- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2000

Are the voters in Palm Beach County just dumber than most people, or what?

This is the argument of the desperate Democrats around Al Gore. Based on the revised, recounted votes, 268,945 Palm Beach County voters didn't have any trouble following the arrow to the right punch hole to cast their votes for Al, but a few nobody knows how many, but it may be as many as a few dozen or even a few hundred say they couldn't follow the arrow, and accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan.

This is the basis of two lawsuits, filed by some of the dozens of Democratic lawyers hanging around the Palm Beach County Courthouse, retained with coffee and cigarette money until the Gore campaign can find clients for them.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who never leaves any rabble unroused, arrived to stir up what he could in Palm Beach and set about organizing street theater, raising his usual alarm that Republicans in sheets and hoods were stalking the streets in search of children to eat.

"At this point," the Rev said, "we do not know who won the election because all the votes have not been counted. Once the results are in, we must honor and respect the winner."

That depends on how you define "results," of course, and until then there's plenty of trouble to make. Given that Florida is a racial tinderbox, it wasn't clear what Jesse Jackson was trying to do, but most people, even some nervous Democrats, figured he was up to his usual no good.

Only in Florida has public dumbness become a matter of fashion. "It was so hard to tell who and what you were voting for," says Eileen Klasfeld, a voter in Palm Beach. "I couldn't figure it out, and I have a doctorate." She didn't say a doctorate of what, and, to protect her alma mater, declined to say from where.

These people couldn't get an order straight at Denny's. They're demanding a new election, but anyone who can't find a punch hole with an arrow shouldn't be voting in the first place. How do they find their way out of bed?

Unless, of course, the Democrats in Palm Beach County are using the Stupid People as cover for something far more sinister. Palm Beach County, which voted nearly 2 to 1 for Gore on Tuesday, had by last night found 751 additional Gore votes in the recount. This was the largest single gold strike in the recount. Now Palm Beach County has agreed to a "hand count." Has somebody in Palm Beach figured out how many votes Al Gore needs to win the recount?

Al Gore himself has retreated from noises of the previous day that sounded like statesmanship. He praised the Constitution, noted that the Electoral College is part of that Constitution and that it had twice in our history reached a different decision from the great unwashed masses, just as Jefferson, Adams, Madison and the founding fathers intended.

That spirit of statesmanship had all but evaporated yesterday. He sent his campaign chairman, William Daley, the son of the man who stole Cook County, Illinois, for John F. Kennedy in 1960, out to lecture Republicans on civic virtue and threaten the country with regiments of lawyers and the promise of endless litigation. If George W. Bush's lead in Florida stands up and the vote is certified and Florida electors award him their votes on Dec. 17, as he has every right to expect, no court in the land would upset such a result. And if the Democrats find a hack judge who would, the Supreme Court would knock it down at once.

The country would be torn apart, but that's a risk the flacks and hacks around Al Gore are willing to take. They want him to fight with every loophole, subterfuge and ploy his lawyers can command, because the alternative is that they'll have to get out and find jobs.

The stakes for Al are different. He will define himself one last time, like it or not. He can fight in the streets, dispatching lawyers to the courts and spinners to the television studios from now past Christmas, but if he renders himself something less than Richard Nixon he will deserve what he gets.

On the other hand, if he reaches within himself and finds that spark of honor and decency that those who know him insist resides somewhere in the secret places of his heart, he can make of himself, overnight, the honored senior statesman of his party. He will not be faced with the task of uniting a riven nation. He will have not one but both legs up for '04, when the incumbent president will be neither as popular nor as powerful as when he takes the oath on the Pennsylvania Avenue hill next Jan. 20.

Al can beat a graceful retreat, barely beaten, and live to fight again on a friendlier field of battle, even if it means facing down Hillary. Or he can fall on his sword, to perish in defeat unmourned. He just can't be the president, not this time.

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