Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2000/ 16 Kislev 5761
Court has Supreme authority
LET US NOW PRAISE famous men - those oft-berated dead white men of European descent who had the wisdom, foresight and intellectual constitution to create a Supreme Court as part of a system of government that permits us to survive in spite of ourselves.
As usual throughout these post-election days of legal niceties and judicial minutiae, I'm forced by deadlines to write in advance of several critical decisions slated for this week. Indeed, by now the president-elect may be known.
Were I a betting sort, I'd figure on George W. Bush to be the winner, but I'm no gambler. Besides, if this election has taught us anything, it is, as Dorothy famously quipped in "The Wizard of Oz," that "things certainly do change quickly around here."
Regardless of who won - or whether a recount is now in progress - we should be grateful that the final word comes from the U.S. Supreme Court.
I'm not qualified to argue the legal points or even to question, as lawyers have, whether this election contest correctly was a state legislative or a federal constitutional issue.
I will suggest for the sake of gamesmanship that it looked like a constitutional issue; it walked like a constitutional issue; it smelled like a constitutional issue. But what do I and 99.99 percent of this country's citizens know?
What I do know is that taking the ultimate national question to the ultimate national court was the best result we could hope for following weeks of partisan bickering, questionable legal maneuvering and even dubious official results, from the Florida State Supreme Court on down to local election canvassing boards.
Barring an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions, to borrow from our Declaration of Independence, this is the best we can do. In secular matters, there is no higher authority than the U.S. Supreme Court: The justices are presumptively the best legal minds in the country; they were hired for these purposes; their word is final. They, in fact, do rule.
In such a divisively partisan context - and regarding a question of this magnitude - we might be relieved that they do. Though we may disagree individually with the outcome, we can feel confident that we've arrived at genuine finality.
And though we might regret that we ever involved the courts at all, we're now beyond any useful application of hindsight. But let's do, once and for all, put to rest the bad-boy spin that it's all Dubya's fault. As Al Gore's campaign has pointed out continuously, in the near-sniveling whine of the class tattletale ("He started it"), Bush filed the first lawsuit.
Yes, he did, but what else could he do when the Gore campaign initially requested that ballots be recounted only in certain preferential counties? Basically, Bush had three choices: (1) Demand a recount in all counties, though, intuitively, winners don't ask for recounts; (2) Do nothing; (3) Go to court.
It was incumbent on the challenger, not the declared winner, to insist on a fair recount, which Gore declined to do. So began the stream of legal challenges that landed us in the nation's highest court, where Americans have every reason to feel comfortable.
The legitimacy that seemed likely to elude us in this election will be insured by the justices' majority ruling. Whoever wins can defend himself against all attackers, but let's hope there are none. The final dispensation of this election should make Americans feel more unified than ever given our shared equity in the investment our nation's inventors made more than 200 years ago.
This election has proven unequivocally that the machinery of our government works, that it can act quickly and dispositively. Absent the riots, coups or civil wars such electoral disagreements might have spawned in lesser nations, Americans ought to feel secure and celebrate that security with a renewed commitment to
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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