- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2000

United States foreign policy has incurred minimal damage to date as a result of the divisive political struggle over Florida's electoral votes. However, strong criticism among America's friends and foes of Al Gore's perceived election challenges culminating in this week's contest is quickly turning the tides against U.S. credibility as the world's protector and model of democracy.

There is a growing sense even among our allies that Mr. Gore's contest reflects less of his alleged concern for the fundamental principles of democracy (disenfranchised voters) and more of Mr. Gore's interests to further his political ambitions through a public relations assault that undermines the rule of law and misrepresents the facts to a baffled television audience worldwide.

It is universally accepted that a fair election must be conducted in compliance with the statutes established prior to the election, yet the world was relatively ambivalent when the Florida Supreme Court altered the deadline for certifying the election largely due to the understandable popular outcry in southeast Florida. However, there is international consensus now mounting against Mr. Gore's perceived manipulation of the election system and specifically the ideals of democracy, to include his political agenda at the expense of U.S. interests abroad.

Mr. Gore's reasoning for continuing the fight for the White House beyond the deadline set by the Florida Supreme Court has been internationally challenged. Chief among the reasons Mr. Gore's international critics cite is that a large number of ballots are generally not counted in every election throughout the world including most elections in the United States for various reasons, including dimpled and pregnant chads that are not read during machine counts.

The critics further cite Mr. Gore's demand for a perfect election count in three heavily Democratic counties in Florida without including a hand count of the remaining 64 counties of that state which reflects inequity and speaks volumes of Mr. Gore's capricious abuse of the democratic process to his personal advantage. Meanwhile, Mr. Gore simultaneously engages in a new "in your face" hypocrisy as he pleads nightly on television for the need to uphold the principles of democracy to a frustrated television audience. Regrettably, the public exposure of this form of hypocrisy leaves America's allies less willing to trust us in the future and empowers U.S. foes, such as Saddam Hussein, to rally Islamic sentiment of more than 1 billion observers against the United States. In various Arab countries this election spectacle has been portrayed in the press as "America the laughingstock of the world" and an example of the corruption of democracy. Vice President Gore cherry-picked three Florida counties to change the election outcome. Accordingly, Mr. Gore's actions are playing into the hands of peace opponents in the Middle East.

Congressional Democrats must choose between upholding their oath of office to protect and defend the United States (not the Democratic National Committee) and their allegiance to Al Gore, who, according to an Associated Press report on Nov. 28, was labeled as "a lost soul these days" by an insider of the Gore campaign.

It is incumbent upon leaders of the Democratic Party to maintain a balanced judgment in this inebriated political environment without losing a sense of priority that the national interest takes precedence over furthering the goals of their political party. During another time of political turbulence in our nation's history, conventional wisdom guided Abraham Lincoln to state that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Democratic members of Congress must therefore weigh the consequences of their continued support of Al Gore's charade in pursuit of the presidency and its impact on U.S. strategic interests, especially in the world's most troubled region, where more than half of U.S. economic/military aid is funded by American taxpayers.

Irreparable damage to U.S. policy in the Middle East must be considered by congressional leaders in deciding whether to continue to stand by Mr. Gore's whimsical pursuit of his personal interest. In particular, members of Congress must take into consideration that several anti-American Arab leaders are now galvanizing their populace against U.S. interests in that region. Additionally, recently conducted polls cite that the Middle East constitutes the most likely place in the world where American troops may be authorized by Congress to defend American strategic interests.

Mr. Gore failed to respect the secrecy he vowed to Russia for agreeing to restrict military sales to rogue Middle East nations such as Iran followed by Mr. Gore's gamble on the Middle East peace process, despite a public warning by a study of the Sadat Peace Foundation to the vice president on July 7, 2000. At that time, Mr. Gore insisted on placing the sensitive issue of Jerusalem at the middle of the negotiating table at the Camp David Summit to benefit from the potential of a comprehensive Middle East peace treaty that would have enhanced his chances of winning the election. The Sadat Peace Foundation had cautioned Mr. Gore of the need for careful diplomatic preparations before the United States officially raised Jerusalem during negotiations.

These two failed initiatives by the vice president have backfired, causing irreversible facts on the ground contrary to U.S. policy interests in the region. Mr. Gore's run for the White House in perpetuity may yet prove to be more damaging to American long-term strategic positioning in the Middle East than his two failed policy blunders referenced herein.

Hoda Elemary is president of the Anwar Sadat Peace Foundation Inc., a New York-based organization.

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