- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Role reversal

Don Imus, host of MSNBC's "Imus in the Morning" program, asked Howard Fineman yesterday how "the news media would be treating this if roles were reversed" and George W. Bush was challenging an election victory by Al Gore.

Mr. Fineman, Newsweek's Washington bureau chief and an analyst for MSNBC, replied, "Are you kidding? That George Bush was a crybaby, that he was the spoiled son of a failed president. You know, you could just hear the personal attacks on Bush would be just absolutely vicious."

At any cost

"There is a line, not all that fine, between perseverance and stubbornness. Al Gore is about to trip over that line and collapse with a thud. His determination to keep fighting, even after Sunday night's formal declaration that George W. Bush won the presidential race in Florida, presents the increasingly unappealing portrait of a man who wants to be a winner at any cost," the Chicago Tribune said in an editorial Monday.

The newspaper, after reviewing Mr. Gore's inconsistent legal and rhetorical maneuvers since Election Day, added: "This mindset is destroying the goodwill Gore initially deserved. He could have graciously called from the start for a second statewide recount by uniform means either by hand or by machine but instead aimed only for hand recounts in counties controlled by Democrats. He could have agreed that counties should use their pre-existing rules to determine how questionable ballots should be counted, but instead pushed for new rules, drawn on the fly, to evaluate indented chads in ways that would be favorable to him. He could have publicly demanded that legitimate military ballots lacking postmarks be counted, but instead cynically dispatched his running mate to merely pay lip service to that idea. In other words, if it's right but could hurt you, don't do it."

Audacious thievery

"While his legal case remains alive, it is worth contemplating the audacity of Gore's election-stealing scheme," Michael Barone writes in U.S. News & World Report.

"The systematic exclusion of military votes by Democratic lawyers was not a pretty sight. Joseph Lieberman insisted on the Sunday talk shows that he and Gore would never exclude lawfully cast military ballots. That was, to put it kindly, an untruth. The day before, acting under written instructions, Gore-Lieberman lawyers excluded dozens of nonpostmarked military votes that were otherwise perfectly legal," Mr. Barone said.

"In Duval County, Democratic lawyers raised their fists in triumph when they persuaded the canvassing board to reject 44 nonpostmarked military ballots. This brings to mind the joke about why the National Institutes of Health finally decided to replace their laboratory rats with lawyers; there are some things rats just will not do."

Imperial judiciary

"So four decades of judicial activism, at both the state and federal levels, mostly unchallenged by the other branches of government, culminates in this: Judges may now select the next president of the United States," William Kristol writes in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.

"Almost no one seems to think this odd. Al Gore wants the election resolved by the Florida courts and told us that 'respect for the rulings of our judiciary is an essential building block of the American Republic.'

"The Bush campaign, even while asking the Florida courts to stay out of the electoral process, continues its appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader, says on television, matter-of-factly, that 'what's relevant is what's going to happen in the course of the next several days in the courts' and that 'this will be largely resolved in the courts.'

"Commentators, liberal and conservative, have both largely agreed with the politicians. In their view, only the courts, especially the United States Supreme Court, have the political legitimacy to resolve the struggle over the presidency.

"They are wrong. Now is the time to rethink decades of judicial activism, which has undermined the rule of law and enfeebled self-government," said Mr. Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard.

Better that the Florida state legislature, upheld by Congress, choose presidential electors than to yield to "an imperial judiciary," Mr. Kristol said.

Overheated rhetoric

"Of all the overheated rhetoric that's been heard thus far in the post-election mess, none rivals the left-wing-looney-bin sound bite offered over the weekend by New York's own Jerrold Nadler," the New York Post says.

" 'There's a whiff of fascism in the air,' intoned the Democratic congressman after Republicans angrily protested their forced exclusion from the manual recount in Miami-Dade County.

"Puh-leeze," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"Over on the West Side, which Nadler represents, calling someone a fascist is about as routine as ordering a skim latte at the local Starbucks.

"The neighborhood has changed a lot, but politically it remains steeped in '60s sensibilities.

"But isn't it ironic: Nadler discerning 'fascism' in a legitimate attempt to prevent a Democratic-dominated canvassing board from conducting business behind closed doors with no independent oversight?

"Nadler's a nice enough guy.

"Certainly it's hard not to suspect that he's simply playing a role made necessary by a political Gresham's law that prevails in his district: Ridiculous rhetoric will always drive common sense out of any argument.

"As for the substance of Nadler's charge: Yes, something smells in Florida. But the congressman would do well to look to his own party for its source."

Hillary backs Al

Hillary Clinton, not surprisingly, is backing Al Gore's post-election challenge of Florida's vote count.

"Our country and our institutions are strong," the senator-elect from New York said yesterday in an interview on NBC's "Today." It is "damaging not to have every vote count," she added, reflecting the Gore mantra that votes rejected by machines have not really been counted.

As for taking office as New York's junior senator, she said: "I'm so excited. I'm really looking forward to assuming the position and getting to work."

Mrs. Clinton faces the prospect of a Senate that likely will be split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.

"I'm looking forward to working with all of my 99 colleagues," she said. "The issues I want to work on, like education, can only be done in a bipartisan way."

Mrs. Clinton also called for federal subsidies to update voting procedures around the country to avoid the kind of legal wrangling that has wracked the current presidential election, Agence France-Presse reports.

Gone fishing

As a political squall swirls around his son, former President George Bush has gone fishing, Reuters reports.

He took to the seas off the Florida Keys with rod and tackle yesterday for a fund-raising fishing tournament.

Arriving at a resort on Islamorada on Monday night, he turned aside any talk of the presidential election controversy and his son George W. Bush's disputed claim of victory.

"We're not taking about the elections or my son or anything not talking about any of that," Mr. Bush told reporters. "You guys can try, but you're up against a pro, man. I didn't just come in here on a watermelon truck."

Making clear he thought relaxation was the best course as his family went through a tense time, Mr. Bush added: "These are troubled times but fishing can make a huge difference in a guy's life."

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