- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 23, 2000

Armageddon looms

"The victory that the Florida Supreme Court handed [Tuesday night] to Vice President Al Gore, while huge, was nonetheless notably incomplete, and that left open the chance that the nation might be heading for political Armageddon," the New York Times' R.W. Apple Jr. wrote in the lead paragraph of a front-page news analysis yesterday.

Legislative options

"The Florida Legislature should exercise its power to the full extent necessary to assure an equitable outcome in that state. But it should also try to avoid a direct challenge to the Florida Supreme Court, act in a manner that will be perceived as fair by the electorate, and take pains not to provoke lengthy litigation," says Robert Levy, Cato Institute senior fellow in constitutional studies, in a statement.

"With those objectives in mind, the Florida legislature must act now to make explicit the standards that are to apply in the manual recounts now under way. For example, the legislature could provide by statute that dimpled chads, and chads attached at more than two corners, are not to be counted. The legislature might also clarify the standards for counting military and other absentee ballots," Mr. Levy said.

"Those provisions would not conflict with anything the Florida Supreme Court has written. They are reasonable, and will be perceived as reasonable by fair-minded voters. And, most important, they are wholly within the expansive power granted to state legislatures by Article II of the Constitution."

Democrats vs. military

"As the post-election impasse continues in Florida, military e-mail circuits are aflame with denunciations of Al Gore and the Democratic Party," writes Mackubin Thomas Owens, professor of strategy and force planning at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

"Members of the U.S. military at all ranks are enraged at what appears to be a systematic attempt on the part of the Democrats to exclude as many military absentee votes as possible," Mr. Owens said in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

"Gore operatives in Florida have managed to get more than 1,500 ballots disqualified. Service members are appalled at the hypocrisy of Mr. Gore's call to make sure that 'every vote counts' while absentee military ballots are being thrown out, often for errors that are not the voter's fault but the result of problems with the military mail system.

"But angry as they may be at what appears to be an effort on the part of Democrats to disenfranchise them, most are not surprised. They see this episode as just one more battle in the ongoing culture war between the core of the Democratic Party and the U.S. military.

"Yes, a culture war. Democrats may deny it, but there is a perception on the part of the U.S. officer corps that the Democratic Party is engaged in an unprecedented campaign against the military. While officers recognize that there are many pro-defense Democrats, they believe that the core of the party is hostile to military culture."

Winners and losers

"As the presidential election drama plays out, we need to get one thing straight: The man who is sworn in at noon Jan. 20 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol will be the winner. The man who is not sworn in will be the loser," Don Campbell writes in an opinion piece in USA Today.

"You might be getting a little confused about that. A suddenly trendy argument is being made that the winner will really be the loser and the loser will really be the winner, and that only the loser will be able to claim the 'moral high ground.'…

"The pundits framing that metaphysical argument say that no matter who wins the presidency, the close divisions of the U.S. House and Senate will guarantee a debilitating 'gridlock' at least through the 2002 congressional elections. What they apparently don't know is that gridlock is just fine with many Americans who live west of the Potomac River.

"With the booming economy at home and relative peace abroad, there's precious little that many folks are looking for from Washington except that the federal government stay out of their lives.

"The pundits also say there will be recriminations because of deep suspicions about how the victor won, fueled by the growing incivility in Washington. What they apparently don't know is that civility left town years ago, and it ain't coming back."

A lawless court

"We have discovered another case of election fraud: A few people were able to cast two votes for Al Gore in this election. They are the justices of the Florida Supreme Court, who were able to vote for Gore on Nov. 7 and again [Tuesday] night," John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru write at www.nationalreview.com.

"The last footnote of its decision reads, in its entirety: 'At oral argument, we inquired as to whether the presidential candidates were interested in our consideration of a reopening of the opportunity to request recounts in any additional counties. Neither candidate requested such an opportunity.'

"The sentence to which this footnote is attached refers piously to 'our reluctance to rewrite the Florida Election Code,' even as the footnote itself advertises the court's willingness to do just that.

"The court's decision has already had one salutary effect. It has done what the U.S. Supreme Court could not do in its decision effectively creating a constitutional right to partial-birth abortion: Get George W. Bush to denounce judicial usurpation.

"When conservatives have denounced judicial usurpation before, insisting that it put the basic character of the regime at stake, they have been themselves denounced, even by some other conservatives, as alarmist. Perhaps, now that judicial usurpation is being committed in the service of Al Gore's campaign to usurp the presidency, more conservatives will begin to see the importance of taming the judiciary.

"Taming the judiciary means, in the first instance, challenging the idea that the courts always have the last word an idea that is logically reducible to the idea that the courts never interpret the law wrongly; that the law is, ultimately, whatever judges do.

"Another pernicious idea has seized the political class over the last two weeks: that anything Gore does is unobjectionable because he is simply exploiting the rules of the game. But when one of the tools at his disposal is a judiciary that arrogates to itself the right to change those rules, accepting this situation amounts to a blank check for the higher lawlessness."

History lesson

A direct descendant of Samuel J. Tilden the Democratic governor of New York who many historians think was robbed of the presidency in 1876 says Vice President Al Gore should take a lesson from Tilden and take his defeat like a man.

"I think he should shut up," Corrine Tilden, 95, told the New York Post. "I think Gore should bow out and not have all these court cases. It's a dreadful way to handle this. The Europeans must be laughing at us."

Miss Tilden, a former nurse, also had little sympathy for the Palm Beach County residents who are boo-hooing about a confusing ballot that may have led them to vote for the wrong candidate, reporter William Neuman said.

"If you go in and pull the wrong lever, that's it. You voted," Miss Tilden said. "You made a mistake. It's over with."

Miss Tilden's ancestor ran against Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. Three Southern states, including Florida, each sent dueling delegations to the Electoral College. Congress finally appointed a 15-member commission that ruled in the Republican's favor on a series of 8-7 party-line votes. That gave Hayes the presidency by one vote in the Electoral College.

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