Jewish World Review Nov. 29, 2000/ 2 Kislev 5761
Hard to forgive Dems' divisiveness
THE PARADOX of this one-hand-clapping presidential election is that the man who eventually "wins" will be saddled with the ironic mandate of unifying a nation divided mostly by the political machinations that led to his victory.
As contests go, this one's close, but Al Gore seems least able to satisfy that mandate. Not because he contested the election or demanded re-counts or insisted that certain Democrat-designed ballots were unfair. As lawyers have proved, one can reasonably argue on Gore's behalf. We can also comfortably assume that George W. Bush's team would have done the same were circumstances reversed.
No, Gore's greatest offense in his scramble to secure the "will of the people" was his relentless minority-baiting in ways that were untrue and unforgivably destructive in a land that struggles as no other to achieve equality and tolerance.
That we fail a fraction of the time hardly qualifies half the nation as bigoted, but Gore's volunteer hecklers would have voters believe otherwise. Most visible of these is the ubiquitous Jesse "Selma" Jackson, who has never met a TV camera he wouldn't hug.
In recent weeks, Jackson has invoked 1965, Selma, Ala., and the Holocaust in repeated claims that blacks and Jews were targeted for "disenfranchisement." While true that some Jews and blacks in Palm Beach County believed after the tally that they mistakenly had cast the wrong ballot, this error can hardly be ascribed to a vast white-wing conspiracy.
And though one might argue that Jackson doesn't speak for Gore - or for anyone, one hopes - Gore might have said as much. Instead of protesting these cruelly divisive and inflammatory remarks, Gore has remained mute, which is, of course, to give consent.
In a textbook case of semantic contagion, informed Americans ever since have spoken knowingly of the "conspiracy" to keep blacks from voting. Even Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy A. Quince, a black female justice, used the word "disenfranchise" rather too soon in the court's proceedings to convince doubters of her judicial objectivity.
Hearing the word "disenfranchise" tumble from the bench had the same effect on wary listeners as did the words "that woman" when Bill Clinton denied his liaison with Monica Lewinsky. In Clinton's case, "that woman" was all any worldly woman needed to hear to know he was guilty. In Justice Quince's case, the D-word was as subtle as a gavel's rap. She might as well have said: "You want a vote-count extension? Done, my man."
Another inflamatory exercise was the NAACP's infamous hate-crime television ad that more or less indicted Gov. Bush as a racist. His failure to sign new hate-crime legislation following the dragging-death of James Byrd was, according to the ad, ipso facto confirmation that Bush hates blacks. Implicit in the message: Vote Gore.
Perhaps the worst offender was Paul Begala, a Clinton-Gore operator and lawyer who effectively indicted all Bush supporters as gay-bashing, black-hating genocidal maniacs. Consider this excerpt recently tooled by Begala for MSNBC.com, in which he wrote about the familiar red-and-blue U.S. map showing which candidates won which states.
He pointed out that red states (Bush's) include the states where: James Byrd (black) was lynched; Matthew Shepard (gay) was crucified on a split-rail fence; an Army private (thought to be gay) was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat; neo-Nazi skinheads murdered two African-Americans; Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry.
What sort of bigotry do you suppose permits an educated man to slander entire populations on the basis of random events committed by idiots in their midst? This column isn't long enough to list the heinous events that have punctuated the history of Gore's blue state of California, though given Begala's "logic" and the Rodney King episode, shouldn't California have gone for Bush?
It will be hard for honest Americans to forgive these distortions, no matter what Gore may say in retrospect. The damage is done. Meanwhile, the "will of the people," as measured by a Washington Post-ABC News poll published Monday, is that Gore should go home. For everyone's sake, let's hope he takes Jackson, Begala and Co. with
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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