- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2000

Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the Bush vs. Gore case it hears today, partisans in both parties are calling for a restoration of comity and civility in Congress and the rest of the country.
But that will be easier said than done.
"Democrats are always for bipartisanship as long as they can't find enough Republicans to go along with what they want," said Republican Cleta Mitchell, an election-law expert. "I'm not sure that's so much different than the Republicans it's just that the Democrats are so much better at it."
While Republicans are cautiously concluding that George W. Bush will be sworn in on Jan. 20, the bipartisan talk worries them.
"The Democrats slap us around, we have to be bipartisan and if we hit back, they say that's partisan," said Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican. "These calls for bipartisanship are the groundwork for the constant refrain we'll hear from them for the next four years that the Republicans have to give them what they want because the election was stolen."
"No matter how much you concede to them, they always want more," Mr. Barr said. "You can never be bipartisan enough to satisfy them."
David A. Keene, president of the American Conservative Union, agrees.
"The calls for bipartisanship have always been a scam, and the Republicans got rolled. But now it depends on whether Bush is going to be looking for Democrats who want to support what he wants to do or whether he is going to compromise with the Democratic leadership," he said.
Mr. Keene noted that President Clinton often vetoed legislation that a "significant number of Democrats in the House voted for and that Bush campaigned on."
"It's those Democrats he should be appealing to, and not to the Gephardts and Daschles," Mr. Keene said, referring to House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
Mrs. Mitchell noted that "Washington's favorite parlor game is how to stymie George W. Bush's campaign themes of broad tax cuts, Social Security and education reform, and rebuilding the military. I would urge him to employ the Republican definition of bipartisanship and go find Democrats who agree with his themes."
Indeed, Republicans with long memories find it difficult, even undesirable, to play the reach-out-to-the-other-side game.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey yesterday could not resist lambasting the other side, including the Florida Supreme Court's 4-3 ruling mandating a statewide recount of some ballots later overturned by the U.S. high court.
And House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas said on Friday the Florida court had "squandered its credibility and violated the trust of the people of Florida in an attempt to manipulate the results of a fair and free election."
Mrs. Mitchell said the Florida Supreme Court ruling has had the effect of "further polarizing the country four people in that court have further contributed to the chaos and polarization."
"It makes it harder at the outset for a Bush presidency a higher obstacle for legitimacy. Some partisans who will never believe they were treated fairly," she said.
The distrust of the "other side" is rooted, in the Republicans' case, in what they perceive as a long history of getting rolled by disingenuous Democrats that goes back further than the Clinton era to at least to 1984.
In that year, the Democratic-controlled House voted to seat Frank McCloskey, Indiana Democrat, over Republican Richard D. McIntyre, even though he had been certified the winner by a 34-vote margin by Indiana election officials.
"It was the event that stimulated the Republican revolution and breakdown of amicable relations between Republicans and Democrats," said Mr. Keene. "Every Republican believes that election was stolen during the recount.
"McIntyre was the winner in a recount and Congress came in with a phony recount and blatantly stole votes by divining votes as in Florida now," Gorden Durnil, one of three members of the Indiana election recount commission, said yesterday.
"They only counted until McClosky was ahead, then stopped counting," said Mr. Durnil, who was Indiana Republican Party chairman at the time. "It angered a lot people and changed attitudes."
The partisanship has since grown worse.
"We're only at this bad stage because Al Gore learned from Bill Clinton that it's OK to put the country through whatever agony he wants to, as long as he is ultimately the victor," Mrs. Mitchell said.
"Clinton put us through a nightmare because he didn't have the guts to tell his wife he was fooling around with an intern."
Champions and skeptics of bipartisanship alike also worry about the political fallout of the election, however it is settled.
Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, said on "Fox News Sunday" the issue transcends Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush because the American institutions are under "tremendous strain and scrutiny." He said he would "never question the integrity" of the justices on either court. "All of us need to agree on civility in this."
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said that it will be the "responsibility of the loser to lose with grace" and to fulfill the "obligation to be civil with those who do win."
But Mrs. Mitchell said she doesn't "think we know right now whether some deep wound has been inflicted on the body politic. We are going to need some time."
"This endless election is more divisive than impeachment," she said. "People who are not political are nervous, and our system is not supposed to make people nervous."

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