Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 2000 / 24 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761
And thanks for so much more--for Alan Dershowitz and Jesse Jackson. There is no wrinkle in the fabric of our republic that cannot be smoothed out by a little pressure and a little heat from these great statesmen. Jackson's suggestion that Republicans were practicing Jim Crow tactics to deny the votes of blacks was of incomparable help in calming public passions, as was his reference to the Holocaust. And thanks for whoever's bright idea it was to ship union goons into Palm Beach County; tense times are always made better by the presence of large, muscular men bellowing, "No recount, no peace!" Thanks for guaranteeing that, no matter what, something close to half of the voters will come out of this believing that an election was stolen and that the new president is illegitimate.
In this last regard, we must especially thank Paul Begala. Begala, a Clinton-Gore operative who is both a lawyer and a political thug, and who is not a journalist but who plays one on television, wrote this on MSNBC.com the other day:
"Yes . . . tens of millions of good people in Middle America voted Republican. But if you look closely at that map [showing states won by George W. Bush in red] you see a more complex picture. You see the state where James Byrd was lynched--dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart--it's red. You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay--it's red. You see the state where right-wing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered scores of federal employees--it's red. The state where an Army private who was thought to be gay was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, and the state where neo-Nazi skinheads murdered two African Americans because of their skin color, and the state where Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry: they're all red too."
Mr. Begala can be counted on to spelunk the lowest level of the sewer. But even for him, the passage above must stand as the ultimate smear. The 48 percent of the vote that went for Bush--it's really not legitimate (and therefore neither is a President Bush) because, you see, that vote came from states (29 of them) populated by murderers and bigots and homophobes and neo-Nazis and terrorists.
But above all, thugs 'n' lawyers, thanks for the legacy. Here is an iron rule of politics: If it works once, it will be done forevermore. Whenever one side or the other pulls a particularly outrageous stunt in politics, the other side, off-camera, thinks this: Hmmm, that's interesting. If the particularly outrageous stunt is gotten away with, the true lesson derived by both sides is: Let's do that again.
This is why the Clinton-Gore selling of the White House was such a bad thing: The greedheads-in-chief didn't trash one White House; because they got away with it, they guaranteed the trashing of future White Houses.
So too with the vote-rigging in Florida. There have been close presidential elections before, and there have been elections in which the loser was certain he had been robbed. But never before has any presidential candidate done what Gore has done; never before has the loser taken to the courts rather than accept the verdict rendered--at this point, twice over.
Even if Gore ultimately loses in Florida, he will have come very, very close to winning. Moreover, he will have done this with his image-skin more or less intact. For Gore has already won an astonishing propaganda victory: With the help of reasonably sympathetic coverage from a largely Democratic and liberal national press corps, he has managed to spin his extraordinary, radical, unprecedented behavior as reasonable--and legitimate. This probably ensures that future close presidential elections will produce future Gore Losers, marching off to the courts and the cameras with their armies of lawyers and thugs, demanding recounts, rewriting the rules and the laws, convincing more and more Americans that their electoral system is, like those in most of the world, just another rigged game.
Thanks, Al, we needed
11/15/00: The Great Defender