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Jewish World Review Dec. 4, 2000/ 7 Kislev 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

When rules become flexible,
children misbehave --
AS I WRITE THIS, I'm watching a yellow Ryder truck on television as it drives up Ronald Reagan Turnpike, accompanied by a police escort and bearing 450,000 South Florida ballots, and I'm half-expecting Rod Serling to step into the frame.

By the time anyone reads this, of course, everyone will have invoked the O.J./Bronco analogy, that other footnote to strange times in America, and more election protests will have been delivered, as well as more legal briefs to various courts.

Talking heads will have dissected the latest twists; more editorials will have been written; new rebuttals proffered; and no one (still) will be the wiser. The crisis everyone predicted prematurely, and which most of us pleasantly shrugged off, finally may be upon us. We have screwed up "big time," as the maybe-vice-president-elect would put it.

Or, as a fellow Floridian once put it (though I can't vouch for his having originated the aphorism), "When you're up to you're a-- in alligators, it's hard to remember that your original intent was to drain the swamp."

Who now can remember how we got from Nov. 7 -- when George W. Bush was declared president-elect and Vice-President Al Gore called to concede -- to now, with how many lawsuits, how many ballots in dispute, how many lawyers exactly did they say?

The American landscape is suddenly unfamiliar. Scraps of gentle contempt once harbored discreetly among family and close friends have been released on the streets as animosities of whole cloth. One e-mailer lamented the disconcerting sight of protesting San Diego residents, once-friendly folk who three weeks ago accepted life as a reasonably fair game.

No more. And why?

Two words, one man:

Al Gore.

No matter how many ways we slice it, Gore lost the election under the current electoral system. It may be an imperfect system; it may sometimes seem unfair; Gore may have lost by a hair; the margin of error may be greater than the margin of victory; we may not like the idea that a man who wins the popular vote might lose by the Electoral College.

C'est la guerre. If we don't like the system, we will change it. But Gore's continuing demands for recounts and the implication that ballots cast incorrectly really belong to him is only destructive. Our micromanaging this election, altering rules as needed to assuage manufactured outrage, has wrought exactly what any attentive parent could have predicted: When the rules become flexible, the children misbehave.

At this point, who knows what sort of ruling the courts will deliver or what kind of outcome another recount might produce?

For the sake of argument, suppose Gore does emerge the victor in selected precincts in Florida. What if he does manage to eke out a victory in these isolated counties?

How will we know if he won the state with so many other counties not recounted?

The answer is we won't.

And then what? Gore becomes president, and Bush is supposed to paddle his little canoe gracefully back to Texas?

The argument, meanwhile, that Gore offered to recount all 67 counties is as specious as the offer was disingenuous. Why would the winner want a recount?

Ethically, the burden was on Gore to ask for a statewide recount, but it appears that he didn't really want one either.

The mindset now is that if Gore wins a few hundred of the ballots in the Ryder truck, he will have won the state of Florida. Our experience with that other televised highway motorcade, however, should remind us that justice is often a matter of manipulated perception rather than truth.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


11/29/00: Hard to forgive Dems' divisiveness
11/23/00: The answers aren't so complicated
11/21/00: The devil -- or is it really Nurse Ratchet? -- in Mr. Gore
11/16/00:In the end, the winner may be loser
11/13/00: Eliminate popular vote -- at least in Palm Beach County
11/07/00: Lesser of 2 evils? It's more like the lesser of 2 lies
11/02/00: Latest Jones' saga exposes a big irony
10/31/00: Hate-crime legislation and anti-Bush ad are flawed
10/26/00: Taking it to the streets
10/23/00: Headlines blur fiasco of family
10/13/00: Forget polls: Bush passes turtle test
10/06/00: Feminism: A cup that's half full?
10/04/00: Election-year reality check: Abortion is here to stay
09/29/00: For Gore and Hollywood, the mirror has two faces
09/26/00: Oprahfication of presidential political: It's all about feelings
09/19/00: It's not subliminal: Hypocrisy of moral outrage is obvious
09/15/00: So wear, oh wear, are we headed?
09/11/00: Do Steinem's wedding bells sound feminist death knells?
09/08/00: Grounded in her fears about flying
08/31/00: Dudettes that don't
08/29/00: AlGore wants to be his own man -- does he know who that is?
08/21/00: Dems manufacture emotions at convention
08/17/00: Hollywood divine? AlGore is miscast
08/08/00:Outreach: Good strategy and long-run policy
08/04/00: A sharp look back at the Vietnam War
08/01/00: Bush's choice of grown-up Cheney is a stroke of genius
07/24/00: Fired up and grossed out over stupid Canadians
07/20/00: Lack of judgment --- our critical flaw
07/18/00: 'Progress' for women often a step back
07/11/00: School essay watchdogs cannibalize our children
07/06/00: Youths fear marriage --- blame boomers
06/28/00: Eminem might just have a point
06/21/00: Bridging the day-care divide
06/15/00: N.Y. baby case ends up with multiracial scrambled eggs
05/31/00: The war only time wins
05/25/00: The opposite of sex
05/18/00: World War II gave us our true heroes
05/11/00: Boy Crazy! stacks deck against guys
05/09/00: Finding out where the boys are
05/05/00: A born Ms. Leader -- Barbie for prez
04/25/00: From here to paternity
04/14/00: Boys should be boys, not viewed as criminals in training
04/11/00: Oh, for a standard of what is socially, morally acceptable
04/06/00: Womyn's Contempt for Commitment --- and the bastards it creates
04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
03/28/00: Stay-home parents know that their kids need them
03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV
03/10/00: I made a mistake about trigger-locks
03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
02/28/00: Nasty politics? Americans like it down, dirty
02/14/00: College testing via Lego-building -- yeah, right
02/02/00: Bubba should spare us phony love theatrics
01/26/00: What sets off Those Who Speak for Women
01/13/00: Fools in love: Premarital counseling could help school kids
01/11/00: Who funds these studies!?
12/29/99: Grandparents' rights impinge on family autonomy
12/13/99: When did fathers become fair game?
12/09/99: Don't be stupid about at-risk kids
12/07/99: Pokemon is no substitute for a father
12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
11/09/99: Gore could benefit from a secret in Wolf's clothing
11/03/99: Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV?
11/01/99: Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
10/26/99: Children's needs must take priority in divorce system
10/19/99: The deadbeat dad is less a scoundrel than an object of pity
10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
10/12/99: Divorced dads ready to wage a revolution
10/04/99: A father's best gift? His presence
09/30/99: Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours
09/28/99: Science's new findings: Scary future for families
09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
09/21/99:Focus on more than baby's first 3 years
09/16/99: Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate
09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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