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

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Consumer Reports

The Great Defender -- It's a tossup as to what is most revolting about Al Gore's determination to vote-rig his way into the White House. You could argue that it is the daylight-brazenness; decent people know that this sort of thing is done under cover--that's how Boss Daley, father of Gore's campaign chief, Bill Daley, always did it. Then there is the utterly reckless selfishness; the price of a Gore presidency will be a constitutional crisis, a divided nation and a taint on the presidency. But we've been there before, and as Gore's boss said at that time, the important thing is just to win.

But I think the real stomach-turner is the piety. The vice president appeared before the cameras Monday to lecture us about what is at stake here: "And what is at stake here is more important than who wins the presidency. What is at stake here is the integrity of our democracy, making sure that the will of the people is expressed and accurately received. . . . Because there's something very special about our process that depends totally on the American people having a chance to express their will without any intervening interference. That's really what's at stake here. And so that's what I'm focused on. Not the contest, but our democracy."

Not since Bill Clinton stood up to the House impeachment managers--in order, as the president has several times noted, not to save his own skin but to save the Constitution--has a grateful nation seen such purity of purpose, such altruism, such self-sacrifice.

Let us recount, as it were, just what it is that Al, The Great Defender, has done in his fight (not to win but) to preserve the integrity of democracy. First, he lost the democratic vote in Florida and this, on top of his other losses, meant he lost the presidential election. He conceded this, but then, as it became clear that the closeness of the Florida vote meant a mandated recount, withdrew his concession. Then he told George W. Bush not to get snippy about it. Then, with the recount likely to confirm Bush the victor, he sent brigades of lawyers and political operators to Florida to look for loopholes. Then his man Daley warned that the Gore campaign would sue rather than accept the verdict of the recount.

Then, The Watchman of Our Integrity seized upon the results in Palm Beach County, where it appeared that a ballot confusing to people who did not understand directional arrows had led to perhaps as many as a few thousand votes miscast for Pat Buchanan and as many as 19,000 ballots voided for double-voting. And so was orchestrated a great cry that the great people of this great county had been robbed. For their sake--for democracy's sake--a new vote was demanded.

Never mind that there were no allegations of fraud in Palm Beach County; or that the ballot form had been designed by a Democratic elections official; or that a similar thing had occurred in 1996, when 14,000 votes were voided in this apparently endlessly confused county; or that this sort of thing in fact happens in every election, all over the country--this year, 120,523 improperly punched votes were voided in Cook County, Ill. The Guardian of Our Democracy did his duty.

Then it appeared that The Selfless One would lose the automatic recount. Then he realized that democracy would be even better protected if the 20,000 or so misdirected voters of Palm Beach County never did get their intended votes counted, because there was a better, easier way to get himself elected. In every election, counting machines miss ballots for mechanical reasons--holes not punched quite through, usually. Given the tightness of the race, The Keeper of the Founders' Faith could wiggle his way into the White House by cherry-picking a few thousand uncounted Democratic votes. This process would not rescue the miscast or voided Palm Beach votes, since a hand recount would simply confirm the votes for Buchanan and still reject the double-punched ballots.

So it was directed that Democratic officials in four heavily populated, heavily Democratic counties demand hand recounts, in search of machine errors. The nice thing about this, integrity-wise, is that a hand recount in any county is mathematically certain to produce more votes for the majority party. A hand recount enlarges the vote and enlarges it proportionately, so forcing hand recounts only in Democratic counties guarantees only Democratic gains.

The even nicer thing was the outmaneuvered Bush had missed deadlines to demand hand recounts in most Republican counties. The yet nicer thing was that this stunt would drive the Bush people into court, where they would likely lose, since everything The Man Who Put His Country First had done had been perfectly legal.

Not to mention Noble.

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


11/02/00: The Democrats' delusion
10/26/00: Phony Truce
10/19/00: The Talking Cure
10/12/00: Doves' Day of Reckoning
10/05/00: Conan the veep
09/28/00: Dumb vs. Dishonest
09/21/00: Flapping furiously
09/14/00: Down AlGore's Memory Hole
08/24/00: AlGore's Flex-O-Joe
08/17/00: The Joyful Clinton Nation
08/09/00: A Calculated Risk
08/03/00: New Hope for Nice Guys
07/27/00: But What About Dad?
07/20/00: U.S. Handiwork In Sierra Leone
07/13/00: President With a Porpoise
07/06/00: The Importance of Being Earnest
06/29/00: A Press Obsession With the Death Penalty
06/21/00: Gore and the Goodies
06/15/00: Network Snooze
06/01/00: Sunshine on My Shoulders
05/24/00: Last Chance for a Hardened Prevaricator
05/17/00: Cuomo's Thought Police
05/10/00: Hammering DeLay
05/04/00: Some Closing Thoughts
04/28/00: Endangering Elian
04/19/00: Imitation Activism
04/12/00: Why they hate Bubba
04/05/00: Census and nonesense
03/29/00: The Stiffs and Their Statuettes
03/15/00: Anarchy in Kosovo
03/08/00: Reform joke
03/01/00:The Pinhead Factor
03/01/00: The Christian Right: Past Its Prime . . .
02/24/00: McCain's Majority
02/16/00: Sharpton's Supplicants
02/09/00: The GOP Pilgrims' Sad Tale
02/02/00: Fodder For the GOP
01/26/00: Million-Dollar Mediocrity
01/19/00: Campaign Reform: Let's Pretend
01/12/00: Never Again? Oh, Never Mind
01/05/00: Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In
12/22/99: Gore's TV Gambit
12/15/99: Campaigns Do Clarify
12/08/99: Kosovo's Killers
12/01/99: Not Ready for Prime Time?
11/24/99: The Company He Keeps
11/17/99: Republican Illusion
11/10/99: The Know-Nothing Media
11/03/99: Necessary Partisanship
10/27/99: Buchanan's Gift to George W. Bush
10/21/99: Who are the real friends of the poor?
10/14/99: Gore's 'courage'!?
10/08/99: Republican Stunts
09/23/99: Buchanan's folly
09/16/99: Beatty and Buchanan: That's Entertainment!
09/09/99: Puerto Rico Surprise (Cont'd)
09/02/99: Puerto Rico Surprise
08/12/99:The Age of No Class
08/05/99: Assessing Welfare Reform
07/29/99: On the Wrong Side
07/21/99: Mass Sentimentality
07/15/99: Blame Hillary
07/08/99: Guide to the Arts: For Your Summer Reading . . .
06/30/99: A Perfectly Clintonian Doctrine
06/25/99:Smorgasbord by the Sea
06/16/99: A National Calamity
06/09/99: Stumbling Forward
06/02/99: Commencement '90s-Style
05/26/99: Will we ever learn? Clintochio is a lying ...
05/19/99: Comforting Milosevic
05/13/99: Short-Order Strategists
05/06/99: Four Revolting Spectacles

©1999, Washington Post Co.