- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2000

By filing suit in federal district court on Saturday seeking an injunction blocking the potentially mischievous manual recount sought by Vice President Al Gore in four heavily Democratic Florida counties, George W. Bush and his legal advisers belatedly acknowledged that they finally understood that Mr. Gore and his campaign are utterly uninterested in any norms of electoral fairness. It is unfortunate that their only recourse was to seek judicial relief. But the unmistakable alternative would have been to allow themselves to be rolled in other courts and on the streets by Mr. Gore's politicized mobs.
To their repeated political detriment, Republicans and other fair-minded people, including independent counsels and federal judges, never seem to learn until it is too late that Clinton-Gore Democrats play only to win, oblivious to both standards of fairness and self-evident legal restrictions. Recall all of those frivolous "privileges" President Clinton claimed in an effort to stonewall Kenneth Starr's perjury investigation. Indeed, Mr. Gore himself long ago demonstrated that the only bounds he recognizes are those strictly enforced by so-called "controlling legal authority," a self-serving euphemism the vice president created to defend his illegal fund-raising solicitations in 1996 from his White House office. Moreover, while Mr. Bush's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, immediately recused himself from overseeing the recount process, a Democratic state judge, who contributed to Mr. Gore's campaign and whose husband is a political appointee in the Clinton-Gore administration, immediately issued a preliminary injunction barring Florida's Palm Beach County from certifying its final recount results until a hearing is held in state court this week.
The federal lawsuit filed by Mr. Bush's campaign will be heard this morning in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Admittedly, under fair and normal circumstances, campaigns should avoid resorting to judicial means to further electoral ends. The circumstances in Florida, however, are anything but normal or fair. Indeed, before the Bush campaign petitioned the federal court to block what it rightly asserted would be "a standardless patchwork of ad hoc decision-making," at least eight lawsuits had already been filed by Democratic partisans with the implicit encouragement of the Gore campaign.
The reasons underlying those Democratic suits were clear: Mr. Gore's campaign explicitly revealed its intentions to use whatever legal means that were available in order to emerge victoriously from court in a presidential election it feared it had failed to win at the ballot box. And the ballot box numbers were hardly encouraging to Mr. Gore. Exclusive of an estimated 2,000-3,000 overseas ballots that will be counted Friday, Florida's initial tally of the nearly six million votes cast for Messrs. Bush and Gore showed Mr. Bush to be the victor by nearly 1,800 votes. The mandatory mechanical recount, according to an unofficial survey by the Associated Press, reduced the Bush advantage to 327 votes. However, as it became clear that the mandatory recount and the traditionally Republican overseas-ballot advantage would unlikely be sufficient to reverse Mr. Bush's election-day lead, the Gore campaign selectively identified a few overwhelmingly Democratic counties, whose election boards it petitioned for hand recounts.
Demanding hand recounts only in heavily Democratic counties, where, as past experience has shown, a Democratic candidate would most likely pick up extra votes, represented a genuinely bad-faith effort on the vice president's part. Contrary to his campaign's assertion that the selective manual recount represented "a full, fair and accurate counting of Florida's votes," cherry-picking only Democratic counties for hand recounts confirmed that Mr. Gore's ultimate goal of political triumph had nothing to do with fullness, fairness or accuracy. Indeed, that goal would be pursued by the most unfair means available. Beyond encouraging Democratic partisans to file lawsuits and petitioning for manual recounts in selective counties, it must be noted, the Gore campaign has also unleashed its storm troopers, led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who began agitating in Florida last week and who will be leading a mass demonstration today.
On the same day the Bush campaign filed its suit seeking an injunction barring the selective manual recounting, its worst fears of "standardless … decision-making" were confirmed. Four hours after Palm Beach County began manually recounting votes in four selective precincts, county election officials issued new instructions. No longer would teams of vote counters hold up to the ceiling lights each punch-card ballot that had no clear presidential choice, searching for any spark of light shining through the tiniest hole in any lucky candidate's box. The "new" standard, which has actually been in force in Palm Beach County since 1990, required that the rectangular "chad," the box that is to be punched out, would have to be separated from the rest of the ballot. The 12-hour ordeal in Palm Beach County, which re-examined only 4,500 of the county's 421,000 votes, proved to be a total fiasco, confirming the Bush campaign's charge that manual recounting would offer unlimited "potential for mischief." With a politicized state judge and a camera-chasing Jesse Jackson unlikely to prove any less mischievous, the Bush campaign's petition for a federal court injunction blocking the surreal manual recount debacle may well have been its only option short of abject surrender. In the case the petition is turned down, one only hopes that the Bush campaign has considered the next step in their strategy.

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