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

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http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- ONE NASTY REALITY that George W. Bush has learned in this historic postelection campaign is never to take anything for granted. Al Gore's unscrupulousness has been on public display for years. However, in the past month he-along with his crowd of lawyers and contributors and his coterie of 19th-century-style ballot thieves-has redefined the very meaning of the word "hypocrisy." I'm writing on Thursday for a noon deadline and, as usual, parts of this column will be instantly outdated, but only a fool would believe the media's naive contention that the presidential outcome will be decided by Dec. 12.

Bush knows that. That's why the Republican-controlled Florida legislature had to prepare itself for a possible battle with the state's Supreme Court, despite the likely backlash such a fight could trigger in-as the pundits are wont to put it-"the court of public opinion." But Bush has no choice. In the next two days, Judge N. Sanders Sauls' courageous ruling of last Monday might be overturned by the seven Florida justices-despite the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court that the Florida Supreme Court acted rashly, rewriting election laws after the balloting had already taken place.

In addition, who knows how Judge Nikki Clark might rule on the bogus Seminole County case in which absentee ballot application forms were corrected by GOP officials. As the world watches, will she be mindful of her judicial responsibility and hand the Gore team a deserved defeat? Or will Clark-whether out of spite for Gov. Jeb Bush, who passed her over for a promotion, or simply because she wants to issue an irrational "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!" affirmation for Gore-forever tarnish her career in the pursuit of instant gratification? A People profile might do wonders for her self-esteem.

(And please-as the increasingly desperate Vice President made clear last Tuesday, he'd welcome the elimination of those ballots, despite his sanctimonious claim that every vote should count. Gore denies that he's been a party to the lawsuit before Judge Clark. But that Harry Jacobs, who initiated the action, and was a $100,000-plus contributor to the Vice President's campaign, acted without full knowledge of the Democratic legal and political apparatus in Florida is simply unbelievable.)

Even The New York Times, in a Dec. 6 editorial, scolded Gore for encouraging the suits in Seminole and Martin Counties. The paper proclaimed: "As we have said many times, the error-riddled Florida election can never be made perfect. Even so, to seize on technical violations to wipe out the absentee vote in two counties is a remedy far in excess of the error. The vice president acknowledged as much by originally opting not to join the lawsuits brought by local lawyers with strong ties to the Democratic Party. Now his refusal to forcefully call on his local supporters to drop the suit, or to rule out benefiting from its outcome, represents a failure of statesmanship on his part... Mr. Gore should not win by subtracting votes legitimately cast for his opponent."

I take a cynical view of the Times' edict. Make no mistake about it: The Times is in favor of a Gore victory no matter how it's achieved, as will probably become clear as the morass in Florida grows even murkier in the days ahead. For the time being, its editors prefer to con their readership by offering clean-hands advice to their preferred candidate.

Even if by some chance Gore's legal options run out in Florida, don't expect an immediate concession. He's publicly disavowed any connection with the rogue Democrats who are currently trying to convince Bush electors to defect to Gore when the Electoral College votes are cast.

It's inconceivable that the Gore campaign has had no contact with Bob Beckel-the obnoxious manager of Fritz Mondale's memorable landslide loss in '84-or any other of the modern-day ward heelers attempting a constitutional perversion. For example, there's been scuttlebutt-denied vigorously by the Gore cabal-that should the Florida legislature convene and sanction a Bush slate of electors to represent its state after the Texas Governor's victory is stolen by the seven justices, then another state might be encouraged to follow suit. Say, West Virginia.

Far-fetched? Perhaps. But nothing heretofore in this absurd election has followed a traditional, or legal, script. Just remember: No matter what Gore says, he can't be trusted to keep his word. He knows he'll never have another chance at the presidency-his party isn't foolish enough to renominate him in '04-so he'll roll the dice and bank on a tainted victory. Once he's in office, Gore imagines, all will be forgotten by a disinterested public. Just like Clinton's impeachment. I'm tempted to express astonishment at the ludicrous, and misleading, support Gore has received from the media elite. But then, what's the country to expect from the small pack of affluent Beltway insiders who are willing to excuse even the grossest political behavior from flag-festooned thugs like Clinton and his troubled understudy?

The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg, in his Dec. 11 "Comment," wrote the following lulu: "If, as seems close to certain, Bush takes office next month, he will do so by virtue of a series of maneuvers that will have been-though by definition legal and constitutional-contemptible."

I suppose it's "contemptible" that Bush, in reaction to Bill Daley's Paul Revere-like call to arms on Nov. 8, hired his own set of lawyers to join the battle. And maybe it's "contemptible" that the Bush team outgunned Gore in the legal arena: while the Vice President counted on Harvard's Lawrence Tribe and the unctuous (if gifted) David Boies, the Texas Governor relied, in large part, on Barry Richard, a local lawyer (and former Democratic legislator) who knew his way around a Florida courtroom.

Hertzberg also says, in an attempt to strain the reader's imagination: "Gore ran as a fighter. Now he is going down as a fighter, and the fight he has waged has been a service to his party and-because it has shone the unflattering light of truth on America's electoral systems-to his country, too."

Sure, Rick. Gore "fought" for himself. Period. It's true that Florida's flawed voting system is a microcosm of the entire country's, and exposing it to light will be a valuable by-product of this presidential race. But what will also be valuable is the revelation that Democrats are more adept at stealing and manufacturing votes than Republicans. It took a competitor like Bush to end the GOP's complacency. And for that we can thank Al Gore.

Finally, Marjorie Williams, writing yesterday in The Washington Post, suggests that citizens take it easy on Gore, and even salute him in his moment of (at least temporary) despair. For he's a noble man. She says: "The great likelihood is that Gore will find himself on the other side of this drama with the castle door slammed and locked behind him, and more than a third of his life yawning ahead. Even if you voted against him, this moment has to command your sympathy-and maybe your respect."

Says who, Marge? I won't yield one iota of respect to a man who clearly deserves a stretch in Allenwood rather than the Oval Office. If justice prevails, and George Bush becomes the nation's 43rd president, perhaps that scenario will come to pass.


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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