- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

With the third successive count of Florida's presidential vote still leaving George W. Bush ahead of Al Gore, one stupendous fact towers above the lawyers' wrangling. The vice president began this historically unprecedented imbroglio. Only he can end it.

He began it by overthrowing the Nixon precedent established in 1960 and continued by President Ford in 1976. In 1960, Richard Nixon, the most reviled presidential candidate of modern times, proved himself sufficiently public spirited to concede a close and controversial defeat to John F. Kennedy, though recounts in two famously corrupt districts of two Democratic states might have made him president. Nixon apparently foresaw what official Washington still cannot perceive. In contesting a presidential election, even where the evidence of fraud exists, all hell might break loose, damaging the reputation of the nation and its rule of law. Mr. Gore and his associates obviously lack Nixon's perspicacity. They might even lack his character.

Just as President Clinton in his ithyphallic appetite (which, incidentally, led to obstruction of justice, perjury and contempt of court) has exceeded the earthy repute of Warren Gamaliel Harding, Mr. Gore has exceeded Nixon's reputation for political rapacity. In one generation, a single Democratic administration has topped the buffoon Harding and the greedy Nixon. History has been made. It is only a matter of time before history's chroniclers record the epochal triumph of these folk from the 1960s.

Back in 1992, when the Clintons' clever spinmeisters persuaded the nation that the most important issue in that presidential race character was not a legitimate issue, the nation began a precipitous ethical decline. Now even our presidential election appears as lawless as an election in the Clintons' Arkansas. From the Clintons' lies about Mr. Clinton's philandering and misuse of government perks, to their thwarting of a Resolution Trust Corp. investigation, to their obstruction of congressional inquiries, the corruption has spread like a miasma. By 1995, they were engaged nationally in the same kind of campaign fund-raising chicanery that they relied on in every one of the Clinton gubernatorial races. By then the miasma had spread throughout the administration to corrupt even the goody-goody from Tennessee.

The corruption has continued as the Clintons and Mr. Gore have lied under oath. In the Clintons' case, the lies have covered a wide range of issues, beginning with Mr. Clinton's sex life (as it is called by the nonclinically minded) and continuing to his governmental botches and his campaign violations. In Mr. Gore's case, the corruption has spread from his obstruction of federal inquiries into his 1996 campaign violations to his puerile biographical fantasies during Campaign 2000.

As the lawyers huff and puff, how does the nation explain an election that should have been over a week ago and would have been over if the likes of Nixon were behind by a few thousand votes? Well, note that this idiocy has been achieved by a Democratic administration whose members are all about the same age, from the late-40s to mid-50s. They are from that unique stratum of a generation that passed through college in the late 1960s, bringing campus life to chaos, U.S. government to discord and practically every institution they encountered to derision, including courtrooms, county jails and the public health clinics they would visit when inconvenienced by a drug overdose or a bout of VD.

The Clinton-Gore crowd now bringing our presidential election to the imbecilic condition of Chicago Seven courtroom high jinks or Woodstock in the mud draws from that same collection of narcissistic brats. They strutted their moral superiority before the nation in 1968 just as Al Gore is strutting his moral superiority during this vote grab. They and their loony-left profs manipulated the laws of state and academe then just as Mr. Gore's yuppie lawyers are manipulating the law today. With their street demonstrations, they distracted the nation from noting that their only goal was power, just as the Rev. Jesse Jackson's preposterous street demonstrations would now distract us from noticing that Mr. Gore is solely intent on a power grab today.

The muddle of Election 2000 is unique because the student radicals of the late 1960s were unique and remain close to power. This great historical saga will someday be chronicled by historians. What we must be mindful of today is just one stupendous fact. Al Gore began this discrediting of our election, and he can end it not by stealing the election from George W. Bush but by demonstrating that he is a better man than Richard Nixon.

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

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