- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2000

Washington er, make that Beirut is a city full of intrigue … and corruption. Yet I have been making that last point at least since the Boy President arrived firing all U.S. attorneys and hiring Webb Hubbell et Al.

So let us turn our gaze to the election, the ongoing election. The military is not yet on alert. I can report that around the capital the troops remain in their barracks. The generals and admirals seem calm, and many remain on the golf course. By this point in the 1960 election the hellish Richard Nixon had conceded, and told his tough-guy advisers there would be no challenge. How is Al Gore responding?

Last week I did prophesy that the debonair George W. Bush would win handsomely. Anyone who saw him interviewed on television on Election Night had to notice how handsome he was. Suavely he accepted victory one minute. With stiff upper lip, he faced defeat the next. Mr. Gore's call that evening conceding defeat brought out the gracious gentlemanly qualities in Mr. Bush. Then Mr. Gore called to retrieve his concession; Mr. Bush's gentlemanly resources must have been sorely tested. "Hi, George? Al, here. Did I leave a concession in your room somewhere? The fellows over here in Nashville want it back."

You think I made that exchange up? Well, try this: Forty-five minutes after his concession call to Mr. Bush, Mr. Gore called to retract it. And when the incredulous Mr. Bush at 2:30 a.m. responded, "You mean to tell me, Mr. Vice President, you're retracting your concession?" the inventor of the Internet said, "You don't have to be snippy about it." Do you think I made that up? OK, so how about this: Mr. Bush replied that his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has assured him Florida was his. What is Mr. Gore's response? The inventor of the witticism "no controlling legal authority" said, "Your brother is not the ultimate authority on this." At that point, my guess is that it was Mr. Gore who sounded "snippy."

Last week I also prophesied that Mr. Bush would win despite the power of incumbency, a power fortified greatly by our prosperous times. From the relatively unchanged Senate and House, it is apparent there was no groundswell for change in the country. Only seven incumbent members of the House lost. Yet the satisfaction felt by the electorate was not extended to the Boy President's hand-picked successor. Mr. Gore should have won by a fat margin. He suffered huge defections because of what I called the Unspoken Issue, to wit, public trust. The Clinton-Gore administration's record of misbehavior caused vast numbers of otherwise contented Americans to vote for Mr. Bush and change.

Now, as the votes are recounted in Florida and the rules are tested or changed around the country by Clinton-Gore, Americans are going to see how right they were to question this crowd's integrity. Throughout this administration many Clinton critics have said the administration's corruption was serious. It spread throughout the federal government, causing perhaps the greatest danger to the commonweal by its spread throughout the judiciary and the Justice Department. Watch how Clinton-Gore brings down the standards and repute of the American election process. The hellish Nixon would never expose the country to the kind of scandal and derision that Clinton-Gore is now contemplating.

The rancorous aftermath of Campaign 2000 will be melancholy for those Americans who took pride in the American electoral process. Aside from the machine politics of certain inner-city areas and corruption of various rural backwaters, American elections have been admirably free of fraud and banana republic chicanery. Now our system is open to the kind of ridicule Good Government types of yore would have heaped on, say, Third World elections. As the party of 1996's campaign irregularities caterwaul about the vote in Florida, the constitutional provisions for the electoral college, vote fraud, racism, and all their other canards, the Slobodan Milosevics of the world are having the last laugh. America is going the way of Yugoslavia on Election Day, or Indonesia. Can street demonstrations be far behind?

Yet let us remember that banana republics have their amusing sides. If we have to live with the expanding corruption Bill Clinton brought to Washington, we can at least have a few laughs. In keeping with the media's habit of booming every first (the first woman governor here, the first black lieutenant governor there), Missouri's Mel Carnahan is the first person ever to be posthumously elected to the Senate. Everywhere, America's deceased are celebrating enfranchisement. Here in Washington, Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican, must be especially happy. With the arrival of Carnahan in the Senate, 98-year-old Sen. Thurmond finally has a colleague on his wavelength. After Campaign 2000 the cemeteries are fields of joy.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the editor in chief of the American Spectator.

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