walker said. In another incident, a voter complained that a polling place displayed campaign posters for the Gore-Lieberman ticket and other Democratic candidates. The location was understaffed, and several voters reported easy access to the ballots. Another voter complained that he was mistakenly given two ballots when he went to vote. The man 'notified the poll worker that he was given two ballots,' Walker said. 'The poll worker said "Go ahead and vote." He asked a second time, and the poll worker still identified to him to go ahead and vote.'

"[Republican state chairman Rick] Graber said he had received more than 600 phone calls about the improper handling of marked ballots; about voters being give multiple ballots; and 'improper registration procedures that may have allowed some voters to vote multiple times and in multiple locations.'"

In Friday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a list of GOP complaints about fraud and "voter irregularity" was printed. It included: Marquette students seen picking up 10 or more ballots at a time; a polling place that had a "help yourself" stack of ballots for the taking; non-registered voters not being asked for identification at a 6th District polling location; and poll workers who told a voter to "vote Democrat."

And Monday's New York Post had a beaut of an anecdote from Milwaukee: "Janet Riordan, 39, said that when she went to vote wearing a Bush-Cheney button, an election inspector asked, 'Why would a young woman like you want to vote for George Bush?'"

RIP THEIR LUNGS OUT:
GORE WANTS IT AT ANY COST

HISTORY WILL record that the 2000 presidential election was decided by the vote of a single man: Bill Daley.

It's true that Daley-son of the late Mayor Richard Daley, Chicago's icon of political corruption-directed a near-disastrous campaign on behalf of Al Gore, an effort so scattered that his candidate improbably, given the country's prosperity, lost Tennessee, Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana and possibly New Mexico and Wisconsin (still undetermined at press time). But when all the polls were closed, Daley's real work began. In an honest world, the Vice President's top lieutenant would title his yet-to-be-published memoirs, Rudimentary Voter Fraud: How I Stole an Election.

When Daley appeared on a stage at Nashville's eerie War Memorial Plaza early last Wednesday morning, explaining to a jubilant crowd that Gore had retracted his concession to George W. Bush, his key words were, "Our campaign goes on!" That seemed odd to those citizens who were still following the surreal election on television, since all the votes had already been cast.

dubyah.statue.jpg What no one has adequately explained is this: When 98 percent of the ballots were counted in Florida, Bush was leading by 50,000 votes; after 99.5 percent were tallied, that advantage had shrunk to 500. Perhaps it's possible that Gore could gain votes that rapidly with 1.5 percent more of the precincts reporting, even though that defies statistical probability, especially at that late hour. More likely, I believe, is that an avalanche of Gore votes were suddenly "discovered" (translated: several poll workers raced against time to concoct new ballots), and that closed the gap. The official explanation would be that "urban" areas always are the latest to trickle in.

But in retrospect, anyone who believed Bush could prevail against the shoot-to-kill tactics of Daley and Gore was hopelessly naive. And that group included the media, Bush and his advisers, and any person in the United States who thought that his or her voted actually counted.

TIME FOR AN OVERHAUL
All the self-righteous blather about campaign finance reform that we've heard from earnest journalists and editorialists at The New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Slate, Time and NPR, just to name the obvious, completely misses the point. Most Americans don't care about the influence of money in politics. Otherwise, Clinton and Gore, up to their ears in fundraising scandals, wouldn't have been reelected in '96. Jon Corzine, who blew some $60 million for the luxury of serving with Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle and Teddy Kennedy in the U.S. Senate, wouldn't have been elected in New Jersey.

Kennedy

It's now clear that the country's most pressing political issue is electoral overhaul. How can it be that in the high-tech era, voters still make their choices by paper ballots or with antiquated machines?

Why is it that-especially in dense urban areas-fraud is so commonplace that bags of ballots mysteriously appear and disappear, that citizens brag of voting twice, once at their primary residences, another time at the precincts near their country houses? Rudy Giuliani, in a Nov. 9 Daily News article, blasted New York's New Deal-era voting difficulties. After complaining about a 35-40 minute wait at the polls, he said: "The system is wrong. A system in which the Democratic and Republican county leaders determine the Board of Elections means a system in which you're never going to see modernization, you're never going to see efficiencies."

Now that the brutal truth of voter manipulation is out in the open, expect to hear stories every day for the next month. One of my favorites concerns a student at Washington University in St. Louis. This young woman (who's a friend of a young woman I know) reports that on Election Day a Democratic worker came to her dorm and offered everyone there "temporary" changes of address, so that they could immediately vote in Missouri. She also had two write-in ballots, with slightly different names, mailed to her house.

Another student I know attends college in Philadelphia, but is registered to vote in another state. Nonetheless, he went into a local polling place, gave his name and address and cast a ballot. No questions asked. In Baltimore, several people reported to me that when they went to vote no identification was asked for; conceivably, these residents could have made the rounds of polling spots, as if they were trick-or-treating, and voted as many times as they desired.

Even The New York Times, which overwhelmingly favors Democrats who are boosted by fraud, admitted the electoral problem. A Nov. 11 editorial began: "What has become embarrassingly clear over the last few anxious days is that the world's most powerful democracy needs to figure out a better way to vote for president."

It's safe to assume, however, that the Times prefers to delay such reforms until after Gore is awarded the presidency by a team of workers who will decide how Florida residents intended to vote in the election. As for those absentee ballots that must be received by Friday in Florida? I wonder how many got "lost" in the mail.

But I'll bet that when and if Gore makes it to the White House, election modernization will be his 114th "first priority."


JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2000, Russ Smith