- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2000

It seems clear the final outcome of this year's presidential election should depend on votes actually cast Nov. 7. This should hold regardless of what recounts are allowed to produce a bona fide winner.
In no case should this or any other election under the Constitution of the United States be determined by crowds of demonstrators, by premature and ill-informed television pontificators or by professional agitators. Nor is it desirable for judges to validate or determine the intent of spoiled ballots, or for there to be a revote in a Florida county.
And this is not the time to argue against the constitutional provision of an electoral college which might be our firewall against scattered and continuous nationwide recounts of this kind in a close contest. Changing or ending the electoral college would require a constitutional amendment.
On Saturday, former Secretary of State James Baker ably outlined a principled legal objection to a second recount by hand sought by the Gore campaign in several Florida counties. Manual vote-counting, he noted, is more prone to human error and mischief than counts by machine.
However, even if Al Gore is found entitled to the manual recounts, George W. Bush also is entitled to seek recounts in Wisconsin and Iowa and elsewhere (or even in any county in Florida where his showing might improve.) This he should do, rather than accept that Mr. Gore carried those states by slim margins. The margins elsewhere might not be as tight as in Florida, but who knows what a recount will reveal?
In view of the manipulations by the Gore campaign, and the introduction of specious and un-constitutional arguments by Gore advocates, it is incumbent upon Mr. Bush to challenge the results wherever he can.
Under these conditions, unless there is a binding contract by both sides to abide by the final tally on Friday of the Florida recount and overseas ballots, Mr. Bush should in no wise fall prey to a false virtue and "spare the country" by conceding. This country won World War I, survived the Great Depression, fought and won World War II, fought the Korean and Vietnam Wars, underwent the civil rights revolution and won the Cold War and still stands. It can endure this contest and emerge stronger and better-informed for it.
In 1960, senior Nixon advisers and Illinois Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen who knew Chicago electoral chicanery well urged Richard Nixon to contest the Illinois and Texas votes. Nixon chose to do the "high-minded" thing, and avoid a protracted dispute. This put no dint in the liberal establishment's view of him as a contemptible loser. And the declared victors proceeded to treat the country as their personal toy and political plaything.
There's a Solomonic rule here, and a world of difference between this election and the 1960 vote: When a candidacy has a fresh reputation for compulsive and even unnecessary falsehood, it cannot serve the country to allow that side to prevail via bad faith, postelection gamesmanship, legal tomfoolery or even false appeals to a larger national "popular vote" that contradict the Constitution. Mr. Gore's national "popular vote" lead, for what it's worth, is diminishing daily. Already, the earlier Gore lead in New Mexico has vanished with the counting of absentee and early votes.
Mr. Bush would have been wrong to have even been tempted to resolve this fracas by conceding legal ground or election results any time soon. It would be unconscionable without a clear constitutional outcome to gift a bunch of whiners and manipulators with an election they could not win by the established rules and who evidently place winning above the good of the country. This itself would establish a dangerous precedent for the nation's political future and validate fuzzy thinking in a far more vital area than budgetary math. That paradox requires that Mr. Bush be as obdurate as his opponent, and hopefully more so.
Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, was elected by 39 percent of the votes in a four-way race. He did not for an instant consider surrendering his constitutionally won election, or the principles on which it was secured, in the interest of conceding power or the election to the South.
The Democrats have a multi-pronged strategy for attacking the likelihood of a final Bush victory in Florida: They demand recounts. When those legitimately demanded recounts don't go as they wish, they seek to invalidate the election as improper. They complain in a key county of a "confusing ballot" (designed by a Democrat) and that too many voters submitted spoiled ballots with votes for more than one presidential candidate, votes legally eliminated. We also have in prospect a civil-rights challenge to a supposedly disproportionate disqualification of spoiled (secret) ballots cast by minority voters.
The GOP should not wait for further proof that, instead of playing by the established rules, the Gore Democrats want to change any rules that permit them to lose the election. The GOP should immediately prepare challenges to thin Gore margins in any and every state where it is possible to do so, with a careful eye on constitutional deadlines. Any and all irregularities should be sought out to bolster such challenges.
Then let the recounts continue for weeks, if need be. As Winston Churchill said: "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never in nothing, great or small, large or petty never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."

Benjamin P. Tyree is deputy editor of the Commentary pages of The Washington Times.

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