- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 23, 2000

How kind of Vice President Al Gore. How thoughtful of him. In the midst of a heated presidential election controversy whose outcome is still uncertain, he offered to meet Texas Gov. George W. Bush in a show of American "unity." Said Mr. Gore Tuesday, "Together let us testify to the truth that our country is more important than victory."

The vice president neglected to mention that he could afford to be generous. Having won a decision from the Florida Supreme Court that essentially rewrote state laws to his advantage, forcing state elections officials to consider counting questionable ballots, he kept otherwise dead presidential hopes alive. He had nothing to lose by striking a charitable pose. Indeed, he had everything to gain. A public meeting with Mr. Bush would provide a Republican imprimatur on Democratic vote manipulation. Mr. Bush might just as well reach out to Edward Scissorshands.

How like Mr. Gore. Magnanimous in mendacity, gracious in guile, he poses as patriot while doing his best to undermine voting procedures of the country he professes to hold more important than victory. Almost every sentence in his statement is similarly suspect.

• "I don't know what those ballots will show." Mr. Gore and Democrats have a very good idea of what the contested ballots will show, particularly in Miami-Dade County, where more than 10,750 of them remained in dispute. Many of them came from heavily Democratic precincts, but hadn't been tabulated because voters had only partially punched out or just indented the portion of the ballot known as a chad indicating their preference for president. But Democrats have been tracking the contested ballots, and know the bulk are likely to go to Mr. Gore if the question becomes divining a voter's "intention" a practice equivalent to political Ouija-board reading as measured by an indentation in the paper (a "dimple") or a slit in the paper through which canvassers can see light, rather than by whether the voter punched out the chad.

Moreover, recounts have conveniently provided the Gore camp with the exact number of votes 930 it needs to overcome Mr. Bush's lead in Florida. As of this writing, canvassers in Miami-Dade have announced they aren't going to recount the contested votes after all. Gore campaign Chairman William Daley immediately announced he would go to court to challenge the decision, which suggests that however fervent Mr. Gore's affection for the country, he's not letting it get in the way of victory.

• "I firmly believe that the will of the people should prevail." Mr. Gore's zeal for rule of the many is selective. While busy hunting for chad slits in Democratic-leaning counties, the campaign has hustled out guidance to supporters to help them throw out overseas ballots from Republican-leaning military personnel. As reported in this newspaper, everything from the ballot dates to signature authenticity to postmarks is up for challenge. Had Democrats not challenged as many of the overseas ballots as they did, Mr. Bush's totals might have been hundreds of votes higher.

It's appropriate to insist that ballots be legal. It is awkward, however, to single out military personnel for scrutiny while asking canvassers elsewhere to insist on the validity of dimples. Imagine what would happen if Republicans were to send out advice on how to challenge votes in predominantly black, Democratic-leaning precincts. Imagine the allegations of voting-rights abuses and discrimination.

Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey, a military veteran, has gone down to Florida to defend the Democratic tactic of singling out military personnel for ballot challenges, arguing that the Gore campaign isn't anti-military, just law-abiding. But no one is accusing the Gore campaign of discriminating against military personnel per se, but rather that it is discriminating against them because they tend to be Republican-leaning voters.

• "Both Governor Bush and I should also continue to urge our supporters to tone down their rhetoric and lift up on common respect for Democracy." It's a little late for that. Democrats have already given Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who dared to make a ruling unfavorable to Mr. Gore, the Linda Tripp treatment, demonizing her as a "hack," "crook" and "Soviet commissar."

Unable to limit himself to a single person, Gore supporter Paul Begala decided to demonize voters in all the states red on most media electoral maps that went for Mr. Bush: "[I]f you look closely at that map you see a more complex picture. You see the state where James Byrd was lynch-dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart it's red. You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay it's red." Apparently only racist and homophobic murderers could possibly vote for Mr. Bush.

Mr. Gore concluded his statement by asking God's blessing for the country at Thanksgiving. If he turns out to be the next president of this country, he may even mean that.

E-mail:

smithk@twtmail.com



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