Political shenanigans will continue with Gore clan

  • George Will / Washington Post columnist
  • Saturday, November 11, 2000 9:00pm
  • Opinion

WASHINGTON — So the Clinton-Gore era culminates with an election as stained as the blue dress, a Democratic chorus complaining that the Constitution should not be the controlling legal authority, and Clinton’s understudy dispatching lawyers to litigate this: "It depends on what the meaning of ‘vote’ is."

The mendacity of Al Gore’s pre-election campaign is pertinent to the post-election chaos. He ran with gale-force economic winds at his back, and with a powerful media bias pulling him along. (Even on election night: by calling Florida for Gore before all Floridians had voted, the networks almost certainly hurt Republican turnout in Florida, and out West.) Yet Gore probably lost. Why? Consider his political ethics, which flow from his corrupting hunger for power.

He staggered Bill Bradley in an Iowa debate by asking why Bradley voted against flood relief for Iowa. Bradley voted for $4.8 billion of relief, and opposed — as did the Clinton-Gore administration — only an amendment to add $900 million. When Gore made a false claim about traveling to Texas to inspect disaster damage with the head of federal emergency services, his heap of fabrications had reached critical mass, triggering ridicule and draining credibility. He is, strictly speaking, unbelievable.

His serial mendacity should be remembered during his seamless post-election transition to desperately seeking lawyering strategies and a friendly court to hand him the presidential election. Gore is the distilled essence of contemporary liberalism, which enjoys imposing its will — about abortion, racial preferences, capital punishment, tobacco, firearms, etc. — through litigation rather than legislation. Liberalism’s fondness for judicial fiat rather than democratic decision-making explains the entwinement of the Democratic Party and trial lawyers.

Election Day saw Democrats briefly succeed in changing the rules during the game in Missouri: Their lawyers found a friendly court to order St. Louis polls to stay open three hours past the lawful 7 p.m. closing time. Fortunately, a higher court soon reimposed legality on the Democrats and ordered the polls closed at 7:45. Now in Florida, Democrats want to change the rules after the game.

The Democratic Party dotes on victims, but what, exactly, victimized those 19,000 Palm Beach County voters who, as almost 15,000 in the county did in 1996, botched marking their ballots by punching two candidates for president? It is absurd to say it is "unfair" to do what the law requires — disallow improperly marked ballots. And it is sinister when Democratic voters, after leaving polling places where they could have asked poll workers for guidance or fresh ballots, suddenly "remember" that they might have misread their "butterfly" ballots.

Those ballots have the punch holes down the center and the candidates’ names on the "wings." Gore campaign chairman William Daley, of the famously fastidious Cook County Daleys, says such ballots are indefensible — at least he said that, until chief Bush strategist Karl Rove displayed a Cook County butterfly ballot. The Palm Beach ballots were designed by a Democrat and approved by a process that included Democrats, and sample ballots were published in newspapers and mailed to voters — all without eliciting pre-election complaints.

Will instances, real or claimed, of incompetent voting with these ballots (Gore’s hired semanticists call this "disenfranchisement") invalidate a presidential election? Not likely. The leading Florida case on confusing ballots holds: Confusion about a ballot will not void an election if the voter, taking "the degree of care commensurate with the solemnity of the occasion," can find the right name. The vast majority of Palm Beach voters could. Unless Florida’s Supreme Court, which has approvingly cited this case in other rulings, overturns it, the "confused voter" claims are baseless.

By Nov. 17, Florida’s absentee ballots — with a large military, hence Republican, component — will have been counted, probably sealing Bush’s win there. By then, millions of as yet uncounted absentee ballots in California and elsewhere may have made Bush the popular vote winner nationally. Even so, Gore operatives probably will still toil to delegitimize the election. Their actions demolish the presidential pretensions of the dangerous man for whom they do their reckless work.

Jesse Jackson, the Democrats’ rented ranter, would not have taken his magical mischief tour to Florida, there to excite a sense of victimization, if his party opposed that. All that remains to complete the squalor of Gore’s attempted coup d’etat is some improvisation by Janet Reno, whose last Florida intervention involved a lawless SWAT team seizing a 6-year-old. She says there is no federal role, but watch for a "civil rights" claim on behalf of some protected minority, or some other conjured pretext. Remember, Reno is, strictly speaking, unbelievable, and these things will continue until these people are gone.

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