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Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 2000 / 24 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Consumer Reports

SEND IN THE THUGS -- BY G-D, I love lawyers--and campaign hacks and political thugs. I feel great about the fact that the Gore campaign has turned the choice of the next president into just another chapter of the eight-year saga of the Clinton-Gore endless war room, another to-the-death fight between the usual armies of litigators and propagandists. On Fox News the other day, after the Gorees won a round, a particularly oily little talking jurisdoctorate-head informed me that this was "a great day for democracy." Thanks, oily one! Like all of my fellow citizens who did not attend law school, I am incapable of deciding for myself what is a great and what is a not-so-great day for democracy.

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 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 that.

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


11/15/00: The Great Defender
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

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