- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 2, 2000

Election observations

Vice President Al Gore's repeated trumpeting for a "complete count of all the votes cast in Florida" would sound less hypocritical if he were indeed calling for a complete hand recount of the whole state.

By choosing only to contest results in heavily Democratic counties, and by tacitly endorsing a movement by Democrats to invalidate 15,000 Seminole County absentee ballots, he is lending little credibility to the claim that all he desires is that "all the votes be counted."

What about the butterfly ballots in places other than Palm Beach County? The dimpled chads outside Miami-Dade County? Countless machine- and human-made errors occurred nationwide on Election Day. Mr. Gore's claim that recounting a handful of those would somehow make the process more credible is hollow at best.

Hidden behind a thin veil of egalitarianism, Mr. Gore's actions actually send the opposite message: that some ballots count more than others.

DANIEL LYONS

Monterey Park, Calif.

I took my 11-year-old son with me to vote this year. When we came upon the choices for president, I showed him how I needed to fill in with pen the line that completes an arrow pointing to the candidate I supported, as I told him, "extra heavy and dark to make sure my vote is counted."

As we reached the end of the ballot, I came upon a race for county judges. I started to fill in an arrow for a candidate based solely on gender, though I had not taken the time to find out about either candidate. My son asked me why I was voting for this particular candidate, and I had to admit my irresponsibility to him. I decided not to vote in that particular race and left the arrow improperly filled in.

I now realize that if my ballot were recounted by machine, my intent would be clear. I did not care enough to vote for the county judge and thus did not completely fill in the arrow. If my ballot were counted by hand, however, my intent would be interpreted by someone who would undoubtedly assume that I had intended to vote for the individual by whose name I had partially filled in the arrow. This assumption would be incorrect.

Therefore, no one should assume the intent of a voter based on a pregnant or dimpled chad.

ROBIN JONES

Southlake, Texas

In an effort to reject thousands of military absentee ballots in Florida, the Democrats, led in rhetoric by Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, have argued that the ballots in question must be discounted because of technical errors in their completion.

Mr. Kerrey applied a well-known military standard when he said, "In the military, we accept responsibility for our mistakes. We don't blame it on somebody else." He continued to expound on this theme: "If I'm not prepared, and I didn't get the word, and I come to my commanding officer and say, 'Gee, I'm sorry, Captain, I didn't get the word,' my commanding officer will say, 'Lieutenant, failure to get the word is no excuse.' In the day after these ballot accusations are made, what we're discovering is signatures are not there, voter IDs are not there, addresses are not there, witnesses aren't there. Personally, I think the military should not be treated any differently than any other citizen."

I agree wholeheartedly with this approach. People should be responsible for their actions.

What I fail to understand is the selective application of this philosophy when it comes to other voter discrepancies.

Why aren't the Democrats applying this philosophy toward those who complain that they voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan when they meant to vote for Vice President Al Gore? Instead, they cry foul.

Why aren't the Democrats applying that philosophy to the so-called dimpled ballots? Mr. Kerrey should give the same answer to these voters that he gives to those in the military: There is "no excuse."

Mr. Kerrey, you are treating the military absentee ballots much "differently than any other citizen." The reason is painfully obvious because it serves you and your party's purpose to win by any means.

ROBERT QUACKENBUSH

Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Government by the people

According to Cal Thomas' Commentary column, "Frayed civil fabric," (Nov. 29) the Times of London opinion writer William Rees-Mogg contends that whether Texas Gov. George W. Bush or Vice President Al Gore is victorious, "America is the loser." While Mr. Rees-Mogg believes neither candidate looks powerful enough to overcome "three election challenges: a bitterly disputed election, a hostile Congress, and the downturn of the economic cycle," it is apparent that Mr. Rees-Mogg forgets we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

The common man will not lose, and this disputed election will serve to strengthen our resolve that the "little man/small state" counts. Congress and the president know who has the power. If they want to keep their jobs for a second term or more, each will act accordingly.

While special interests and ethnic groups are recognized as contributors to society, the whole of America rules not just the more populated or larger states such as New York, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois, but also the least populated and smaller states such as Alaska, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and others.

It is not the population of the larger states, but indeed the population of the smaller states that provide the equity. Perhaps that is what other countries don't yet understand about our republic and democratic principles equal rights for all, special rights for none.

MILDRED M. FISCHER

Fredericksburg, Va.

In Iraq, engagement will work better than sanctions

Once again, the United States chooses to ignore the writing on the wall and pursues what Gen. Anthony Zinni recently termed a "half baked and half backed" policy toward Iraq ("Baghdad campaigns for end to sanctions," Nov. 30).

Rarely, if ever, do sanctions actually hurt their intended targets. More often, they serve as instruments of our government's moralistic finger-waving against friends and foes alike. With the case of Iraq, after more than a decade of sanctions enforcement, serious fatigue is beginning to show, both within the Security Council and among Saddam Hussein's erstwhile enemies.

The time for a bilateral and multilateral policy re-evaluation is here.

The charm offensive currently being undertaken by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is evidence that Iraq wants back in to the community of nations. If the United Nations or the United States wishes to exact any change from Iraq, specifically to gain access for a new team of weapons inspectors, a dialogue must soon begin at some level.

The U.N. secretary-general's recent comments at the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Doha, Qatar, indicate that "a discussion without preconditions" could be in the offing.

Ultimately, any such movement will require at least the tacit approval of the United States. Whoever the next president is should consider policies based upon dialogue and engagement rather than isolation and sanctions.

EDWARD J. VON KLOBERG

Washington

Edward J. von Kloberg served as a lobbyist for Iraq from 1984 to 1987.

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